In this monthly column, Defense Daily highlights individuals from across the government, industry and academia whose efforts contribute daily to national defense, from the program managers to the human resource leaders, to the engineers and logistics officers.

Jane Bishop is the sector vice president and general manager of the Global Surveillance division at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. In this role she oversees an integrated portfolio of systems that deliver the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and battle management command and control capabilities essential to customers’ global security missions. This includes the U.S. Navy E-2D Hawkeye, MQ-4C Triton, MQ-8C Fire Scout,  the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk, and international E-2 and RQ-4 system programs. Previously, Bishop was the vice president and general manager of the Autonomous Systems division and before 2020 she was vice president and program manager of Manned Airborne Surveillance Programs.

How did you get involved in the defense industry or community?

I was introduced to the defense industry by my father, who had a 34-year career at the Grumman Corporation. My dad worked on several iconic programs including the F-14, EA-6B, C-2 and the Lunar Module. I grew up in “the Grumman Family” and began my career in the defense industry as a summer intern while I was in college. I started my first job at Grumman in 1986 as an antenna and radio frequency equipment design engineer working on the U.S. Navy E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound programs. I wanted to serve my country, and I saw joining a company like Grumman as a means to accomplish that goal. I’ve been with the company for 37 years, first with Grumman and now with Northrop Grumman, and I still feel proud to serve through the mission-focused work that we do. 

What are some challenges you faced working through your career?

I’ve taken on a lot of roles throughout my career, starting as a design engineer, pivoting to program management, and eventually becoming the vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Global Surveillance Division. I’ve worked on several programs including the E-2 Hawkeye, and MQ-4C Triton for the U.S. Navy, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk and E-8C Joint STARS for the U.S. Air Force. There are certainly challenges in every position and program. One common challenge I’ve faced, like others in the defense industry, is managing costs while still delivering quality products for the customer. I think one part of the solution is staying mission-focused when making decisions at all levels, remembering who the end user will be, the job that they’re doing and the importance of that job. Another important part is maintaining an innovative mindset, constantly looking for new solutions and approaches to the problems we face every day.  

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Did you feel like you always had sufficient mentors and leaders to help guide you? Why/why not?

I’ve been very fortunate to have some great mentors and leaders over the years. I’ve spent most of my career at Northrop Grumman in large part due to the culture we have here. There are a lot of talented people at Northrop Grumman, but perhaps more importantly, the people here believe in sharing their knowledge and empowering others. Some of my most valuable mentoring examples include the individuals that taught me how to understand requirements derivation, partner with suppliers and manage through issues. Others encouraged me in stretch assignments and helped me think through career planning. I am grateful for the many leaders that have helped me navigate through technical and programmatic challenges throughout my career.

How do you work to be a mentor yourself to younger counterparts?

I think it’s incredibly important to prepare our workforce and empower younger generations to continue our proud tradition of innovative work. I benefitted greatly from mentors over the years, and I like to pay that forward as much as I can. I have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with many mentees throughout the years. I take great pleasure in their career successes and am happy to reconnect wherever help is needed. While mentoring opportunities sometimes present themselves in formal mentoring relationships, there are also mentoring opportunities in speaking engagements, and perhaps most importantly in day-to-day interactions with my team. Whether the relationship was formal or informal, there is no better feeling than getting a ‘thank you’ years later from an individual that feels that I was able to help them in their career.

What does it mean to be successful in your career field?

For me, it comes down to the ‘why’ of our work: the mission. Connecting to that purpose and seeing how the work that we do directly impacts national and global security is what gives me a sense of success. 

What are some of the under-appreciated positions in the defense field, the unsung heroes or essential cogs in the machine that help the job get done with less recognition?

While the initial attraction to working in any engineering field is often on the cutting-edge technology development end of the business, I can’t stress enough how important it is to focus on the effort required to design, develop, produce and maintain the capabilities we deliver in the defense field. Every position in the defense field is critically important, from the engineers that design the aircraft, integrate the mission systems and develop the sustainment solutions, to the technicians that build the aircraft and the maintainers that work side-by-side with our customers to help operate and sustain our platforms. At every stage of the program lifecycle, every position contributes to the success of the mission. This is one of the many ways that we at Northrop Grumman partner for shared success with our customers. We are fortunate to have a highly engaged, performance-driven workforce that embraces this mindset and is committed to delivering on commitments. 

How has the culture changed around diversity within your career?

Northrop Grumman values diverse perspectives and commits to upholding a workplace culture of belonging. When I first started my career, I was accustomed to being the only woman in the room and not having women in leadership positions to look up to.  Today, it’s inspiring to see so many great women in senior leadership roles at Northrop Grumman that you may not have seen at any level in prominent companies in the past. The innovation and pioneering work we do depends on unique perspectives, and it’s great to see that recognized as a core value of our company. There is always more work to be done in this area, but I’ve seen great strides over the last few decades. 

What is your advice for new entrants to the defense/military community?

I would encourage new entrants to the industry to be open to new ideas and opportunities, to work hard, and to focus on the mission. Starting out as a design engineer, I couldn’t have imagined where my career would eventually take me. For me, the key was to be constantly open to new possibilities, whether that was in the day-to-day work I was doing or in new job openings in the company. And I always kept the mission in mind in my work, approaching new challenges with a strong work ethic. I’ve found success through that approach. 

What do you see as the future of your sector in national defense?

What we’re seeing is that the need for timely intelligence data and multi-domain command and control is more critical today than ever before. The international security environment highlights daily the need for the U.S. and our international partners to have the most current and relevant capabilities to meet and defeat threats. Northrop Grumman has a long history of delivering aircraft systems that provide multi-domain data through persistent surveillance with speed and discipline. Looking to the future, we’re focusing on investing in technology and scaling our facilities to deliver the capabilities our customers need to respond to growing threats. Northrop Grumman has always been a leader in technology, and that will be more important than ever as the U.S. and its allies continue to outpace threats. 

Who are the Force Multipliers in your community? Let us know at [email protected].