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.
Jon Rambeau is the vice president and general manager of the Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors line of business for Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems. In that role he is responsible for the strategic, operational and financial performance of missile defense, radar, shipbuilding, directed energy, and combat system integration programs.
How did you get involved in the defense industry or community?
In college I had a friend who entered the Lockheed Martin leadership development program prior to my graduation. He shared what a great opportunity it was and encouraged me to apply. He put me in touch with a recruiter who brought me in for a day on the Camden campus to learn more about the company. By the time I got home from the interview I had a job offer.
People would regularly asked me “why are you working in defense?” and I would say what originally attracted me to the industry was the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most advanced technology. What has kept me here is the mission we support and the values we embrace. I am proud of the high standards of ethics and integrity that we have in our industry and specifically I have found that to be true within Lockheed Martin. I’m even more proud to provide our servicemembers the systems and services that allow them to do their jobs effectively, and return safely to their families.
What are some challenges you faced working through your career?
One of the challenges faced by those who move quickly from job to job, often across business or functional boundaries, is the limitations it can place on your ability to gain deep experience in specific areas of the business. As I have moved frequently throughout my career, I’ve found that in many cases I’ve had to rely on my team for deep expertise in specialized parts of our business.
I have worked to turn this into a strength by increasing my focus on talent, talent development, and rapidly building a team with a culture of transparency and trust. This has challenged me from time to time during my career, but over the years I have been able to remove barriers and become more intentional on finding and developing top talent to join my teams, while also empowering our top experts to maximize their contributions to the enterprise.
How do you work to be a mentor to younger counterparts?
I am passionate about mentoring and especially focused on working with early career employees. I often speak to our leadership development program participants and people from outside organizations to offer career and leadership advice. This offers the opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned from my own career with our next generation of leaders. As leaders, we benefit from hearing about the issues facing our early career employees and how we as a company might be able to address those concerns.
This topic is so important that I wrote a book to organize and share the advice I have received and lessons I’ve learned throughout my career. The book focuses on leadership and how to spend your career currency to work smarter and move faster toward your career goals. It is incredibly rewarding to hear from people who have read the book and how my advice has helped them advance in their own careers.
What does it mean to be successful in your career field?
Everybody has something that motivates them. I concluded over time that what motivates me is making a difference. I chose to be in a position in leadership because I wanted to make a difference. To me, that equates to professional success, whatever field you work in. Growing up, I was very reserved and never thought about being a leader until I got to college. That is when for the first time, I saw the opportunity to change and improve an organization by taking on a leadership position. It inspired me to say, “I can really make a difference here.”
Whether we are taking something that is on a good trajectory and making it better or taking something that wasn’t doing well and being able to fix it. Those opportunities inspire me to do what I do in leadership.
What are some of the under-appreciated positions in the defense field that help the job get done with less recognition?
Every function plays a part in mission success. I have found that communication plays a critical role in aligning an organization towards a common goal. I lean heavily on our communication professionals to help us showcase the work we are doing for audiences inside and outside the company. Doing this well can often be the difference between the perceived success or failure of a business.
Another area often overlooked in our industry is the supply chain function. A prime contractor typically relies on smaller companies from across the country or around the world to provide the specialized services or unique parts that build the capability required by our customers. So much of what goes into building a ship, radar or combat system flows through the supply chain. That team is critical in creating and maintaining those supplier relationships that are essential for program success.
How has the culture changed around diversity within your career?
There has been a significant culture shift when it comes to diversity. Earlier in my career, organizations often equated diversity with affirmative action programs, and looked primarily at representation for women and people of color as an obligation. Today our industry and certainly our company has shifted to a place where the representation piece is still important, but it has become so much more than that.
The emphasis has moved from not only diversifying the workforce, but also focusing on how we can create an inclusive workplace where our employees feel like they belong and feel comfortable being themselves. I think we have continued to make progress toward a fully inclusive environment where every employee’s perspective is not just permitted, but actively welcomed and encouraged. Where every employee feels they belong.
What is your advice for new entrants to the defense/military community?
The one piece of advice I give people, especially graduates and young professionals looking to embark on a career in the defense community, is to try to build relationships in the industry before you make the move. It can provide an opportunity to learn more about a particular area and it is easier than ever to get connected and learn about people who have backgrounds in areas of interest.
I have had people contact me on LinkedIn just looking to connect and build a relationship, and after getting to know them, I ended up hiring them because they took the time to connect, share their background and credentials, and were a good fit for an open position on my team.
What do you see as the future of your sector in national defense?
As the leader of our Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors team, I am focused on the missile defense, radar, shipbuilding, directed energy, and combat system integration programs essential to our customers’ mission success. These are all critical capability areas for U.S. forces and our international partners.
With SPY-7, we are building the most advanced land and maritime radar available. The Aegis Weapons System remains the most deployed combat system in the world with continued advancements to keep pace with emerging threats. Our directed energy laser programs are delivering systems to engage targets at the speed of light while being both small and powerful enough to be carried on tactical platforms. We deliver the most advanced warships to the U.S. Navy and continue to build ships for our international customers. This is an exciting time for our business, and we are developing innovative solutions that will position us to continue to be a leader in the defense industry.
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