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Driven by opportunity

These women are making their mark as engineers in the defense industry

Raytheon systems engineer Kristin Sundberg is driving business growth with her cold spray idea, which won the company over $200,000 in funded research.

It's a field that's full of opportunity.

Kristin Sundberg, Ivonne May and Isis Roche-Rios are all engineers at Raytheon. They see their careers as gateways to innovation, exploration and achievement. The work gives them access to the frontiers of technological development, and each is making a mark.

Take Sundberg, for example. A systems engineer, she developed a way to use copper cold spray, a process that deposits a fine, high-quality layer of metal onto a surface, to improve the reliability of Raytheon's Patriot Integrated Air and Missile Defense System.

“Your idea is only an idea unless you do something with it,” she said.

What she did was to turn her idea into a real asset for the U.S. Army and Navy. Sundberg won more than $200,000 to fund research into the process. And she did it within 18 months of her first day at Raytheon.

Ivonne May is a deputy director at Raytheon’s Missile Systems business.

Ivonne May's family encouraged her to be what she wanted to be. What she wanted was to be a professional in science, technology, engineering or math, the fields known collectively as STEM.

“At that time, few women chose to pursue a career in STEM because it was viewed as a man’s job,” said May, deputy director for Raytheon’s Evolved Seasparrow Missile and Sparrow programs.

May didn’t have any defense or military experience before joining the company. The position meant taking on the unknown and increasing responsibilities.

“I did my homework so I could understand the customer care-abouts,” May said.

She offers this advice for aspiring engineers: “Look for opportunities to be uncomfortable and develop a thick skin.”

Isis Roche-Rios, a senior mechanical engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, is a mentor and leader to hundreds of current and aspiring female engineers.

Touring the International Space Station Expo was a dream come true for the teenaged Isis Roche-Rios, who wanted to become an astronaut.

But she didn’t know how to get there, so she battled her shy nature and asked the expo’s visiting astronaut. He told her to major in mechanical engineering, so that's what she did. Roche-Rios earned her engineering degree at the University of Puerto Rico in her hometown of Mayaguez.

After graduation, she applied for a job with Raytheon’s Missile Systems business.

Roche-Rios is now a senior mechanical engineer on the company’s Rolling Airframe Missile program and Additive Manufacturing Center. In her spare time, she’s involved in Raytheon’s STEM outreach to girls at area schools.  And as program lead for the Raytheon Women in Engineering, Science and Technology program, also known as RWEST, Roche-Rios mentors other women, helping them make bold moves like the ones that led her to a fulfilling career.

“The purpose of RWEST is to show our early-career women the many paths available,” Roche-Rios said.

She believes it’s important for mentors to “make it real” for those individuals who follow in their footsteps.

“Showing them they can be astronauts can be exciting, but it can also be perceived as more of a dream than an achievable goal,” Roche-Rios said. “We need to provide them stepping stones to their dreams. That way, their dreams will seem closer, more relevant and most importantly, within their reach.”

Last Updated: 09/06/2017

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