Oh those desert sunsets
Elena Jenkins is living the dream in Tucson
Elena Jenkins found the life she loves in Tucson, Arizona.
She has a dream job as an industrial engineer at Raytheon. A native of Hawaii, Jenkins enjoys the type of climate she prefers. And there’s a quality of life in her adopted city that she has not found in other cities, including Moline, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California, cities where she lived during internship stints at John Deere and Disneyland.
“I was allergic to most of Illinois and to traffic of L.A.,” said Jenkins, who now oversees a team of factory industrial engineers.
Jenkins embraced Raytheon for its company culture and location. Tucson’s moderate weather, easy commutes and urban amenities all helped her make the Sonoran Desert her home away from home.
With nearly 11,000 employees, Raytheon’s Missile Systems business in Tucson is a significant local employer. The company plans to add more than 2,000 jobs in the next five years as it expands several of its missile lines to meet a growing demand.
Jenkins is helping to support the expansion by managing process improvements in the factory — changes designed to reduce the time spent producing each unit — and overseeing big-ticket equipment purchases.
Factory work can be demanding, especially in facilities that operate 24/7. That's not the case for Jenkins and other Raytheon employees. The company offers a “9/80 schedule,” allowing them to work nine hours a day Monday through Thursday and eight hours on alternate Fridays. That gives them every other Friday off.
The company also observes a holiday shutdown at the end of the year, in addition to a flexible Paid Time Off, or PTO, schedule — two other perks that Jenkins enjoys. Those benefits give her time to enjoy the city, which she originally discovered while attending the University of Arizona.
“Tucson is a healthy size,” she said. “The Tucson metropolitan area is almost a million people, so there are a lot of things to do, including festivals and a tasty and diverse dining scene.”
Jenkins also plays the violin in Tucson’s Community Orchestra, which puts on several performances each year. “I played in high school, and now I just do it for fun,” she said.
Jenkins takes pride in her community and enjoys giving back through MathMovesU, a Raytheon-sponsored program designed to get students interested in science, technology, engineering or math.
“At the last MathMovesU Day, I sat next to a girl that was really inspired,” Jenkins said. “She wants to pursue being a mechanical engineer at Stanford, and that was really incredible to see.”
And Jenkins’ community involvement extends to her alma mater, where she’s a Raytheon mentor in the school’s Earn-to-Learn scholarship program.
Volunteering in MathMovesU and Earn-to-Learn are both part of Jenkins’ participation in the company’s Engineering Leadership Development program. She has received the company’s prestigious “Up and Coming” award for the past two years.
While Jenkins didn’t grow up with a strong connection to the military or the defense industry, she appreciates what Raytheon offers its employees — and more importantly, the service members.