2014 Influential Women in Defense Electronics: Sondra Barbour, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global SolutionsStory
March 06, 2014
Sondra Barbour is Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin's Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) business area and an officer of Lockheed Martin Corp. Under her leadership, IS&GS employs 26,000 experienced professionals, who provide advanced information systems, security, and services supporting the critical, complex missions of customers worldwide. Headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, IS&GS operates throughout the U.S. and 20 countries worldwide. It generated $8.4 billion in sales in 2013. Her more than 20-year career at Lockheed Martin includes extensive leadership and technology experience, notably in the design and development of large-scale information systems. Ms. Barbour was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" in 2013.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face every day as an executive at one of the largest defense prime contractors in the world?
Currently there are two challenges that stand out. The first is our obvious tough economic environment and continuing budgetary challenges. The second is maintaining our innovative edge over competitors to provide our customers with the best capabilities for their missions. These two challenges interplay with each other in that we need to balance being fiscally responsible to both our shareholders and customers while still developing new technologies.
Q: How do you overcome those challenges?
To overcome these challenges, it is crucial for us to work closely with customers to ensure we are providing them with the technology they need while balancing resources. We can accomplish this by establishing true partnerships with understanding and appreciation for each individual mission. This type of listening is done at every level of our organization – whether one of our executives is meeting with a director responsible for an entire agency or one of our systems analysts is discussing the tactical element of a program’s execution.
Also, being part of one of the largest technology companies in the world allows us to bring innovations from across our company to customers. For instance, we apply our big data analytics experience to other Lockheed Martin business area supply chains to expedite service to our customers and ensure we deliver on schedule.
Q: The defense industry has many differences from other consumer markets, especially in its culture. Those cultural differences and recent economic setbacks in the military market may make it less attractive to new college graduates. What can defense companies and the Department of Defense (DoD) do to encourage and motivate young engineers and business minds to enter the defense industry?
Lockheed Martin is a unique company where young engineers develop cutting-edge, innovative technologies that assist with the world’s most challenging missions – those that save lives and serve citizens around the world. I think that is a very noble cause and one that resonates with college students today. I think the defense industry would benefit from highlighting more of the technology aspects of our field and demonstrating the global impact of them.
Q: How can they be more prepared when they do enter?
I would recommend college students today not only understand their engineering field, but also gain exposure to business concepts and refine their communications skills. To be a leader in our field in the future, you need to be more than a great engineer. You need to be able to share your ideas and lead others. You need to be able to link those ideas to the overall business strategy. College students today who learn these skills will be the most marketable in the future.
A section of Lockheed Martin’s career website is geared toward college students. At www.lockheedmartinjobs.com/college-students.asp we have intern, co-op, and leadership development programs for those just getting into the workforce. Examples of technology innovations they can dive into at our company are cyber security; ocean, wind, and solar technologies for energy problems; bionic exoskeletons for warfighters; hybrid air vehicles for defense; intelligence and transport applications; magnetic wave communications for locating trapped miners; and more. Programs to help warfighters transitioning from the military to the business world are also offered.
Q: During your career in the defense electronics industry what have been the most significant events and disruptive technologies?
I think the biggest changes to our industry have occurred due to the volume of information available, the speed at which we receive it, and the need to protect and analyze this data set into actionable intelligence. To address this challenge Lockheed Martin has been at the forefront of cyber security and data analytics for much of our 100-year history. In fact, our cyber kill chain capability, that we developed internally, is now recognized by the industry as a best practice for protecting networks and information. Many partners are involved with Lockheed Martin on its cyber efforts such as APC by Schneider Electric, ArcSight, CA, Cisco, Citrix, Dell, EMC Corporation and its RSA security division, HP, Intel, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Microsoft, NetApp, Symantec, Trustwave, Verizon, and VMware. For more on the cyber kill chain, visit www.lockheedmartin.com/us/what-we-do/information-technology/cyber-security.html.