Yolanda Mack Engineers A Fulfilling Career At Raytheon In Tucson, Arizona
When Yolanda Mack was little, she wanted to find a way to make cars that could fly. Even then, she knew that meant she would have to become an engineer.
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Raytheon, and published on January 9, 2019. Go to Raytheon's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
So she did.
She also knew she needed help from physicists to invent a way around gravity.
"While I didn't achieve the second goal, I learned to be ambitious, stay focused and dream big," Mack said last year in a speech accepting a Black Engineer of the Year award for outstanding technical contribution.
Mack, a systems engineer and operations manager at Raytheon, has a fulfilling career and life in Tucson, Arizona. The city is home to the company's 11,000-employee Missile Systems business, the largest private employer in southern Arizona. Raytheon Missile Systems produces advanced aerospace and defense technologies, and is developing innovations of the future, like hypersonic missiles and space vehicles.
"It's always important to find new, more efficient ways to do things," said Mack. She started with Raytheon more than 10 years ago and now oversees operations for a team of 1,800 systems engineers.
AN EARLY ADOPTER
Early in Mack's career, she became involved in a project to optimize the shape of a missle's nosecone. The standard procedure called for building and analyzing a full mock-up of the payload, a week-long process that involved two design iterations.
Mack used machine learning and artificial intelligence—technologies then in their infancy—to set up automated testing. Other groups were able to modify the tech for their own purposes, spreading efficiencies across the company.
Four years ago, Mack was working on a new simulation product for a customer facility in another state. Because of the distance, a simulation would take two weeks to prepare; maybe longer if additional testing was needed.
Mack pulled together a tiger team of experts: the customer, senior level and early career employees, software quality engineers and remote engineers at the site. Through improved communications and automated testing, the team cut the integration time from two weeks to two business days.
"We find our great ideas through diversity of thought and inclusion of everyone around the table," Mack said.
LIVING IN TUCSON
Growing up as a military kid and moving all over the world gave Mack an appreciation for diverse thinking, people and places. She has now lived in Tucson longer than anywhere else. And it's not just the job that keeps her there. It's everything the city has to offer, including the scenery.
"There's a calming feeling looking at the mountains," she said. "Almost every house in Tucson has an amazing view and you can just see every star."
In her spare time, Mack takes in touring Broadway shows, writes novels and collaborates with Tucson's host of authors.
With more than 350 days of sunshine and an average temperature of 70 degrees, Tucson is a mecca for outdoor adventures. Mack likes to participate in the area's obstacle course mud runs and hike the 9,159-foot-tall Mount Lemmon, the highest point in the city's Santa Catalina Mountains.
Mack and her team, Delta One, participated in the Tough Mudder, an 11-mile obstacle course mud run in Phoenix, Arizona. The team ran through hanging live electric wires, crawled under barbed wire and swam through ice water baths. (Photo: Stacie Toumey)
"I tend to get immediately bored and unmotivated with traditional physical fitness-type stuff, so am always looking for alternatives—gymnastics, obstacle courses, trampoline parks, etc.; any way to have fun or learn difficult skills with exercise being only a side effect," she said.
A high performer, Mack appreciates challenges.
"I like to solve really hard technical problems," she said. "We may not always obtain our specific goals – but interesting things happen along the way."
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
I sat in front of my CEO to discuss several complaints of racism. I was new to my role as a Culture Director. I was nervous about his reaction to the complaints. But I also knew he strongly supported developing this new department; I knew that he would take the right steps. So I was shocked when I heard him say sheepishly, "I don't know, Noelle...all of this stuff about racism. I just don't see it. I don't even see color. I'm pretty much color blind."
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