Women’s History Month Spotlight: Barbara Borgonovi, Raytheon

Barbara Borgonovi
Vice President, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems
Global President, Raytheon Women’s Network, Employee Resource Group
Raytheon Company

How did you get your start in the aerospace and defense industry?

I love solving complex problems. Engineering was a natural career path for me based on the real-world impact of the problems that I wanted to help solve.

As an undergrad at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I gained perspective on the many different applications of engineering. At the time, I was one of only a few women pursuing an engineering degree. I was a “book smart” student, but was challenged in some courses since I didn’t grow up working with mechanical tools like my male peers. The tactical courses where I reverse-engineered a lawnmower or learned to weld were a struggle! I learned to accept that I had different strengths. But through trial and error in the lab, my interest in mechanical engineering strengthened.

Early on, I banded together with my classmates. They helped me master the hands-on courses, and I navigated them through fluid dynamics. For my senior design project, I worked on a project for Raytheon and was inspired to work with such a strong innovation company.

Describe your roles and responsibilities at your company:

My responsibility today is rooted in problem-solving and in enabling my team to solve the challenges that our global customers face.

I lead a team of more than 5,500 people in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems, a mission area within Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems business unit. We deliver important mission capabilities to our global customers, including all-weather wide-area surveillance, precision targeting, multi-intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and pilot situational awareness.

There are about 140 programs in my mission area. At any one time, there are more than 80 helicopters and aircraft in the air carrying our technologies.

Where do you find inspiration?

I draw inspiration from leading others. My mission area is truly global, with people based at more than 65 sites in nine countries. It’s always rewarding to see our teams work hard to improve their performance and to support our customers’ mission needs. It is incredible what we can accomplish as a team, proving the old adage that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Why is diversity and inclusion meaningful to you?

My priority is to create an environment for people to succeed. This means demonstrating trust and respect in all that we do to drive meaningful change to move our work culture forward. As the global president of the Raytheon Women’s Network Employee Resource Group, I work across the company to instill an inclusive culture that supports, values and empowers women.

In addition, I strive to bring diverse perspectives to the table to better serve our customers. We need to have a wide range of channels to drive innovation, from giving employees and early-career professionals the opportunity to raise their hand and pitch creative ideas, to partnering with smaller businesses and suppliers. Empowering people and creating development opportunities will help ready our organization for the demands of the future.

What advice do you have for students considering a career in aerospace and defense?

First, dive into the tough challenges! Second, develop a network to help problem-solve.

Everyone has a personal challenge – such as my “reversed-engineered lawnmower” – that can be overcome and turned into a growth opportunity. Dive into it and use your network to help.

Throughout all of your experiences, focus less on the potential for mistakes and more on the learning that you will walk away with from the experience. I believe that we learn the most when we choose to move outside our comfort zone.