Heritage Month Spotlight: Joshua John, Raytheon
November 26, 2019
Senior Systems Engineer,
Two Worlds, One Purpose
When we think about our careers, it’s natural to focus on our accomplishments, especially when we’re asked about it. We might say we were a manager at this company or a top contributor to this function or perhaps even a thought leader in this area.
But for Senior Systems Engineer Joshua John, success is about being part of a team.
Ask him about his career at Raytheon, and he’ll tell you how many programs he’s been a part of and what skills he’s learned. He may even mention that last year the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) recognized him as the 2018 Most Promising Engineer.
But what gets him most excited about the work he’s done are the teams he’s worked with and the individuals who have helped him along the way.
“I’ve been able to do a lot of interesting work at Raytheon, but what I like best about working here are the people. I’ve seen that a strong team dynamic is critical.”
Being an active and vital member of a strong team is something Joshua has been doing since he was born. As a member of the Navajo nation, community-building is simply a way of life for him, and it’s a habit he’s proud to continue.
A Tradition of Service
Born and raised on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico, Joshua grew up immersed in rich cultural traditions and unique customs. One of the customs that has shaped him the most is the Navajo clan system.
“A Navajo person is born with four clans,” Joshua said. “I’m part of the Bit’ahnni or Folded Arms clan. Within the clan, the concept of family goes beyond my birth parents and siblings. Each person in the clan is a brother, sister, mother, father or grandparent to everyone else.”
By living in this mindset, Joshua learned from an early age to appreciate the work and contributions of others. And he was no stranger to hard work, especially on his grandparents’ sheep camp.
“Every Saturday, we piled into our pickup truck and drove to grandpa’s sheep camp,” he said. “We went to the river to haul water back to them in several trips, since they had no running water. Even as young kids, we were expected to work and to help. This was a trait that was carried on to all of us.”
This commitment to serve one another has been carried on through generations, and he got to see it firsthand from his grandparents, his parents and his siblings, who have all inspired him to take on opportunities to learn and to serve.
“My mom was a teacher,” he said. “She always loved to read and learn and encouraged me to do the same. Grandpa was a World War II veteran, and I have siblings, cousins and a niece in the military. There has always been a sense of duty and service in our family.”
When he graduated high school, Joshua additionally decided to challenge himself by enrolling at the New Mexico Military Institute, where he completed the two-year college program. He was proud to have completed the training and to have followed in his family’s footsteps, but there was still more he wanted to do. Like his mother, he had a desire to keep learning.
A New Way to Serve
As a student at Northern Arizona University (NAU), Joshua’s professors had helped him see that his innate curiosity of how things worked made him an ideal engineer, and thanks to AISES, Joshua saw that he could move forward in this direction with confidence.
The organization gave him resources he needed, like scholarships, conferences and tips on building a resume. But it also reinforced the sense of community he knew from his culture.
“I met other Navajo people who were in the same field as me,” he said. “It gave me comfort to know I wasn’t the only one and that a fulfilling career was possible.”
It also helped him to see a bridge between what he calls “two worlds”: life on the reservation and life outside of it.
“I used to tell my non-native friends in college that they were lucky because they only had to be one person all the time,” said Joshua. “They didn’t have to do a cultural jump. When I went home, there were a completely different set of expectations, even a different language to speak.”
Through AISES and through Raytheon, he’s been able to bridge that gap by building his engineering skills and by helping other Native Americans succeed. Being active in the Raytheon American Indian Network (RAIN) and serving as a leader within AISES has connected Joshua with other Navajo people, whom he considers “extended family.”
But it’s the work he’s doing and the team he works with that truly connects where he’s from and who he is.
“At Raytheon, I have the opportunity to use my skills to protect my homeland, the Navajo Nation and all the things I hold dear. No matter how far I get in my career, I know who I am, and I know what I’m working for.”
November is Native American Heritage Month, and Joshua’s story exemplifies the unique skills and perspectives Native Americans bring to our work culture, our communities and our nation.