In Our Own Words – Cathy

In Our Own Words


Cathy Steele

“Being in a systems engineering role, especially the concept development phase, up front, early on and in a program looking at options and tradeoffs is very fulfilling. It’s a challenge on so many levels to examine what a program or capability is going to do, who is going to use it, what gap it will fill, and what are the best options.”

Seeing the Big Picture

For Cathy Steele, keeping an eye on the big picture has been a focus throughout her career. Of course, Cathy knows that the key to achieving the big picture is strict attention to the details. Whether it’s a one-on-one meeting with a colleague or high-ranking military customer, Cathy applies the same level of attention and enthusiasm that has led her to achieve the role of National Systems Group senior vice president.

Cathy initially joined the corporation in 1985 after working for both Hughes Aircraft and The MITRE Corporation, then left in 1987 to work for a small, commercial company. She returned to Aerospace in 1993. Raised in California, Cathy’s career choices took her back and forth between the West and East Coasts and, for a few years to Colorado Springs, Colorado. She currently resides in the Chantilly, Virginia, area. With an academic background in electrical engineering/system science and engineering control systems, she learned to apply her training to a myriad of projects and roles along the way. Cathy sums it up best: “I managed my job, looked for work I enjoyed, and my career followed.”

She is currently responsible for Aerospace’s support to the national security space and intelligence community in the acquisition, launch, and orbital operation of advanced technology space systems and their ground data systems.

Mentor and Mentee

Her position requires numerous demands on her time; chief among them, Cathy believes, is time spent listening to her employees and offering potential solutions to issues they may be facing. “It’s important to slow down and make each individual feel like they have your full attention,” she says. “Courtesy and kindness become even more important as you rise in the management ranks.”

Her philosophy extends into finding ways to recognize her employees and position them so they can be recognized by others. “I continually look for opportunities for my staff to be involved in cross-corporate activities so they can gain recognition for the work they are doing,” adds Cathy.

On the flip side, she is no stranger to being mentored. With her increasing positions of responsibility came the need to learn how best to work with high-ranking military and government personnel, which she learned how to do, in part, from others. “I had to polish my skills in terms of being direct and concise. When you only have 30 seconds to deliver your message, you have to be able to present the bottom line quickly,” she explains.

With the aid of her previous manager and others, Cathy has learned some valuable lessons, including how to navigate through difficult times or, as she states, “how do you pick up from where you left off and move forward?” She notes that the ability to be resilient through challenges and recover quickly is an essential skill.

Striking a Balance Is Key

Navigating through the work environment can be tricky and Cathy knows that finding the right approach can mean the difference between success and failure. “When you work with very talented, high-caliber people, you have to expect that some of them will be so passionate about their ideas and approaches to different challenges that their passion can result in conflict,” she said. “It’s beneficial to recognize quickly if there is a misunderstanding or difference of opinion, to know how to diffuse a situation, and then try and move forward. This strategy helps strike a balance in the working relationships so everyone can concentrate on the problem at hand,” she explains.

Advice for New Recruits

“Take the opportunity to discover what you like to do and work you enjoy by trying different things. Build your experiences,” Cathy advises those who are just beginning their careers. “There are a variety of technical areas to explore at Aerospace so the more you try new things, the more you will learn what you enjoy doing. Own your decisions and you will obtain the career you want to have.”

If the thought of working at Aerospace appeals to you, check out our current openings.