2003 Award Reception : Blair C. Marks
Blair C. Marks
Winner of the 2003 Women in Aerospace Outstanding Leadership Award
An excerpt from the nomination form:
Reflections on Outstanding Leadership
In the aerospace industry, in opening science and technology to youth, and in being a strong role model and advocate for women, Blair Marks is a leader. In her profession, her sharp mind, honed by her father's brain-teaser puzzles and games, welcomes the challenge of problem solving. Her mother, a respected educator, gave her the understanding of the importance of making education available to all ages; and her own experience in the workplace has underscored the importance of not only encouraging the next generations of engineers and scientists, but also bringing women to positions of leadership in the aerospace industry. And, her own faith has led her to positions of international leadership on behalf of women and children.
A Successful Aerospace Industry Leader
An easy manner and a let's-get-the-job-done attitude have brought Blair Marks increasingly demanding positions throughout her career with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (LM Aero) in Marietta, Georgia. In 1981, she entered the aerospace industry as a materials and processes engineer. The company quickly realized that her Bachelor of Engineering degree from Georgia Tech in Ceramic Engineering combined with her Master's in Materials Engineering from the University of Michigan and MBA from Georgia State University were just what was needed in a plant manager for the adhesives and bonding facility in Charleston, South Carolina.
Of her new position, R.C. LeCroy, then Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Vice President for Engineering said, "This was the first such appointment for a woman in the Lockheed Corporation." The pressure was on and she thrived. For Blair, this was an amazing opportunity and was totally different from anything she had done. It was also a wonderful chance for her to get into manufacturing in an area she was familiar with. As the plant manager, she did it all from overseeing 100 employees and managing a $3 million budget, to making sure the potholes in the parking lot were filled, to interfacing with the South Carolina congressional delegation on behalf of the corporation. Union grievances became a rarity. And she got the product out the door at reduced cost and improved quality levels.
She earned her stripes in Charleston, and has more than proved her worth to the company in Marietta. A succession of high-level jobs further underscored her value as a leader. According to Tom Burbage, then Vice President and General Manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems in Marietta, "When Blair was selected to be the Deputy Director of Engineering for F-22, it was the highest technical leadership position achieved by a woman in this company. She has made her mark within the corporation and within the technical aerospace community." In her new position, she was responsible for 650 engineers involved in the development of the F-22 air dominance fighter aircraft. She controlled an annual direct payroll of $26 million, and a fixed asset and overhead budget in excess of $3 million a year. She also directed internal research and development (IRAD) for F-22 related technologies and led the team that developed the initial strategy for managing electronics obsolescence for the platform, a vital element in the long-term viability of the weapon system.
Her next assignment in May 1997, was as Director of Enterprise Resource Planning, a strategically critical program budgeted at $100 million which sought to implement common processes and software management tools across multiple Lockheed Martin companies. By April 1999, the F-22 was heading into production and Blair was tapped as the Director and F-22 Site Manager for Marietta. This was a new position in the program and another opportunity for Blair to apply her leadership style in the engineering and manufacturing areas. She was responsible for Marietta-based effort in completion of development and initiation of production for the fighter's forward fuselage, edges, and final assembly, managing a budget of $700 million.
Her success in the F-22 program led to her appointment as the Site Director of Engineering for LM Aero – Marietta. In this position, she led an engineering workforce of 2,000 and helped in the improvement and standardization of engineering processes and tools across the company. She played a key role in the successful consolidation of the Fort Worth, Marietta and Palmdale organizations as those three separate companies were consolidated into the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. In 2002, she became Director of the C-5 Galaxy Avionics Modernization Program and Deputy to the Vice President of Strategic Airlift, specifically responsible for contracts in excess of $200 million for the development of the new avionics and flight control systems and glass cockpit for the C-5 transport fleet. She has led a turnaround on this program that has seen markedly improved Award Fee and customer satisfaction ratings.
An Advocate for Education - Promoting Professional Growth On the Job
Throughout her career, Blair has been in a position to enable programs that encourage professional growth for engineers. In response to the period in the mid-nineties when the dot coms were enticing software engineers to leave the aerospace industry, she was instrumental in establishing a joint program between Lockheed Martin, the State of Georgia and Southern Polytechnic State University that allowed engineers in other disciplines to receive certification in software engineering. This promoted engineering depth across the company and ensured that engineering expertise would be available long term in both the original and software disciplines. As the Lockheed Martin University Executive to Georgia Tech, she is instrumental in building multi-faceted relationships, including internship programs, lectures, classroom visits, research and a wide variety of student programs. She has been particularly involved with the university's Women in Engineering programs, including their mentoring program and annual Women's Leadership Conference. She also sits on the Industry Advisory Board for the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering and has recently accepted an appointment to the External Engineering Advisory Board for the Georgia Tech College of Engineering.
Encouraging the Engineering Leaders of Tomorrow
Blair's active involvement with the Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers is an example of her belief in the importance of education and its role in ensuring the future of science and technology. The 13 Centers in the State of Georgia provide education and programming to help science and math teachers in the classroom. Joint programs for kids and their parents offering information on careers in science and technology are also part of the program. Blair is in her third year on the Board, which she currently serves as treasurer.
But Blair Marks isn't just a paper member of any organization. In a position to do something about it when the Girl Scouts in Northwest Georgia asked for help with their Career Directions Program or when the Sally Ride Festival came to Atlanta, she got herself and other women from Lockheed Martin out there, visible, talking, letting young girls know that they can do whatever they set their minds to.
She is a popular speaker and panel member, supporting as many requests as she can to meet with kids or visit schools. She was last summer's kick-off speaker at IBM's EXCITE Camp for middle school girls. She has participated in the annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering luncheon during Engineers Week, been a speaker for Georgia Tech's Futurescape Program and for the Georgia Junior Academy of Science, who thanked her "for the important role she played as their guest speaker and for sharing her experiences working in a science field and being a leader.
Advancing Women as a Role Model and Mentor
On the job, she is a founding member of the LM Aero – Marietta Diversity Council and has been instrumental in establishing Women of Achievement, Vision and Excellence, a new focus group for women. In addition to providing role models and extending into the schools, this group will sponsor seminars and speakers offering women insights into the workplace. Blair also actively recognizes employees for their outstanding contributions through her participation in the nomination and selection processes for national award programs. For the last five years, she has been a mentor in the company's Executive/Management Development through Growth Enhancement (EDGE) and Engineering Leadership Development Programs, which identify women and minorities for management positions. Blair has been instrumental in the development and promotion of women to Director and Senior Manager positions, including her own replacement as the Site Director of Engineering when she moved to her present position. She regularly receives calls from young professionals seeking career advice and has informally mentored several over the years, helping them develop ways to build networks and/or pursue new career opportunities. According to LeCroy, "Blair has become one of the role models available to women within the Lockheed Martin organization, recognizes the responsibility that implies, and does her utmost to be both example and mentor."
Blair's accomplishments and leadership in the aerospace industry and her advancement of women have been recognized by others. In 2002, she was named to the Georgia Tech Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni and became a member of the Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Cobb Class of 2002. She has also been nominated for the YWCA's Women of Achievement Award. In 2001, she was selected by the local chapter of the National Management Association (NMA) to receive the NMA Leadership Award. Of all the honors she has received in her career, this stands out for it is from the people who have had a firsthand opportunity to work with and for her. At the close of her involvement with Enterprise Resource Planning, Gina McIntosh wrote, "Thank you for letting me out of the proverbial box and also for believing I could do what I said I could – and more. Your confidence has meant the world to me and reminds me to always do things better than before."
Finding Balance, Gaining Strength
Blair is also a woman of strong faith. She is active in her synagogue, Temple Kol Emeth, and is a member of Women of Reform Judaism, serving at the local, district, and national levels. She is a speaker on behalf of the national organization, provides leadership training and conducts workshops and seminars on programming, marketing and fundraising. She is on the national budget committee, chairing an endowment campaign aimed at encouraging women to think in terms of being in control of their financial destinies. The organization is also involved with other groups around the world that advocate for women's and children's causes. Blair has also served as a trainer for United Jewish Appeal, an organization which provides critical relief services worldwide to people in need. Blair has a true passion for her faith and the richness it brings to her life.
In her private life, she is a wife and stepmother and values the dimension she has been able to bring into her stepdaughter's choices as she enters her college years. She also treasures the special time she sets aside for her husband and their shared love of music.
She is a leader in the aerospace industry and in opening the minds of young people to the possibilities of careers in science and technology. She is a strong role model, mentor and champion of the rights of women throughout the world. Blair Marks exemplifies leadership in her profession, her community, her world.