Business Management Internship at Northrop Grumman Space Technology (NGST)

An interview with Sean Currey '11


Describe your research project and responsibilities.

I worked in the Business Development and Planning division at Northrop Grumman Space Technology (now known as Northrop Grumman Aerospace after a company reorganization). My primary project was to find a way to improve upon current financial forecasting methods. I created a product using Microsoft Excel that would automatically compare the actual dollar amounts spent on a project with predictions made from 1-12 months prior. At the end of the summer I had a functioning program which I presented to the company CFO and his top team. I also suggested a change in how the percent error was calculated. I was honored and rewarded by how interested they were in my project. I owe the success of this project to my two mentors, Mr. Brandt Pyles and Mr. George Zorzoli.

Overall, I must say this kind of internship would make an excellent experience for a first or second year engineering student. Working on the business side gave me a wide exposure to all of the projects at NGST and what kinds of work is done at Space Park. In fact, when we played "Intern Jeopardy" at the end of the summer my team easily won because I knew under what branch every project belonged. I spoke with countless engineers and projet managers about their jobs and how they felt about the company (everyone loved it). The business knowledge I picked up has also been invaluable to me. I feel like I have an intimate understanding of how the aerospace industry functions as a whole after this job.

Do you get to tour the other research facilities on site?

Yes. Although there were only a few tours organized for all the interns, my mentors were kind enough to schedule private tours and meetings with project managers for me; the one-on-one attention I recieved at Northrop was absolutely amazing. Some of the highlights of these adventures include seeing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Space Tracking and Surveilence System (STSS), the electronics fabrication facility, and even LCROSS before it was smashed into the surface of the Moon.

Who else is involved in your project? Did you have the opportunity to work with other students?

The work I performed at Northrop was really part of a larger project aimed at improving management efficiency at Northrop. I worked very closely with my mentor Mr. Pyles as well as another engineer, Mr. Thomas Finkle. Working with professionals much older than myself, rather than other interns, meant that I had to quickly adapt to working with people much more experienced than me. I think I managed.

What kinds of social events are there?

University Relations was very good about preparing weekly activities for the interns. From lectures on prevalent topics to professional development lunches to even an intern day at Dodger Stadium, there was always something going on. Near the end of our internship we had a massive question and answer session with the President of NGST, Alexis Livanos. It was a really enlightening talk.

Describe your living situation.

Space Park (NGST's campus) is less than two miles from my house, so I chose to live at home. However, for other interns not from the surrounding area, NGST provided housing at a nearby extended stay-style place. The fee for this housing was taken directly from the students' salaries. While this housing was convenient (especially for those without cars, as it was located right next to Space Park), better options may present themselves for those who check Craigslist regularly.

On a related note, NGST has an excellent cafeteria. I ate there almost daily. The food is rather inexpensive and quite good. Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and El Segundo also all have a lot to offer, including, as you may have guessed, a nice beach. NGST is also not too far from downtown LA and Hollywood, so if you have never been to Southern California before, you won't be too far away from the sights. There is plenty to do it this area when you get off work! Northrop employees enjoy a 9/80 schedule - they work 80 hours in 9 days insread of 10, so they get every other friday off. It's perfect for students who want to travel or go backpacking on the weekends.

What is your favorite part about working at NGST?

I have two: the first is the amount of help and attention I recieved from my mentors, especially Mr. Pyles. He challenged me with a tough topic I had little experience with, but helped me every step of the way. For example, we often discussed our project plans at lunch at local restaraunts, or he arranged a provate tour of the electronics lab for us so I could understand more about that program. The other great part about working for Northrop was talking to the experts in so many fields, from science to project management to business development. Everywhere I went, people had something to teach me.

What was your most memorable experience?

During my stay at Northrop there was a "grand opening" ceremony for the new environmental satellite manufacturing facility - the building in which NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System) is being constructed. Among the speakers at the event were Ronald Sugar, CEO of Northrop Grumman, former California Lt. Governor John Garamendi, and none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy. I was fortunate to get his autograph.

Though that was a fun day, however, I guess it was not quite my most memorable experience, really. My final pesentation to the CFO and team really stood out. So much work and practice went into it!

What are your plans for the future?

I enjoyed my foray into the business world, but have since sought to garner a stronger background in engineering - but both disciplines are important in the aerospace industry.