Tamara Crawford knows she’s been blessed. So when she entered her 13th year of employment at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the University of Mississippi mechanical engineering alumna wasn’t the least bit superstitious about her steady stream of career achievements coming to some unfortunate end.
Crawford’s confidence, creativity, leadership and endurance were recently rewarded when she was honored with Special Recognition for Career Achievement during the 2016 Black Engineer of the Year Awards. She previously won the 2014 Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award-Science Spectrum Trailblazer.
This year is the 30th anniversary of BEYA, a national award regarded as “one of the most prestigious and competitive honors in science, engineering and technology management.” Fewer than 1,000 individuals have achieved the distinction of being a Black Engineer of the Year honoree.
“As a 13-year-old girl from a small Mississippi town, in eighth grade, I decided to become an engineer,” said Crawford, who is a board member of the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering. “My junior year in college, I declared, ‘I’m moving to Texas to work for Lockheed Martin. My parents taught me that all things are possible when you believe in God and yourself.”
She set out with no job, family, interviews or connections and with only $292 in her pocket.
“Fast forward 13 years, and here I am,” Crawford said.
An advanced technical leadership program senior, Crawford is responsible for work product quality, including the assessment of system processes, and product performance for the C-130, C-5, P-3, F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter programs.
She previously was the lead systems engineer for the F-22 Raptor, the world’s only fifth-generation fighter. When it reached the end of production, Crawford was responsible for overseeing the dismantling of that production line, preserving and storing those production components for future use. With no standard model for doing this, hers will be the blueprint for going forward.
A member of the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame (Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year) and Ole Miss Alumni Association Life Member, Crawford credits her Ole Miss engineering education for her success.
“I knew that an engineering degree earned from the University of Mississippi would be respected globally,” she said. “Ole Miss provides its students an amazing juxtaposition of experiencing a world-class education in your own backyard.”
The partnering of rigorous engineering study in a liberal arts environment has proven immensely beneficial to Crawford and her career, she said.
“Upon graduation, I was prepared as an engineer and a leader,” Crawford said. “Innovation, teamwork and the art of effective communication are key skills I developed as a students and continue to demonstrate as a professional.”
She serves on the Ole Miss Engineering Advisory Board, lectures in Dean Alex Cheng’s Leadership and Professionalism course and maintains a close relationship with UM engineering faculty who taught her.
“(This is) yet another impressive award on your yet young, but abundantly fruitful career,” wrote Jeff Roux, professor of mechanical engineering. “Your public speaking skills are excellent and highly refined. You are our hero and we are proud of you and love you.”
ME professor Ellen Lackey expressed similar sentiments to her former student.
“Congratulations!” she wrote. “I always enjoy receiving emails from you and finding out about your continued success. I hope to see you soon.”
Crawford acknowledged Lackey, Roux and others as having been instrumental to her career success.
“If Dr. Lackey hadn’t assigned my class to read ‘Skunk Works,’ I may not have moved to Texas to work at Lockheed Martin,” she said. “Dr. Roux (and many others) all taught me well. It means a lot to have their love and support.”
As both a woman and a minority, Crawford has been a trailblazer in the world of professional engineering.
“Service is inextricably woven into the tapestry of my life,” Crawford said. “My joy is inspiring youth through STEM. I must give back. I love witnessing the ‘light bulb’ moments for younger people … the realization they can be creators of technology, not merely consumers of it.”
Crawford was also selected as a member of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Advanced Technical Leadership Program. ATLP exists to develop future technical leaders for Lockheed Martin Corp. The purpose of the two-year program is to accelerate the technical, professional and leadership development of selected intermediate career-level individuals through stretch assignments, strategic research projects, training, mentoring and networking.
The program’s four major components are stretch assignments, a strategic research project, community service and training. Additionally, ATLP participants attend periodic learning and networking conferences and participate in a mentoring relationship as a mentee to someone in higher levels of leadership within Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
Candidates were considered from across the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics locations in Texas, California and Georgia. Only 10 candidates were selected. Crawford’s credentials, nomination and panel interview performance solidified her qualification for this exclusive leadership development opportunity.