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Lisa Finneran '85

Alumni Leader Spotlight

Lisa Finneran ‘85

VP Engineering: General Dynamics Mission Systems

I am a Computer Science Virginia Tech grad, married to a mechanical engineer from Virginia Tech, and have two wonderful sons that are both engineers. Currently I am responsible for leading a high technology, multi-disciplined engineering organization of over 6,000 engineers worldwide. We are solving the toughest mission technology and security challenges that face our nation and its allies, resulting in a safer world through smarter platforms and missions. I am accountable for our engineering products and delivering technology for platforms like combat vehicles, submarines, aircraft, satellites, and advanced systems that can sense danger, quickly act on threats and share lifesaving information. I love the innovation that our engineers bring to our customers and am inspired by them every day. Outside of work, I love photography and hiking. The combination works well - and we have recently had our two puppies join our journey!

I started as a software developer delivering software to the US Navy. I then had the opportunity to join a not for profit organization formed to help the aerospace industry improve their software development processes and improve their predictability on meeting cost and schedule commitments. I rose to the rank of Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer. September 11, 2001 changed the trajectory of my life, especially living outside the Washington DC area. I joined General Dynamics because I wanted to use my skills to help our country and that of our allies to remain safe and secure. I have the fortune of leading an engineering group, running a business, and now running GDMS engineering.


The work project/initiative you're most excited about...
Quite frankly, there are too many to name. We deliver products to our customers that cover sea, land, air, space, and cyber. I am personally inspired by the imagination and innovation we deliver every day!

How would you capture the essence of your work in a newspaper headline...
Paving the Way for Our Next Generation Leaders

Fondest Virginia Tech memory or tradition...
Loved the Computer Science Department - great professors, great learning, great life long friends

Words of encouragement to a current Virginia Tech student...
Never give up - sometimes I know you may feel that way - but there is really no hurdle that you cannot overcome. The world and technology is changing so fast - there is just so much opportunity! Best advice I've gotten… Do not be afraid to try new opportunities and more importantly seek new opportunities.

A key habit, practice, or skill, that's worth the effort...
Embrace diversity of thought - instead of responding 'no' on an idea - figure out how you can embrace the idea (either all of part)

This excites me the most about the future of my industry...
Everything! Technology is constantly evolving, mission needs and capability are in high demand, and we have such a shortage of engineers!!!

A cause I'm most passionate about...
Promoting STEM

 

Biggest misconception about my job or industry...
The defense industry is old and stodgy - we develop really important products using really cool technologies!

A person who has inspired me...
Katherine Johnson was the mathematician and 'human computer' whose sharp mind and calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were crucial to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. Her story is absolutely enthralling, and seeing it come to life on the screen through the movie 'Hidden Figures' only elevated my admiration for what she accomplished. Katherine inspired me not only because she enabled some of our first triumphs in space -- sharing close, historic ties to our business -- but also because she opened the doors for women in STEM careers at a time when those doors were particularly heavy, especially for an African American female. Despite the daily adversity she encountered in a male-dominated, segregated world, she didn't let it get in the way of her work. She leaned in and grabbed opportunities without hesitation. She focused on the mission. She was assertive when she needed to be. And she let her passion drive her. She also figured out how to balance work and life. She found life partners who were supportive. And throughout her career she was a modest mentor to others. When NASA named the Computational Research Facility in her honor, she said, 'I have always done my best ... at the time it was just another day's work.' And when she retired after 33 extraordinary years at Langley Research Center she said, 'I loved going to work every single day.'

Top of my bucket list...
Visit every national park and monument in the US

My hidden talent...
Photography!!


Media Contact:
Lindsey Haugh (540) 231-6959
lhaugh@vt.edu