William Pack | Senior Principal Systems Engineer
Raytheon Intelligence and Space
McKinney, Texas, U.S.
Department: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance –Tactical EO/IR Systems
Education: B.S. Mathematics, University of New Orleans, M.S. Applied Mathematics, University of New Orleans
Career stage: Mid
What do you do?
I am the Sensor Characterization Lead for Raytheon Technologies’ F-35 Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO DAS) program. This role includes modeling the performance of the wide field-of-view MidWave InfraRed (MWIR) sensors and validating the models through data collection and analysis; developing a suite of data reduction/analysis tools (MATLAB) for ingesting, conditioning, analyzing, and interpreting sensor test data for sell-off of sensor requirements; developing error budgets to inform various levels of sensor and special test equipment design; and writing documentation for all models, test analysis tools, and error budgets.
What types of skills do you use?
Logic, data analysis, inference (statistics), coding.
How are applied mathematics and/or computational science important to what you do?
They form the cornerstone of my job. I consistently develop mathematical models of the systems my company develops and coding the math is key.
What are the pros and/or cons of your profession/job?
Pros: There are a plethora of interesting/difficult problems to solve (many engineering problems have not been rigorously mathematically formulated so when things go wrong, they often bring in a mathematician), stable work environment, job security, flexible work schedules, and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge military and space technology.
Cons: Bureaucracy and a decidedly un-academic environment. Also, the aerospace/defense industry is struggling to fit the new salary demands into their business models.
What career path did you take to your current position?
I spent the first 10 years of my career solely on the technical path, consistently seeking and solving problems of increasing technical difficulty. Around that time, I did a foray into management and program leadership. During my time as a section manager and chief engineer, I developed a strong sense of how the business operated and what things were important to the business. For the past four years or so, I have been strictly technical again.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar degree or profession?
If you have a degree (or degrees) in one of the mathematical sciences and are interested in career opportunities in the aerospace/defense industry, my advice would be to couple your mathematical training with computation. A minor in computer science is a great complement to a math/stats degree.
Was there anything that surprised you when you started out in your career?
I honestly thought there would be greater mathematical proficiency among the working population than there is.
Has SIAM played a role in helping you build your career?
I joined SIAM as a student in the late 90s, as a professional 10 years into my career, and have been a participating member ever since. It is through my networking within SIAM that led to my appointments on the External Advisory Council for the Department of Mathematics at the University of Texas at Dallas and the SIAM Membership Committee.
According to salary.com, the median salary for a systems engineer I (entry level) in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (where I live) is $72K. This starting salary assumes a bachelor’s degree with 0 years of experience. Those with advanced degrees and/or industry experience can expect higher starting salaries. Salaries also vary by location.
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