Updated: Jun 26, 2019
Today we are talking to Beth Vumbaco, Systems Engineer at Raytheon.
Beth graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. She worked in the telecommunications industry for several years as a Systems Engineer before joining Raytheon in 2004.
After holding a variety of leadership positions at Raytheon, both as a line manager and as a program lead on the Patriot program, she is currently the Hiring Lead for the Systems Engineering directorate.
Beth shared why she sees mentoring to not only be so critical to those entering the workforce, but also to herself and her ability to be a great leader.
Read the full spotlight below to learn more about Beth and her approach to mentoring.
Hey Beth, could you tell us a little about your career path and what brought you to your current work?
I started out of college in telecommunications with a role at GTE and then moved to a startup that was doing network based voicemail systems – a big thing in the 90s. I did a lot of travel in those early years and took a couple different positions at GTE before I moved to Boston Technology. I worked a lot in the telecom space and liked that industry but the telecom bust came in the late 90s. By then I had a couple of kids so I wanted to use my systems engineer skills but also wanted a bit more stability in my life and an opportunity to be closer to my kids. So it made sense for me to come to Raytheon. I am actually a second generation Raytheon employee – both my parents worked at Raytheon before I started here. It was familiar to me and gave me the stability that I needed at that time in my career. I have been here 15 years now and mostly worked on the Patriot program. For the last 8 months, I have been working as a hiring point of contact for my department as part of a rotational program. I will do this for a year or two and then rotate back to a line management or program job.
So how did you get into mentoring? How would you describe your approach, and what you try to achieve when working with mentees?
I think especially since coming to Raytheon and coming in as a professional hire - Raytheon hires a lot of college graduates - it was always part of my job to be mentoring the newer engineers with both a technical and career focus. I think that is kind of where I started with mentoring. For me, mentoring in the workplace allows the early career employees to ask questions and get advice – maybe talk through things they are going through in their career. For me it has been usually more informal. I always try to base the relationship on what they want to achieve, making sure I am a sounding board to either answer their questions or go and get them an answer if I can not.
What’s the biggest buzz you’ve got during your time mentoring?
I like to see people get great opportunities and find ways to have success in their career – or navigate to something maybe they have not considered. I like to see people that I helped with a particular aspect of their job go and get a new opportunity. Whether it is a job, a raise or just seeing the results of their efforts and our discussions, this is what gets me excited about it.
What would you say that you get from mentoring, both personally and professionally?
I think professionally it helps me stay connected with the more junior engineers by understanding what is important to them and what drives them. I think this helps me as a leader to know how different demographics in the workplace like to work and are motivated. Personally, I have done a lot of things in my career and made different choices based on my need for work life balance so I feel I can also share that with people working through similar things.
One word -- verb, noun, adjective, adverb -- that describes a Mentor's role.
Are there any tips you’d give to new mentors who are unsure what they’re letting themselves in for?
And how about mentees who’ve never experienced 1-on-1 mentoring before—do you have any advice on how they can approach the experience to get the maximum benefit from it?
First and foremost you need to be a good listener – really listening to the mentee. Also make time for them that is dedicated. When you are with them make sure they can tell that you have set the time with them aside and are not distracted. In other words don't be trying to email or make your grocery list if you are talking with your mentee. Also have the flexibility to discuss the topic of the day or whatever is happening to you in the moment if that would be helpful. Even if you set up time with a specific focus planned, have flexibility to be there for what they need and have a plan to get to all of it.
For mentees, it is important to get to know your mentor as well. Understand their background and a little about your mentor as it may drive conversations or questions you would have thought to ask.
How do you think mentoring can help create an inclusive culture?
Part of mentoring is understanding what drives the mentee, what is important, and what is going on with them. Focusing on that helps me as a leader understand more about them and their background, culture. The way early career employees approach problems is also different then how I would have done it and understanding that helps me be a better leader. It helps me understand what will ensure people will feel more included and how I can make our organization feel more inclusive. It is also important for the mentee to understand where the mentor is coming from and their past experiences. This deeper level understanding on both sides builds that inclusive culture.
We talk here (at Raytheon) a lot about what it means to have an inclusive workplace – you are only going to figure it out by talking to those who are not like you.
Finally… funniest story from your career so far?
When I was thinking of selecting colleges, I went to my parents and I told them I wanted to be a French major. My mother said, "That is great! So go be an engineer and you can do French in your spare time."
So I went to college in an engineering program at Northeastern and did an international co-op in France. When I graduated from college, I interviewed for a job after I had been at GTE for a while and the guy was talking to me about a system engineer job, but that they really needed to have someone who spoke French as they did a lot of work in sub-Saharan Africa. So I got that job and it was fun to call my Mom to let her know!
You can find more information on becoming a mentor and participating in our next program here.