Linda Peyton always followed her own path. From the time she was a young girl, she loved problem solving and math, and while it wasn’t a family trait, she followed her internal compass and sought an education that would challenge her. Often only one of a few females in her classes, Peyton took it in stride, found a support system, and secured a double major in math and computer science. Soon she found herself in a career working on military navigation solutions. Today, Peyton is Senior Director of Engineering of Navigation for Mission Systems at Collins Aerospace.
Peyton has enjoyed a long career with Collins Aerospace, which was Rockwell International when she started over 30 years ago. When she was interviewing for her first role, the company had just won its first significant military navigation contract. “They were hiring people with math and physics backgrounds, and when I was hired, my math and computer science background was quickly applied to military navigation solutions. The technology is very mathematical,” she recalled.
Once in the engineering department, Peyton stayed the course and followed the path up through leadership. “I love the technical challenges and the problem-solving aspects of engineering,” she said. “We are always working through really hard problems, staying on top of new and emerging technologies, and constantly innovating and brainstorming new solutions that can help our customers.”
As the battlefield continues to evolve, navigation plays a critical role. Efficient and highly-reliable navigation is required for all aspects of the battlespace from airborne and ground systems to precision-guided munitions.
While earlier in her career, she had to prove herself, Peyton quickly demonstrated her technical and leadership abilities and didn’t walk away from any challenges put in front of her. She led several developments where there were significant technical challenges, with large groups of engineers looking to her for leadership to successfully complete the project and help their customers meet their requirements.
Most recently, Peyton led the development of a new security product for military communication radios and data links. “It was a multi-year effort that had a lot of visibility and many extreme technical challenges,” she told us. “I had to build a very large team, which turned into an engineering department and eventually into an engineering directorate. Not only did we complete the new product successfully, but now I’m excited to watch the career paths of the engineers we brought in unfold and how they continue to be successful in their careers.”
Engineering and developing new products for the warfighter in the ever-changing battlefield is one challenge that Peyton and her team continue to strive toward meeting. “The battlespace needs to be connected – securely – with the data protected and trusted,” Peyton told us. “This presents many cybersecurity challenges as we bring networking to the battlefield,” she said. “Throughout my career, I’ve been involved in areas of providing the security for our solutions, and these secure solutions continue to involve using new techniques and technologies. Understanding the problems that the warfighter needs solved is a critical piece of this as well, as we’re connecting the different branches of the military together,” Peyton added. This is where she focuses her problem-solving skills now to ensure that warfighters have access to secure solutions that will connect them on the battlefield.
While the challenges will continue to change in the industry, Peyton encourages a younger generation of women to jump in and join the problem-solvers that are modernizing the battlefield and innovating in other STEM-related careers. “As technology advances, there are new STEM career opportunities opening up every day,” Peyton said. “We need problem solvers, innovators, and diverse thinking to move forward. So, know that your ideas matter!” Peyton encourages young professionals to find a passion and follow it. And if along the way there are challenges, “Don’t be discouraged.”
This is also the advice that Peyton shared with her two daughters, who followed in her footsteps and embraced a love for math and STEM. Both are now pursuing STEM-related careers.