February 2019

EMBRACING TRANSFORMATION: So far, if 2019 is anything, it’s future focused. It’s all about being forward thinking, getting ahead of the curve and understanding that the only certainty is the rapid pace of change. As digital transformation becomes a force so all-encompassing that this piece in Ad Age warns we “can no longer treat digital as a separate thing—it’s got to be the only thing,” we turned to a future engineer and a leader who’s training him and his peers to be ready for what’s next.

Our latest NEF Conversation comes courtesy of roving reporter Malcolm Smitherman, a Miami University junior computer engineering major with a minor in physics and a member of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute. He talks with Louise Morman, executive director of LMLI and a senior management executive with a long career in the energy sector. Morman brings with her experience as a systems analyst and expert in leadership and transformational learning to her stewardship of LMLI, an intensive three-year transformational leadership development program for engineering and computing students.

Read on for what engineers of the future are talking about, and what the experts who guide them say we should all be ready for.

Embracing Transformation: How efficiency strategies are changing how we work, learn and succeed

Roving NEF reporter Malcolm Smitherman, a Miami University junior computer engineering major with a minor in physics and a member of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute talked to Louise Morman a former senior management executive in the energy sector, a systems analyst and expert in leadership and transformational learning, who leads the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, an intensive three-year transformational leadership development program for engineering and computing students. Here’s their conversation.

Q. How do you describe digital transformation?

Digital transformation is strategically changing all areas of your business, how you operate and deliver value to your customers, with the help of digital technology. That change requires an accompanying culture change.

There is no question that major changes will occur when our current college students are in the height of their careers. I cannot predict exactly what the developments will be in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, cloud computing, and other digital innovations, but I am sure that we will see dramatic impacts. I believe there will be end-to-end transformation in how organizations do business in most industries.

The work world will change in ways we haven’t seen in the past and well beyond hourly workers. All kinds of occupations will see change including engineers, accountants, coders, surgeons, etc. Computers are very effective at handling logical and process-oriented activities. The work of knowledge workers and college graduates will be replaced so people will have to constantly reinvent themselves and deal with a never-ending change journey throughout their careers.

However, when we started, I didn’t really think of the work of engineers being replaced by non-humans. Now I realize that resiliency is essential for survival in their future work world.

Q. Today there exist many advanced digital technologies that have yet to be utilized in the work space. If using them were to mean greater efficiency for a business, why do you think businesses haven’t taken advantage of them?

Digital transformation is a hot topic and it is definitely on the minds of CEOs who are planning for a successful future. But many initiatives stall. Technology is the easy part. How people deal with change is a bigger stumbling block. Digitizing scattered elements of the business is not that effective. To thrive in the digital era, a systems thinking approach is needed and that means rethinking the overall business, with a customer-driven emphasis. Culture change is hard.

Q. Considering your high-level business executive experience and your last seven years in higher education working with future engineers and computer scientists, what do you think are the major mindset gaps? What leadership areas need more emphasis in undergraduate education to prepare for the digital era?

After absorbing thoughts from dozens of books, papers and reports on the topic of digital transformation, I came up with the following list:

Internal Courage/Strength – Being your best evolved self

  • Self awareness
  • Open mindedness and inclusion
  • Humility – keeps us in touch with all we don’t know
  • Embodying our humanity
  • Overcoming fear of conflict and risk

Embracing Change – Adaptability

  • Comfort in uncertainty and unstructured environments
  • Navigating through complexity, chaos and confusion
  • Resiliency – especially when the change isn’t our idea
  • Growth mindset
  • Curiosity and reinventing ourselves
  • Learning from failure

Strategic Thinker – Holistic

  • Big Picture
  • Systems thinking
  • Customer obsessed
  • Forward thinker
  • Creative Thinker
  • Transformative vision
  • Ideas based on intuition and insights as well as data and history
  • Openness to new ideas and possibilities

Collaborative Spirit

  • Collaborative problem solving
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Heart


Q. How will your research into digital transformation change what you do in the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute?

Working with people while they are in college to help them become comfortable with ambiguity and change was something we considered important when we created the program over seven years ago. Our goal was to help our technical students become more successful throughout their careers and lives. We emphasized self-awareness, people leadership and strategic thinking. However, when we started, I didn’t really think of the work of engineers being replaced by non-humans. Now I realize that resiliency is essential for survival in their future work world.

Also, we need to do more work in “unlearning.” Today’s students have been conditioned since kindergarten to have clear expectations of what is expected of them. Unfortunately, the future does not have a syllabus with exactly how many points you need to get an A. Giving our students practice in the messiness of the real world will help prepare them to navigate the future.

Follow along with Malcolm and Louise in their digital transformation journey on Twitter.


Hey, Engineer. You’re smart and innovative, but we know that sometimes feelings don’t come easy. This Valentine’s Day, we’ve got your back. Download, print and cut out one of these heartwarming messages and you’re sure to bring a smile to the special someone in your life. And if you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter to feel the engineering love all year round.


It’s Cupid’s day to shine. But Valentine’s Day, like every other day, needs engineers to be successful. We’ll start with Cupid, more specifically with his weapon of choice: the bow and arrow, which humans (and cherubs) have been using for tens of thousands of years, has been called the first engineered tool.

But for many people, Cupid can be pretty unreliable. The National Retail Federation reports that cards are king for getting the message across, with 190 million greeting cards sold each year for Valentine’s Day. All those cards are another testament to the work of many engineers, from paper production to graphic design, printing and packaging. We even created some you can download and print, too.

Before you pop a bottle of champagne to toast your love, read up on what Chemical & Engineering News says about how those bubbles are engineered and ways to keep more of them in the right kind of glass.

Don’t forget the flowers. Estimates say about $2 billion worth of flowers are sold during Valentine’s week. Traditionally, red, long stemmed roses are the way to go to celebrate the day with your true love, but if you’ve got a less intense message in mind, here’s your guide to choosing the right bouquet. Some might appreciate the bio-tech efforts of the researchers trying to create a blue rose.

And if your day includes a jewelry gift of the most sparkling variety, you can appreciate the teams of people who helped gather those diamonds from the depths of the earth. From the mining process to the machines used to process the stones and tools for cutting and polishing, engineers help you bring that bling. (And industrial grade diamonds, too!)

November 2018

Millions of government employees, Washington, D.C. tourists, and people across the country appreciate Christine Merdon’s work every year.

As chief operating officer at Architect of the Capitol, she’s responsible for making sure Capitol Hill is ship shape. This is no small task considering that covers 17.4 million square feet of buildings and more than 553 acres of land.

She began her career with the Navy, and since then has worked on projects that read like a bucket list: Nationals Park, O’Hare Airport, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, Camp David, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for African American History, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial – and those are just a few.

We asked this monumental civil engineer to tell us what it’s like to live out the AOC mission to “serve, preserve and inspire,” and which building is her favorite.

Serve, Preserve and Inspire: A Conversation with the Architect of the Capitol’s Christine Merdon

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol

Q. We read that working for Architect of the Capitol is a lifelong dream come true for you. What lit that spark of passion to “serve, preserve and inspire” our national monument?

My mother is my biggest role model. She is an immigrant who moved to the United States, supported three children working as a hairdresser while also earning a college degree at night. Her journey, in my view, is the American dream. Inspiring others through my service by preserving our national monuments is my way of giving back for all that this nation has given my family.

Q. Which monument or building is your favorite, and why?

Probably the U.S. Capitol Building. We recently completed a restoration of the building and it looks amazing. More importantly, it is a facility seen on newscasts around the globe as the symbol of democracy. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Q. In addition to the remarkable work you do today on the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, House and Senate Office Buildings, Library of Congress, and Botanic Garden (among others), the list of projects you helped lead prior to joining the Architect of the Capitol is equally jaw-dropping. What one word or phrase comes to mind for you when you reflect on your work in the private sector?

Perseverance and pride

Q. Engineers are known for solving problems no one else can solve. It’s conceivable that preservation of our nation’s aging buildings includes solving one problem after another. What’s one you and your team had to overcome to keep our iconic capitol buildings safe and beautiful?

The scaffolding system for the Capitol Dome restoration was really challenging and unique. We erected 25 levels of scaffolding, weighing 1.2 million pounds, around the entire Dome. The scaffolding was supported at three points on the Dome structure itself (peristyle, boiler plate and tholos walkways) and not on the roof of the U.S. Capitol. Real time monitoring of scaffold loading was performed to ensure that load bearing capacity at any one point was not exceeded. Additionally, the installation of the scaffolding started 100 feet from the ground and rose from there. It was a technical – and very public – challenge.

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol


Q. Your education and training include a bachelor’s and master’s of science in civil engineering. With the Department of Education predicting that 65 percent of all jobs in the United States will require some post-secondary education by 2020, what do you do to keep your engineering and project management skills sharp?

I consider myself a seeker. I am always looking for new opportunities and challenges to test myself. I attend continuing education courses and participate in conferences and other events. I also value learning something not traditionally associated with engineering. I have taken art classes at the Corcoran School of Art as well as the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

Q. We’re going to assume you can’t share many details, but what can you tell us about your time in the White House Military Office and managing classified design and construction projects at the White House and Camp David?

You are correct! I cannot share a lot of details, but it was quite exciting.

Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I get to do something different every single day. There is never a boring week and there is always a new challenge to tackle. The team at the Architect of the Capitol are the some of the best tradesmen, craftsmen, architects, engineers and service providers in the world. It is a dream to work with them in our nation’s capital.