Employee Spotlight – Tom Foley
Tell us a little bit about yourself (include family info)?
Born and raised in North Idaho, near Coeur d’ Alene, about an hour south of Canada. The youngest of three including my brother Jeff and step sister Brandy. My home town of Post Falls had a population of 9,000 and 4 stop lights. I’ve been skiing since 1980 and went camping at least 10 times every year. I spent my entire childhood outdoors including riding dirt bikes and making forts in the forest right out of our back gate. I always got good grades and tended toward math and science. I lettered in wrestling (went to the state championships) and choir… yes I was the first freshman admitted into the post falls high school honor choir, called The Troubadours.
At 16 I moved to Los Angeles. Total culture shock but I loved it. After high school I took a couple college courses but decided I’d rather jump into the work force. After two years of odd jobs including a prep cook at a deli and night crew on a loading dock, I decided to go back to school. I spent as much time surfing as I did studying but got my BSEE after 6 years. I was a member of Tau Beta Pi, National Engineering Honor’s Society, Eta Kappa Nu, EE National Honor’s Society and a Presidents Scholar.
I started my career with TRW in Redondo Beach, CA where I was awarded a masters fellowship and earned my MSEE from USC. This was actually the same program that Patricia Flynn, Brian Zinda, Matt Banner, and TJ Mathieson went through! Working for TRW (who became Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) took me to Alice Springs Australia and Harrogate England for almost seven years. Back in the states, after a year as a SETA, Northstrat picked me up as an SE.
As a Software Engineer or Systems Engineer at Northstrat, what is your daily routine like? Or is there one?
I work on a relatively small program called Bodhi. We have a small team of six SEs. As the SE lead I do a little of everything including requirements management, documentation, development planning and design, customer interface, user interface, training, testing, and SE tasking. My “daily routine” is an unpredictable mix of all of these elements.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy most?
Interaction with my amazing team, influencing the direction of the program, and showing off the amazing work that everybody else does!
What do you enjoy most about working for Northstrat?
Hands down, it’s the culture and the people. I never thought it was possible to be a part of a group like this. Northstrat employs the most diverse, fun, friendly, and absolutely brilliant people that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
What made you decide to become a Systems Engineer?
I just got lucky! I was an EE out of school and spent the first several years with TRW writing VHDL and designing circuit boards. After getting some ops experience overseas and domain knowledge of NRO systems and processes, I was hired as an SE without really knowing what that meant
Did/do you have a mentor? Tell us about that person.
My unofficial mentor is Patricia Flynn. She hired me into Northstrat on NRT, and taught me the ins and outs of being an SE: process, protocols, user engagement, and government engagement. It’s been over two years since I worked for Patricia but I still mimic my actions after her and frequently ask myself WWPD. I ask her advice on everything from program execution and customer relations to personnel issues and dealing with a difficult prime contractor. My success is a direct result of her mentorship.
Any advice for young people who want to pursue STEM?
If it feels right, do it! And if it doesn’t feel right… you probably had a bad teacher in grade school. People seem to think that being creative and social vs being logical and good with numbers are mutually exclusive. That’s a lie. The best engineers are extremely creative and the best SEs are social and interactive.