This is a snippet of our feature on Shan Cooper, Vice President of Lockheed Martin, who was featured in our Women in Business issue in 2015.
On standing out….
That’s a good question. I am usually the only woman in meetings, so I do stand out all the time. In that setting, the key becomes to just be confident and comfortable with who you are.
You will be judged but the key is to you be ready.
I can’t know everybody, so you have to do something to get my attention. Don’t set the place on fire or do something crazy like that, but you have to do something to get my attention. At Lockheed Martin, we’re pretty snooty about who we hire, because we want the best of the best. We want those people to have the same value as us. You have to do something that differentiates yourself in the workplace. A couple of things stand out to me. When I have talented people who are out in the community, who are doing things, who are visible, those people stand out for me. I may not know all of their names, but I’ll say “Oh, the lady with the beautiful green dress, I want her to do this project. That is typically how I get to know people, so I tell people it really is about PIE. PIE is performance, image, and exposure. We often will work and then go home, but it really is important to be visible and be out there exposed to people.
The other thing I will always say is you need great mentors in a company. You need mentors that will tell you when the baby is ugly. I’m being very honest, because remember my parents had never worked in corporate America, so I didn’t know how to do that. I had mentors that would pull me aside and say “That’s not the appropriate dress.” “You need to be at this meeting sitting next to this person. I actually literally had people doing that for me. Build those relationships, and recognize that you want that to be a balancing win. I would send my mentors articles that I read and say, “I read this article and I thought it would be of value to you.” You have to work it to make it happen, and it’s hard work. You are not being manipulative, but you’re being real. Then what happens is I get to know people that I think have great potential, so I become their sponsor. I am the person that talks about them when they are not in the room, but you don’t pick your sponsors; they pick you. Mentoring is about making those connections inside the company and outside the company. I have mentors inside Lockheed Martin and mentors outside Lockheed Martin, because you need that balance.
On cultivating mentors
Real easy; (laughs) I just ask. When I came into Lockheed Martin, I didn’t really know the company and what I learned early on was that the real rules of engagement are not in the company handbook. You have to have those people who help you navigate. When I came to Lockheed Martin there was a 146,000 employees in 70 something odd countries and what have you, so to navigate that- you can’t do those kinds of things on your own. You have to learn who to talk to, who to pair yourself with. In a mentoring relationship you have to know what you want.