University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

Heather (Pritt) Wissinger -  Lockheed Martin

NAME: Heather Marie (Pritt) Wissinger
Pitt-Johnstown GRAD: December 2001

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MAJOR: Applied Mathematics MINOR: Computer Science
JOB TILTLE: Associate Software Engineer (with Lockheed Martin)
JOB DESCRIPTION:
One of the best parts of my job so far is that I do not have one specific project to work on. It varies from day to day what I am doing. There are things that I am required to work on, but I also have the opportunity to work on any project that interests me. I am encouraged to be creative, have fun, and explore anything that I feel I can change for the better. Although I have worked on several different projects, they are all for the same component known as IEC, or Integrated Exploitation Capability. Most of my work thus far has been computer related. I've worked on dual booting a workstation in order to optimize the use of resources by eliminating the need for so many machines. By dual booting a workstation, two separate users could use the same computer and work off of two different hard drives without interfering with each other's work. There are two solutions for the dual booting problem, one is software related while the other involves removable hard drives. We've had success in both areas. In addition, I've also worked on a scripting project that would automate the process of configuring workstations. My partner and I then decided to apply what we learned about scripting by creating scripts to automate the dual boot setup that was designed for Windows. Our success with the scripts has also given us the opportunity to do some work for other projects. So far all of my work has been with IEC, but eventually I will be going to SBIRS, which stands for Space Based Infrared System. This project is designed to perform space surveillance missions for the Air Force and eventually replace the DSP (Defense Support Program) that has been in place for 30 years. According to an article that I read, SBIRS is designed to "support multiple missions, including missile warning and detection, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace characterization." According to my manager, SBIRS is "a payload that when fully operational will reside in three orbits: HEO (highly elliptical orbit), GEO (geosyncronous orbit) and LEO (low elliptical orbit)." The project is based in Boulder, Colorado, but the Mission Management capability was transferred to Gaithersburg, Maryland approximately two years ago to implement the "move the work, not the people" philosophy. Gaithersburg employees share the mission responsibilities with a team in Boulder that is staffed by Northrop Grumman Corporation. The team that I will be working with is currently working on the mission software that supports the HEO orbit. I've been told that Gaithersburg has also developed software in support of the overall SBIRS architecture and plans are in the works to also support development of the Telemetry and Commanding software. Since I have yet to begin my work with SBIRS, I cannot elaborate any further. I must admit though, that I am extremely excited about going to this project.
NEATEST PROJECT OR ASPECT OF YOUR WORK:
The neatest aspect of my work is how it is "real work" and affects our everyday life. For example, the project I have been working on for IEC actually helps support the Office of Homeland Security. SBIRS, which I briefly spoke of, helps support our National Defense System. It is nice to know that I am taking my education and applying it in order to make our country a safer place to live.
ADVICE OR COMMENTS TO UNDERGRADUATES:
The best advice I can give is to take full advantage of the educational opportunities offered in college, particularly those in Mathematics, Science, and Computer Science. Then when it comes time to start searching for a career, don't limit your search. There are so many great careers out there for math majors. Places such as Lockheed Martin, National Security Agency, U.S. Census Bureau, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Department of Energy, Raytheon, as well as many others are constantly looking for mathematics majors. One thing to keep in mind is that a degree in mathematics does not limit you to a strictly math related career. Being proficient in mathematics shows that you have the ability to think logically and apply what you've learned to different areas. Companies are not looking to hire someone who knows everything, but instead someone who realizes how much more they have to learn. They want to hire someone who has a solid educational background and is willing to continue their education through a career that affords them the opportunity for a lifetime of learning.
Last Reviewed: November 23, 2004