Sara Hisa's Leadership skills and management style are charting a strong course for women at Lockheed Martin
Sarah Hiza isn’t bashful about how she got into aerospace.
“I had always hoped to be an astronaut,” Hiza said. Then she added:
“While I did not foresee this as my future, I’ve taken opportunities as they came about and always did my best.”
As it turned out, that’s a good thing for Lockheed Martin’s Fleet Ballistic Missile Program, which began its relocation from California to Titusville three years ago as part of a major corporate transition. Hiza is the program’s vice president — with a career in rapid ascension.
Florida’s Space Coast not only gained a new Fleet Ballistic Missile Headquarters, but also a dynamic emerging leader. The corporate move allows for a continued partnership with the U.S. Navy and creates a great opportunity for program’s future growth. Much of the expectations fall squarely on the shoulders of Hiza.
Yet, Hiza doesn’t blink. In characteristic style, she remains focused on the task ahead and defers to the larger mission.
“It’s just a very inclusive company that sees all the different kinds of talents people bring and recognizes that one cookie-cutter definition isn’t always the answer. They like to see different types of people in different types of roles.”
A bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Virginia Tech and, ultimately, a doctorate degree in polymer science from the University of Akron, set up employment at ATK, an Utah-based rocket motor manufacturer and her “first big step into aerospace.”
Sara Hiza began as a rocket scientist, spending 11 years there, and her career took off — landing at Lockheed Martin in 2015 as director of Propulsion, Structures, Ordnance & Controls before becoming a vice president in 2017.
At Lockheed Martin, Hiza described, she has mastered leadership fundamentals: Be authentic. Communicate well. And do what you say you’ll do.
“Being myself has been the key [to advancement], being authentic to who I am,” Hiza explained. “I’m inspired by other people, but I don’t try to emulate them or be something I’m not. It’s worked for me.
“I am transparent and highly reliable in my decision making and communications. Communicating out what we’re deciding and why we’re deciding is very important to me. Once I make a commitment, whether it’s to the customer or the broader Lockheed Martin, I put together plans that deliver.”
Hiza has literally gone beyond, too, as an avid participant in the National Outdoor Leadership School, a nonprofit global wilderness school that specializes in unconventional leadership development. As part of the training, Hiza, for example, has backpacked 70-plus miles along the Sweden and Norwegian border for 15 days with six other people (strangers) for approximately 150 miles. Also, she has studied group dynamics and leadership; received personal leadership assessments and mentoring; and developed outdoor skills related to navigation, emergencies, weather, glaciers and snowfield traveling.
“It was certainly not required for the [Lockheed Martin] job, but I would say it’s been very pivotal in developing me as a leader. … While I may have practiced those out in the wilderness, they actually translate very well to my day-to-day job,” she noted.
Not that her job has been easy. Hiza arrived at Lockheed Martin with impressive credentials, but without much insight about the specific company systems and culture. So, she leaned on the Women’s Impact Network at Lockheed Martin.
For Hiza, the network simply meant becoming more integrated. “The women not only welcomed me, but were also a fountain of knowledge, which was critical in my transition,” she said.
Sara Hiza, in turn, now is working to make others around her feel the same. It’s her own mission.
“No matter where a person falls in this organization, I want to help them feel a part of the team, and that they know their contributions matter,” Hiza concluded. “And I believe if I do that, I can help bring the best out in them, therefore, they will bring the best out in the business. And we will deliver.”