Johnson, who founded the festival along with entrepreneur Larry Bock of San Diego, Calif., seeks to reinvigorate students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers. The free festival will be held April 26 and 27 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Along with the festival and STEM outreach programs, Johnson recently spoke with WashingtonExec about his career and industry-advancing technology. He also described how he’d advise a college student entering the corporate world, and shared a bit of what he enjoys in his spare time.
WashingtonExec: What are your thoughts on STEM outreach programs and the importance of encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers?
We need to change the way we perceive, experience, and prioritize science and engineering in this country. To remain competitive, the United States needs to recognize that we are seeing a gap in the number of young people entering STEM fields. Larry Bock and I founded the USA Science & Engineering Festival with this in mind. We believe success in this area depends on collaboration among industry, educators, policy makers and families. As an industry leader, Lockheed Martin is committed to working with these constituencies to make sure that we raise the level of what it means to be a scientist or an engineer — raise it to a level of celebrity, similar to that of athletes or movie stars.
“Advanced manufacturing is a competitive game-changer, bringing our nation’s research, engineering and production communities together in new and exciting ways.”
WashingtonExec: What is the latest on your company’s involvement in STEM initiatives, and yours personally?
Ray Johnson: In addition to our leadership role with the USA Science & Engineering Festival, we announced a $6 million agreement with Project Lead the Way in February to expand access to its pre-engineering and engineering curriculum for students in three select urban districts, to be announced later this year. We also recently partnered with the National Geographic Society to refresh our Engineers In The Classroom program to provide engineers tools and materials they can take into local classrooms to conduct experiments, offer lessons and give students a firsthand account of what it’s like to be an engineer. These are just a few examples of our STEM initiatives across the corporation in and around our communities.
WashingtonExec: What can attendees expect from the upcoming USA Science and Engineering Festival?
Ray Johnson: The festival’s mission is to reinvigorate the interest of our nation’s youth in STEM by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining science festival in the United States. Our goal is to make the USA Science & Engineering Festival the Super Bowl of STEM. This year, there will be more than 3,000 fun, hands-on activities for all ages; more than 150 stage shows including music, magic and comedy; and a career pavilion and college fair for high school students.
“Without the knowledge and understanding of how to bring your product or service to market, all you have is a great idea.”
WashingtonExec: How did you get started in your career? What advice would you give a college student preparing to enter the corporate world?
Ray Johnson: I started my career in the U.S. Air Force where I learned the importance of leadership, teamwork and mission focus. Those skill sets are directly transferrable into the private sector. The people who are entering our technical workforce today come with a drive, motivation and understanding, ability to communicate and desire to work together as teams that I think the industry has not seen before. I encourage students with technical degrees to pursue an advanced degree or coursework in business as well, because innovation takes much more than technical breakthroughs. Without the knowledge and understanding of how to bring your product or service to market, all you have is a great idea.
WashingtonExec: What comes to mind when you think of one or more of the most exciting recent advances in technology (or one that’s the wave of the future)?
Ray Johnson: Advanced manufacturing is a competitive game-changer, bringing our nation’s research, engineering and production communities together in new and exciting ways. Specifically, the combination of advanced materials, high performance computing resources, modeling and simulation tools, and advanced manufacturing practices is allowing large and small enterprises alike to design and build otherwise impossibly complex shapes and systems while significantly reducing manufacturing costs and cycle times.
WashingtonExec: Outside of business, what are some things that you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Ray Johnson: The term that most people entering the workforce today use is work/life integration, which is made more possible with the Internet and mobility. Part of that integration is also setting aside time for things that are fun and important to you. One of the things I enjoy is scuba diving. I have had the chance to take diving trips to Indonesia over the past several years, including trips to Komodo and Raja Ampat, which are exciting diving destinations.