A longtime leader in the aerospace and defense arena, Mark Russell served until recently as Raytheon Co.’s corporate vice president of engineering, technology and mission assurance — until a massive merger this spring took him into a new role.
Raytheon Co. merged with the aerospace business units of United Technologies Corp., placing Russell as chief technology officer of newly formed Raytheon Technologies. Now, he’s charting the course for a team of some 60,000 engineers, addressing in equal measure the needs of both government/defense and commercial aviation.
Technology lies at the heart of the enterprise, and as CTO, Russell plays a pivotal role in guiding the organization.
“We’re called Raytheon Technologies for a reason,” he said. “We make air travel safer, more efficient and connected. We make defense systems smarter. We also make intelligent systems for space. Just about everything we’ve worked on has a technology component to it.”
As a combined entity, the newly formed company can leverage the complementary efforts and skill sets in place before the merger.
“The technologies we are working on in some cases are identical, in some cases are very similar with slightly different applications,” Russell said. By working those problems together, “we’ll be able to push the boundaries of science and invent things we can’t even imagine.”
Russell’s role, in part, is to create a seamless fabric and to draw together varied and disparate teams and initiatives to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction.
“I make sure the thread is pulled across all the businesses, all the programs and products, and all the technologies,” he said. “If the businesses need to share certain technologies, I’ve got to make sure we share them.”
Russell has helped the company develop 11 technology roadmaps, from autonomy to how it approaches advanced missile interceptors.
“Then we share that technology where appropriate,” he said.
Russell also works to chart the course, defining the technological direction in a complex and highly dynamic environment. He wants to ensure Raytheon Technologies makes the right bets and looks at the right technologies at the right time.
“It’s not good to be late or too early,” Russell said. “We want to make the right investments and make sure we focus our engineering and scientists to solve problems that can make our products more affordable, deliver faster on cycle times, and perform at some level that’s never been done before.”
Lacking a crystal ball, Russell depends on his own experience and the insights of his subject matter experts to help define the appropriate technology priorities.
“If you want to be a leader as a CTO of a company, you have to pay attention to the details, and you have to have domain knowledge,” he said. “It’s not good enough just to know: A laser does this or an aircraft engine does this. You have to have deep domain knowledge.”
And with the best engineers in the world, Russell said he brings together those scientists “a mile deep and a mile wide” in this area and listens and learns from them to figure out how to move forward.
A collaborative culture also helps to ensure Russell gets a wide enough view, and part of his work is to ensure those lines of communication remain open within the merged entity — that the smartest people are always in contact with him and with each other.
“We pulled together the best of the best,” he said. “Part of my job is to make sure there are forums that give them an ability to get together. We have technology symposiums for different domains, we get people together to discuss the hard problems.”
While Raytheon Technologies has an active interest in emerging technologies — from artificial intelligence to advanced thermal technologies to sophisticated radio frequency capabilities — Russell said it’s equally important to ensure certain core capabilities are in place to support those cutting-edge applications.
“The underpinnings are things like additive manufacturing and model-based engineering,” he said. “You can invent something, but you still have to figure out how to build it, how to test it.”
With additive manufacturing, engineers can build things faster and more efficiently. And with model-based system engineering, they can take things from design to delivery.
“We do millions of lines of software,” Russell said. “You have to have those core pieces in place in order to build upon all of these other promising iterations.”
Having spent nearly four decades in aerospace and defense, Russell said he gets special satisfaction in seeing good ideas brought to fruition. He started his career working on a version of the Patriot missile system, designed it from the ground up, tested at the White Sands Missile Range and fielded it through a factory all the way to delivery.
“I got to see my designs built in production,” he said. “I’m really proud when I get to see something all the way through. That’s been my whole career and my whole life, and I love it.”