Turning hard work into a work of art
From a young age, Jan Kennedy knew what she wanted to do. She was focused, and she had a plan.
“By the time I was thirteen, I was determined,” Jan says. “What drew me to what would eventually be engineering was that it was pretty unambiguous. It was clear. You either got it, or you didn’t.”
I had no family connections to it, I was just ready for adventure; to try something I’d never done before and serve my country while I was at it
Understanding the logic of math and science versus the subjectivity of something like art meant that Jan could master the skills to launch her career. And she knew – even as a 13-year-old – that the best way to control the direction of her future was through education and earning top marks.
By the eighth grade, she had her sights set on the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.
“I had no family connections to it, I was just ready for adventure; to try something I’d never done before and serve my country while I was at it,” she says. “It was a simple equation: ‘You work hard, and you’ll succeed.’”
After graduation, Jan became an Aerospace Engineer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, working with her fellow engineers to maintain several fleets of aircraft. The skills she developed in the RCAF prepared her for life outside of the military, too. Change parades — where a platoon has mere moments to change uniform and perform a drill — gave Jan perspective and excellent time-management skills.
“The camaraderie that developed between us was so valuable,” Jan says, speaking of the importance of understanding your role but also ensuring your partner can rely on you. “You grow this team, and that was a worry when I started working at Lockheed Martin. I wondered, am I going to have that anymore?”
But her colleagues at Lockheed Martin are just that —a team. Jan now leads a dynamic group at the company working on the CC-130J Hercules in-service support contract. As the Contract Management Office Manager, she keeps her engineering skills sharp and has retained her close links to the Canadian military.
“It was nice to maintain that connection,” says Jan, adding that Lockheed Martin is a company renowned for its support to the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Engineering has grown with me and I’ve done so much with it that I can now see that there really is an art to it,” Jan says. “I can design something that is easy to implement and looks good. I’ve learned that problem-solving is a type of creativity. It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Now in a management role, Jan also reflects back on her years in traditionally male-dominated spheres.
“In my experience, there was never any kind of issue,” she says. “I never had to fight for a chance to add my voice to the conversation or find a place at the table. A lot of the leadership roles, even the CEO, where I work are fulfilled by women and we’re an engineering company! There is definitely a shift happening and I’m happy to be a part of it.”