When Todd Stevens (MEMP ’06) was a graduate student at the Pratt School of Engineering, he never imagined himself building defense systems for the Navy.
“With a mechanical engineering background, why would I want to build radar?” said Stevens, who lives in the Washington D.C. area.
But when the opportunity arose to work with defense contractor Lockheed Martin as an engineering planner, Stevens accepted the challenge. His work focuses primarily on the AEGIS radar system, the premier radar system used by the U.S. Navy. AEGIS is used on every destroyer and cruiser ship and is seen as a cornerstone of the U.S. Navy missile defense system.
Stevens said he finds the work gratifying. “In small part I know that I’m contributing to helping the navy to have an effective product that’s affordable and reliable.”
Stevens said his time at Duke helped provide him with the necessary skills to do his current job. “The program provided me fundamental people and project management skills that enable me to be successful when I hit the ground running at Lockheed Martin,” he said. “As I gained an appreciation for the mission of our customer and the work that our company does, I realized that I was amazingly lucky to be able to work on the AEGIS Radar program.”
Even though he finds his work satisfying, Stevens hopes to transition into a career that is more business-oriented. He is about to complete his M.B.A. at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Stevens said his fondest memories from Duke were when he camped out with international students for the chance to buy men’s basketball tickets. The camp out allowed him to quickly bond with the international students on something other than schoolwork. This later proved helpful when they worked together on group assignments, he said.
Stevens currently keeps in touch with the Duke community by traveling to Durham for the Duke Night with Industry event. There, he talks with Pratt graduate students about his profession and how engineering helped prepare him for his work.
Outside of the office, Stevens travels the globe to help those in need. He has made trips with Habitat for Humanity to Central America, Africa and the Middle East, where they construct homes for local families, among other things.
“The biggest takeaway is less about building houses, but more about building bridges to get to know the worldwide community that we don’t see when we don’t look out outside our borders.”
The most powerful experience for Stevens came when he visited Amman, Jordan this past March. There, he spent a week living with a local family. In that time, he discerned that even though our American culture may be vastly different than theirs, the similarities in structure, morals, and family life are very alike.
“Realizing that the family operated much like my own family and seeing that these were all very nice people was eye-opening. There can be times when outside sources give us the wrong impression, but these people are some of the kindest people around.”