Engineering in Real Life - Sarah Fries

Meet Sarah Fries
Cybersecurity, Adv Technical Leadership Program Candidate '21
Lockheed Martin Enterprise IT

What field of engineering are you in?

My background is in cybersecurity and network security engineering.
When did you first decide to take STEM courses and/or pursue a career in engineering?

Sarah : I loved mathematics in school. If I understood the axioms and tools that I could use, then I was able to manipulate equations, tease out trends, and uncover relationships to answer questions about both simple daily life and complex systems. In college when most of my classes delved into the theory behind mathematics, I discovered that I did not enjoy the theory so much as I enjoyed solving real-world math problems. To me, there are moral and meaningful real-world challenges with using cybersecurity to protecting intellectual property and privacy.  Just like in mathematics, there are rules or axioms that govern the systems and there are tools I can leverage to understand networks, vulnerabilities, user behavior, and adversary goals.

Sarah at Oberlin College, where she majored in Mathematics and East Asian Studies

Tell us about your Lockheed Martin career journey.

Sarah: I started my Lockheed Martin career in the trenches of network security operations: configuring, managing, troubleshooting, and pioneering security tools that protect the entire Lockheed Martin corporation from adversaries. If employees searched the web or interacted with external networks, then their traffic traversed the security solutions that I helped maintain. Though I quickly gained experience and technical leadership responsibilities, I learned my favorite projects were complex challenges where I worked on interdisciplinary IT teams. Similar with my liberal arts academic journey, I wanted to have strong, core, technical expertise areas like network security while also being literate and capable in other IT and business elements. In other words, I wanted to not just be an excellent cello player - I wanted to be able to understand, appreciate, and play all the instruments in the entire orchestra – perhaps conduct segments or the entire orchestra. I transitioned to the security engineering team to gain this greater perspective. I appreciated the opportunity to influence strategy by interacting with leadership, leading technical teams, and gaining greater breadth in IT technology. I continued in this vein to where I am today in the Enterprise IT Advanced Technical Leadership Program.
What attracted you to Lockheed Martin and what keeps you here?

Sarah: I grew up attending “Young Minds at Work Day” in Sunnyvale, Calif. I remember being impressed with the satellites in the observation area, wearing hairnets on my head and blue “booties” over my shoes, and appreciating the different ways people decorated their desks and cubes. As a college graduate, Lockheed Martin drew me for different reasons: opportunity to be part of a meaningful mission, financial support for continued education goals, and an opportunity to work with some of the best cybersecurity professionals against some of the most advanced and persistent adversary threats to our mission. After 7 years, the mission and learning opportunities continue to keep me here.

What do you like most about your job?

The people and the mission. At the end of the day, I want to work with interesting, fun people and know that what I do matters to the mission.

Sarah on the Zugspitze mountain on the Austrian/Germany border

What excites you most about the future of Engineering?

Cybersecurity is becoming more prevalent in personal ways as homes and services undergo digital transformations. I am excited to see how technology and the cybersecurity field continues to evolve and to be a part of the team that shapes that journey at Lockheed Martin.

Aside from your current field of engineering, what other fields interest you the most? And why?

Sarah: Outside of engineering, I am curious to better understand behaviors. What motivates or demotivates people? How are healthy and unhealthy habits formed, and how you can change them? Why do people act or communicate in certain ways? It is an exciting puzzle to unfurl, and the discoveries and feelings of wonder never cease! I better understand more about myself and, if I am fortunate, it also helps me better understand and empathize with others.

Enjoying the outdoors : 10th Mountain Division Backcountry Huts in Colorado, U.S.A.

If you weren’t a successful Lockheed Martin engineer, what would you be doing?

Sarah: As an avid reader, I would love to be an author or teacher. More realistically, I would most likely be in actuary work, accounting, or data analytics.

What hobbies or passions define you outside of engineering?

Sarah: Reading, Traveling, and Skiing. Spending time with family and friends are priorities for me as well.

Sarah at Machu Picchu in Peru (2019)

Sarah at Machu Picchu in Peru (2019)

What is one piece of advice you would give to your past self?

Sarah: What you are feeling is called Imposter Syndrome. Most people experience this some point in their lives. It is a good sign that you are stretching yourself into new learning experiences. Look at all the past instances where you have felt this way -- don’t you see that you ended up with the greatest growth & value during those times? Keep using this feeling to push to learn and contribute meaningfully and, most importantly, be kind to yourself.