Partnership opens pipeline from MSU Denver to Lockheed Martin
The aerospace, technology and defense corporation is hiring students to support projects in AI, cybersecurity and more.
While in the Air Force, Soren Singpiel always dreamed he would one day work at Lockheed Martin. Stationed in Japan, however, he tucked away his dream for the future. He became a Cybersecurity major at Metropolitan State University of Denver, but he assumed it would be several years before he might pursue his hoped-for career path with Lockheed Martin.
Then, he received an email that landed him on the doorstep of his longtime dream.
Singpiel, 28, now works as a computer-programming intern at Lockheed Martin’s Littleton campus while finishing his bachelor’s degree. He’s one of several students taking part in a pipeline program between the school and the world’s largest defense contractor.
Fitting students to jobs
Mark Yoss, the Lockheed Martin endowed director for the Advanced Manufacturing Sciences Institute at MSU Denver, often plays matchmaker.
“I worked at Lockheed for 36 years before taking this (director) position in April of 2021,” he said. “My role is putting people from the school and the company in touch with each other.”
The partnership evolved out of Lockheed Martin’s struggle to fill positions. “They view us as a supplier,” explained Yoss, “and in this case, we’re supplying human resources.”
Lockheed Martin supplies a list of open positions and their descriptions, and the team at MSU Denver identifies students who might be a good fit. Job openings in the past have included electrical-power engineer, systems-and-aerospace engineer, software development and thermal dynamic design and analysis, among others.
Students, in turn, fill out applications and go through the interview process with various department chairs. After making the cut, students identify their top three job choices and wait for news on next steps for the Lockheed Martin hiring and onboarding process.
“I picked prototype-software developer because some of the other positions were more mechanical-engineering focused, and that’s not in my wheelhouse,” said Singpiel. “I’ve really enjoyed the work experience.”
Viable career paths
Ashley Danielle Aguilar is another beneficiary of the program. A December graduate, she has been working at Lockheed Martin since the beginning of the year, focusing on AI development for edge processing.
“I was about to graduate and learned of this opportunity to work with machine learning and AI,” she said. “That’s not a common opportunity for a new graduate — usually, machine-learning engineers need a few years as a software developer first.”
While at MSU Denver, Aguilar majored in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. “I got my first exposure to machine learning in a class, and I enjoyed it,” she said. “My math classes have helped, too, because there’s a lot of it involved in the theory aspect of machine learning.”
Without the Lockheed Martin matchup, Aguilar isn’t sure this was a career path she would have followed. With a few months left on her contract, Aguilar received an offer from the company and joined the staff as a machine-learning software engineer associate.
“I’m thankful I had this opportunity,” she said. “Staring down graduation is a bit terrifying, and this allowed me to find employment right away.”
Singpiel puts in about 20 to 25 hours each week with his Lockheed Martin assignment, much of it remotely, which is a bonus. “The campus in Littleton is about 30 to 45 minutes away, so if I finish up classes and can’t make the commute, I have the option to work from home, which is a blessing,” he said.
Originally concerned that the work would infringe on his classroom and study time, Singpiel has found that his project manager understands that school still takes precedence. “As long as I’m completing the tasks and staying in touch, it’s on me to get the work finished,” he said. “I’ve learned three different programming languages at once, which is helpful, because breaking into IT can be hard without job experience.”
Now that he has some experience under his belt, Singpiel can see that a job at Lockheed Martin might be a reality when he finishes school.
“With my military background and this experience, I’m hoping it will lead to full-time placement,” he said. “This opportunity has been invaluable.”