Karen Davies - ATK
Vice President of Business Integration and Operations
Karen Davies is Vice President of Business Integration and Operations for ATK Defense. She leads the integrated operations function of the $2 billion business group, with 6,000 employees in 10 states. This includes functional responsibility for operations, quality, safety, environmental, performance improvement and LEAN initiatives, integrated supply chain management, and business systems/IT. She has been with ATK for 32 years in various leadership and business positions.
Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Utah.
My 9-year-old granddaughter proudly announced last week that she wants to be one of two things—either a paleontologist, or a chocolatier. It gives me great hope for our country’s future that she even knows that paleontologists exist, and that she can be one if she chooses. However, keeping her ambition alive, along with the ambitions of our other bright future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, is one of the most critical challenges that we face. We attract only a small minority of our children, particularly girls, into STEM education and careers. Changing this is critical for the future of our country. Without the right people who are prepared to succeed in STEM fields, the economic engine that has fueled the U.S. will simply not be able to continue doing so.
It’s well documented that STEM related businesses and jobs are powerful economic multipliers. My personal passion is around manufacturing, which has the highest multiplier of any business venture—$1 of manufacturing business creates an additional $1.43 of activity in other sectors, more than double the multiplier in a service business. Manufacturing businesses have always required strong engineers and technologists, and that demand is even greater today because of the complexity of the equipment and systems in our factories. I’ve had the great opportunity to be in the business of manufacturing highly-engineered products in the aerospace and defense industry for my entire career, and every day we rely on scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians to make things work. Without them, we fail.
When I have the chance to address participants in our college internship programs, many of whom are studying STEM disciplines, I always reinforce the importance of a good portion of our best and brightest graduates entering manufacturing businesses. Their experience working with us often surprises them, because it is fun and challenging, and they’re exposed to many different uses of their education and creativity. Capturing that message—STEM is fun!—is important. I remember as a high school student being encouraged by a close family friend to study chemical engineering in college. Unfortunately, I didn’t take his advice, because my image of an engineer was someone locked in a dark corner wearing a lab coat, looking at a microscope, and rarely talking to anyone. What I didn’t understand then is that an education in STEM opens practically limitless opportunities to some of the best careers you can ever have, and all of them involve other people (and very few dark corners). I’ve been lucky because my business education and some wonderful mentors provided me a door into a STEM business, but my opportunities would have been wider had I been prepared with a strong education in a STEM discipline.
My passion for STEM centers on the future, especially for our future generations, who will be chartered with keeping the U.S. as an economic and innovation powerhouse. Helping them prepare to meet that challenge is critical.