Mr. Alfred Grasso is president and CEO of The MITRE Corporation. He is responsible for developing and leading the organization’s overall strategy for its federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). He also serves on MITRE’s Board of Trustees.
Mr. Grasso has held several leadership and management positions within MITRE since joining the company in 1986, culminating with his appointment as president and CEO in 2006. He previously was executive vice president and director of the Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence FFRDC, now known as the National Security Engineering Center (NSEC). From April 2012 until May 2013, he served as both director of NSEC and CEO of Mitre.
Mr. Grasso is dedicated to increasing opportunities for young people to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). He is an appointed member of the Defense Science Board. He is a member of the Stevens Institute Systems Engineering Research Center Advisory Board and a board member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the country’s largest technology council. Mr. Grasso also sits on the University of Virginia’s Department of Systems and Information Engineering Advisory Board and Howard University’s College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences Board of Visitors. In addition, he served as chairman of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International’s Board of Directors from 2012 to 2014 and President of the Board of the National GEM Foundation.
Mr. Grasso and his wife, Michelle, live in Oakton, Va., and are the proud parents of daughters, Alessandra, Lindsay and Stephanie. The Grasso’s encourage their daughters’ educational aspirations, and all three have excelled in science and mathematics. Alessandra graduated from the University of Virginia and The Johns Hopkins University with degrees in Nano-Medicine Engineering and Public Health. Lindsay graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Biology and is now applying to Medical School. Stephanie is a third year student will follow closely at Virginia Tech majoring in Health and Nutrition.
The MITRE Corporation is a not-for-profit-organization that provides systems engineering, research and development, and information technology support to the government. MITRE operates federally funded research and development centers for the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, with principal locations in Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va. To learn more, visit www.mitre.org.
There are numerous challenges around filling technology positions. While some solutions, such as providing competitive salaries and interesting work, may seem obvious, solving the problem isn’t that simple. The jobs landscape is shifting all around us, along with the way we work—ironically, due in part to technology. Also, as baby boomers retire, millennials are entering the workforce in droves. Several polls and studies indicate they are looking for something more than money. They want to have purpose in their work, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world. MITRE was chartered to work in the public interest, and for this reason and others, we have always attracted candidates who have a desire to serve the greater good. Nonetheless, even a company with our charter and history must offer a mix of traditional and non-traditional benefits, such as wellness programs and flexible work arrangements. Our employees have said they appreciate having the flexibility to balance work and personal life so they can pursue outside interests. Many MITRE employees are also volunteers in their local communities, where they build homes for those in need or work as emergency responders.
We believe that organizations do best by doing good. Recognizing that employees have a life outside of work demonstrates our commitment to caring for their well-being, so when they’re here, they can focus on the task at hand.
Giving people from different backgrounds and cultures the chance to attack the same problem leads to innovation. Having this diversity of thought, not just on occasion, but routinely, is where we see—and hope—the future of STEM lies. At MITRE, we place a high value on collaboration to spark diversity of thought, and we rely on skilled teams whose members are very different in terms of experience and viewpoints to develop innovative solutions to address some of our government’s most pressing challenges.
In addition to diversity of thought, education is critical to ensure a healthy future for STEM careers. We need to engage students to enter STEM fields at a young age, and keep their interest by offering stimulating STEM programs that demonstrate real-world applicability. At MITRE, we work hard to establish and maintain close ties to educators from grade school to college, especially in our local communities. For example, we participate in the Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology program, which places schoolteachers in an externship program at MITRE to help them relate classroom curriculum to the workplace. For students, one of our most popular initiatives is the Nanotechnology Student Program, where high school and college interns work alongside MITRE technical staff for several weeks. And our annual Capture the Flag competition lets high school and college students work on solving real-world cybersecurity challenges. Through these programs, students become active participants—not just observers—in STEM activities.
Today’s leaders in the private and public sectors can serve as champions and advocates of STEM events and initiatives in their own organizations and communities. Go where young people are, and invite them to your workplace. They’ll remember these interactions, and someday may return not as students or interns, but as employees.
The STEM universe can encompass young, mid-, and late career professionals as well as students. These groups are in different stages in life, and each has very different needs, interests, and goals. Therefore, when it comes to investing in STEM, managers should do their homework by identifying their audience, defining their objectives, and determining what resources they need to meet their goals.
MITRE heavily engages with students through various programs and events, but we also hire hundreds of high school and college interns, along with co-op students, throughout the year. That’s a wise investment in STEM on the whole, as many of them go on to become leaders and innovators in their chosen fields. It also reaps returns for us when these talented individuals return to MITRE after earning their degrees.
We invest in our young professionals by offering educational opportunities and sponsoring groups such as NextUp, which offers mentoring, networking, training, and local volunteer opportunities. Our Early Career Research Program also helps junior staff members learn how to think about, develop, and implement a research project that will benefit our sponsors. Participants are assigned a mentor and develop their own research proposal and plan for the year. These activities help young professionals stretch personally and professionally, and form relationships with their peers and senior people in the company that prove invaluable throughout their careers.
Another key to STEM investments is acknowledging the good work and accomplishments of your employees. MITRE has several awards programs that recognize individual and team achievements. For the second year in a row, we have celebrated National Engineers Week, and we also participate in several external awards programs and conferences throughout the year, including the Black Engineer of the Year awards, STEM Global Competitiveness Conference, and the Women of Color STEM Conference, to name a few.
The bottom line when it comes to STEM investments is to find the right combination for the people in your organization, and keep assessing these programs to address the changing needs of your workforce.