Linda Gooden's fortunate career path detour

Lockheed exec shares her roots, challenges and the road after retirement

Youngstown, Ohio, is best known for its part when America’s strength was measured by its manufacturing prowess. With plenty of iron ore and other resources close by, the city grew around steel production. You could argue that it was the buckle of the Rust Belt.

Linda Gooden, Lockheed Martin’s retiring executive vice president of its Information Systems and Global Services sector, grew up in Youngstown, and graduated from Youngstown State University. Go Penguins!

It was there that she studied to be a math teacher, but her career path took a detour, and she’s gone from the cradle of an old industry to the heights of the information age.

In the second part of our interview with Gooden, she talks about her roots, how she got to where she is today and what the future might hold, as she prepares for her May 1 retirement. Click here to read part one.

Why is now the right time to retire?

Gooden: I decided when I got into college that, if I was able to financially, that I’d retire at 60 and give back.

I’ve worked with a lot of great leaders, and I’ve had great opportunities. I’m in a great position to do exactly what I hoped I’d be able to do.

What do you plan on doing?

Gooden: When I started college [at Youngstown State University], I wanted to be a math teacher, but they rolled in an IBM 360 computer, and it changed my life.

I haven’t nailed anything down, but I’m on the Maryland Board of Regents, so teaching isn’t an option right now, but eventually I’d like to teach math and computer science. My passion has always been STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education].

Mark Warner

Linda Gooden of Lockheed Martin

I’ve also worked with the American Heart Association. I led the Heart Walk two years ago. Heart issues go undiagnosed among women, so I thought I’d advocate for women’s health, and getting checkups. It’s important that we pay attention to our health.

Another area is the Smithsonian libraries. If you can’t read, you have a whole different set of problems.

I also serve on the ADP public board. I’ll probably be involved in a couple more boards because that is the place where you can take all that you’ve learned and apply it at a different level.

When you started your career, what was your plan?

Gooden: Young people ask me if I had a rigorous career plan. I always say no. I was at General Dynamics in San Diego. There was sunshine every day. I’m from Youngstown, where it isn’t sunny every day, and can get cold and snow.

But, I went to a career fair with a friend, and Martin Marietta was hiring, if you had clearances and could write embedded software.

I ended up moving to Denver, and then my program got cancelled, so I started working on business systems, still with Martin Marietta. In two or three years, I moved to Bethesda as the IMS director. I was there seven or eight years.

Then, they asked me to go to Social Security. The rest is kind of history.

As a woman and a minority, what were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome?

Gooden: I never thought about it as a challenge to overcome. I was raised in a house with four brothers, and a very dominant father. You had to negotiate to watch TV, so I learned to negotiate with guys pretty early in my life.

When I first started, I was generally the only woman, and the only minority in the room. Today, you’ll see more females and, generally, more minorities. That’s been a big change.

But, coming up, I always focused on performance. If you perform and deliver on your commitments, you’ll do well. As long as I say what I’m going to do, and then do that, it works internally, it works for shareholders and it works for customers.

What are you most proud of?

Gooden: The people and the leaders that we’ve been able to grow and nurture over the years. They will be the next generation, and will take the company to new levels.

I’ve always said that I didn’t need to be the smartest guy; I needed to find the smartest guys. I feel that we have done a good job finding them, and letting them do their jobs.

If you could talk to yourself 20 years ago, what advice would you give?

Gooden: Never stop learning. In this technology world, things are changing all the time. So, never become complacent. The status quo is never good.

You should always think, "what’s next?" What should we be thinking about, down the road?

Then, take care of your key talent.

We have 31,000 employees in IS&GS, and all are important. But, there are certain individuals that make the difference between success and failure on an engagement.

You have to understand who they are, and you have to make sure they are getting the right assignments, and that they are being developed so that there is a next generation of leaders.

Then, give something back. We are very fortunate, and we should always give back to society.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

Reader Comments

Fri, Oct 25, 2013 Joe Wagovich

I was fortunate to ha worked for Linda Gooden our great years of growth in IT. You captured her sentiments exactly -- her love for young people particularly, inspiring them to grow mentally and with great perseverance. Her message to them, a mantra really, was "everything is possible." She has throughout her storied career been a great mentor and will, I know, continue to help grow the careers of our future generations.

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