Bill Swanson, chairman of the board and CEO of Massachusetts-based Raytheon, has had a "personal vision" for the defense and aerospace systems company where he has worked for 40 years.
"It's the only company I have worked for," he said.
He has had 14 jobs at Raytheon, working his way up from the "factory floor and rising through the ranks to lead from the corner office," Swanson said. Today, he oversees the company, which in 2011 reported $25 billion in sales and 71,000 employees worldwide.
Swanson is an example of an American success story, and one that has its roots in San Luis Obispo County. He grew up on the Central Coast, earned an engineering degree from Cal Poly and continues to maintain family and business ties here. He co-owns the Avila Golf Resort with business partner Rob Rossi, and his family visits the county "whenever we can."
"I know that for me, the area will always have a special place in my heart, since it provided me with the spark that launched my career, and it is a place where I hope to retire and give back to the community and Cal Poly," he said.
The Tribune asked Swanson to discuss his time at Cal Poly, leadership role at Raytheon and what's next for him and the company.
Q: How would you describe your experience as a Cal Poly student? How did it help to mold you into the leader you are today?
A: My engineering education at Cal Poly was invaluable. I was able to take advantage of "learning by doing," and developed a "no fear" attitude. I learned that you can learn from your mistakes and become even better at what you do. I can't thank my professors or the university enough for my Cal Poly education.
Q: Speaking of leadership, in what ways do you feel you have helped to shape and execute the vision of Raytheon?
A: Everything we do at Raytheon is guided by what we call our Vision, Strategy, Goals and Values (VSGVs). This is on a card many of us carry to constantly remind us. Raytheon's VSGVs serve as our foundation, as well as our compass and a path for action. I also believe it's vital for leadership to set an example as role models by practicing the VSGVs. By doing so, and communicating our commitment, we are able to foster a culture of trust, respect and inclusiveness.
Q: What do you count among your greatest professional accomplishments (while at Raytheon and elsewhere)?
A: There are so many things I'd point to in terms what the people of Raytheon have accomplished and that I've been fortunate to be a part of during my career. I am so proud to work for a company that provides critical technologies, systems and services that help our servicemen and women successfully complete their missions and come home safely. I would also count the transformation of Raytheon's balance sheet over the past 10 years as an important accomplishment. And I'd like to point to the progress we're making, at Raytheon and elsewhere, in supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to inspire a new generation of innovators.
Q: What are a few of the biggest challenges you face running a company with billions in dollars in sales and thousands of employees worldwide?
A: One of the biggest challenges is making sure that all of our roughly 70,000 members of the Raytheon team -- from the factory floor to the corner office -- are aligned around our strategy. We do this through a lot of communication, and not all top-down: Raytheon is made up of six large businesses and we do business around the world, so we employ multiple ways to get strategy and messages out to our teammates.
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