Name: Don Chavez
Title: Vice President, Associate General Counsel, and Technical Services Sector Counsel
Company: Northrop Grumman Corporation
Headquarters: Falls Church, Virginia
Number of Employees: 65,000
Education: JD, University of Southern California; BBA (major in accounting), University of New Mexico
What I’m Reading: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
My Philosophy: Continue to learn and grow. Be flexible and embrace developmental opportunities. Collaborate with your colleagues early and often. Listen to all ideas. Maintain the highest level of ethics and integrity. Take responsibility for your actions.
Away from Work, I: Enjoy travelling and exploring Washington, DC, and its surrounding areas. I also enjoy most spectator sports—I am a passionate follower of New Mexico Lobo basketball and Southern California Trojan football. Having spent most of my adult life in Southern California, I closely follow the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clippers. Now that I am on the east coast I have added the Ravens and Nationals to my list.
How My Heritage Values Fuel My Success: Hard work and determination have been the hallmark of my family since the first generation settled in northern New Mexico while it was still a US territory. My parents’ first language was Spanish—they later learned English from the nuns. Although they never went to college, my parents were determined that each of their three children would earn a college degree. There was never an option to do otherwise. While school work never came easily to me, I knew that through hard work and determination I could accomplish anything.
After undergraduate school, I became a CPA and worked for an accounting firm in Santa Fe, where my primary job was preparing tax returns. I decided that I wanted to become more proactive and get involved in tax planning, so I decided to become a tax lawyer. While I never did become a tax attorney, this was the trigger that pushed me to study for the Law School Admissions Test and eventually go to law school. I attended the University of Southern California.
Education opens the door to other opportunities; however, education does not stop after college. You must constantly learn and grow, adapt to change, continue to pursue new experiences, and learn how to use the latest technology. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind, struggling to keep up with the competition.
The Best Career Advice I’ve Received and the Advice I Offer Others: I have been fortunate to have had several mentors in my 20-year career with Northrop Grumman. They encouraged me to be flexible and willing to take risks, and to pursue and embrace developmental opportunities. You may need to transfer to other departments, other business units, and even move to other geographic locations. I have worked at Northrop Grumman facilities in Los Angeles, San Diego, Woodland Hills, Baltimore, and Herndon. I also left Northrop Grumman for three years to work for the French aerospace company Thales, relocating to Miami and then to Princeton. While it may feel more secure to stay in your comfort zone, taking risks will keep you from becoming stale and help you become a well-rounded employee. These opportunities will provide you with a diversity of experience that will make you more valuable to the company, provide greater job satisfaction, and bring you opportunities for advancement.
I also believe it is important to collaborate with your colleagues. A diversity of ideas and expertise enriches the discussion and leads to better results. Collaboration exposes bad ideas and strengthens good ones.
Finally, I believe that a person must adhere to the highest level of ethics and integrity. This means not only complying with laws and regulations, but also complying with company policies and procedures, and contractual requirements. You must continually do things the right way. Our customers expect this of us, and we should expect it of ourselves.