Women Worth Watching 2015

Leigh A. Parker

Rockwell Collins VP Is Passionate about Innovation


web Rockwell Collins_ParkerLeigh Parker started her career at Rockwell Collins as an engineer but was quickly promoted to a position of leadership. She has held key leadership roles in several successful programs at Rockwell Collins, including development of air transport displays, situational awareness applications, and Pro Line Fusion development. Prior to becoming Vice President of Rockwell Collins’ Commercial Systems Engineering division, she held the role of senior director of engineering for avionics programs, where she was responsible for overseeing the engineering design and development for all Rockwell Collins Pro Line projects and systems.

“I think my biggest career leap was transitioning from an individual contributor to a leader and manager of people,” said Leigh. “Figuring out how to shift from accomplishing work myself to accomplishing work through others was a significant enabler to my career and made me a better person.”

“…a successful leader will have respect for herself and others.”

Leigh won Rockwell Collins’s 2013 Commercial Systems Lean Achievement Award and was a finalist for the 2007 Chairman’s Team Award as well as semifinalist for the 2005 Engineer of the Year. She is seen as a leader in the industry, having been selected as one of Aviation Week’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2014 and a 2012 Waypoint Tribute to Women of Achievement honoree. In addition, she is a board member of the Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute.

Within the organization, Leigh serves as enterprise vice chair for the Friends of Asia Employee Resource Group, participates in the Women’s Forum, acts as a mentor in the company mentor program, and sponsors the Engineering Management Community of Practice. She is passionate about encouraging innovation and uses these venues to do it.

Away from Rockwell Collins, Leigh regularly volunteers at her daughter’s elementary school, helping young students reach their potential, especially in STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) disciplines.


Education: BS Electrical Engineering, University of Kansas; MS Project Management, University of Wisconsin – Platteville

First Job: Paper Shredder

What I’m Reading: “Moscow Rules” by Daniel Silva and “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek


The most important quality a woman leader should have is…

…respect for herself and others.

The career advice I’d give my former self:

Everything is about balance and realistic expectations. Passion is important, but temper that passion to accomplish great things with building relationships along the way.

Words I live by:

Don’t let stress overcome your ability to smile and laugh.

The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…

…I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I’ve had much success, but I have made mistakes and have had failures along the way. By actively taking time to reflect and learn from my mistakes and failures, it’s really helped get me to where I am today.

When I really need to focus on a project, I…

…tune out everything else around me.

My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…

…transitioning from an individual contributor to a leader and manager of people. Figuring out how to shift from accomplishing work myself to accomplishing work through others was a significant enabler to my career and made me a better person.

Being a woman in my profession has been…

…amazing. I have had many opportunities to do different things, both from a technology and role perspective.

I’ve learned that failure is…

…something to expect and learn from.

I maintain a healthy personal life by…

…making time to take care of myself – eating well, spending time with my family, exercising my body and mind, and getting the occasional massage and pedicure.

I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…

…I traveled to my first customer meeting. That trip happened very early in my first engineering position out of college. I still had doubts at that point as to whether I’d made the right choices on degree and job. The experience of everything about that trip erased the doubts from my mind and helped me shape that particular job and the job choices I made from that point on.