Her son was having trouble solving a geometry problem. Cobb knew the trick was to use the Pythagorean theorem – something her teen had learned in algebra the year before. Only she couldn’t just tell him that. He had to figure it out for himself.
“Instead of getting upset and saying, ‘How could you forget ‘a2 + b2 = c2’? I stepped back and said, ‘Let’s start at the beginning and think about what you learned last year,’” Cobb recalled. “I do the same thing at work. Just last week, I was struggling to reverse-engineer a product, and instead of banging my head against the wall, I went back to basics. I looked at the project from the beginning, then made three fixes, and I solved the problem.”
Her patience and persistence, honed through years of parenting, are also hallmarks of successful hackers. That gives her an edge at work. And it’s just one example of how diversity – of thought, of style, of background, and of experience – helps her team at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, as they defend the U.S. government’s infrastructure against cyberattacks.
“You need individuals with unique backgrounds, exposures and experiences to recognize different patterns than others,” said Clinton Thomas, principal researcher for RI&S’ Cyber Offense and Defense Experts.
When he sees a repeating pattern of numbers, for example, he concludes that it’s ASCII text. But a biologist might see an RNA strand, and a physicist might see force vectors.
“We look for the patterns we are trained to see,” Thomas said. “By incorporating different perspectives, we can identify novel patterns we’d otherwise never consider, then use those findings to develop new, exciting solutions for our customer’s technical challenges.”
Part of achieving diversity is defining it. At Raytheon Technologies, the term expands beyond traditional parameters like race, gender, age and sexual orientation, said Jocelyn Williams, who leads diversity, equity and inclusion for Raytheon Intelligence & Space.
Williams is one of several leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion across Raytheon Technologies who partner with company executives to create a culture of equitable opportunities for employees of all backgrounds to work, grow and belong.
“If everybody thinks the same, you can get consensus very quickly … but that may not be the best answer. It just means everybody agreed,” Williams said. “When you get a set of people together who have different backgrounds and experiences, they start asking, ‘Have we thought about this? Did we think about that?’ That’s when you’ll find your most innovative solution.”