Shirali describes her upbringing as global. She has lived in the United States, India, and China and has traveled extensively throughout the world, initially following her parents' careers, and more recently her own. Now, as a cybersecurity manager and U.S. Air Force veteran, she uses her global insight to understand the needs of her international clients.
How did your background lead to your current position?
My father is an innovator, a chemical engineer and an entrepreneur. My mother selflessly serves as a doctor, setting up medical camps and hospitals in the rural regions of India. They motivated me to choose a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field and inspired me to help others. Also, my international upbringing really impacted the type of work I wanted to do and who I wanted to work with. Immediately following college, I joined the United States Air Force, where I supported space acquisitions. After separation from the Air Force, I joined Raytheon, supporting air defense, ground security, border protection, and now, cybersecurity. I’ve always been focused on security and protection of people and assets both domestic and abroad.
What have you enjoyed working on the most?
Definitely working with the cybersecurity division. I help defend against some of the most advanced threats the world currently faces: cyber attacks and network threats against critical data and IT infrastructure. It is a blessing that I ended up in the cybersecurity field even without any previous IT or so ware engineering experience. Raytheon really believed in me, provided the opportunity, and trained me to succeed.
Can you give an example of the kind of projects you work on?
It's an exciting time to work in cybersecurity at Raytheon because we're continuing to expand our efforts to address customer needs. If a customer approaches us with a cybersecurity incident, we have the capability to form an incident response team, map their network, find the holes in their system, “plug” them, protect the network, and analyze the virus to figure out where it came from. We are at the forefront, learning about different attacks, threats, viruses, and malware.
How does Raytheon encourage and support female engineers like yourself?
Defense is still a male-dominated industry, but at Raytheon, I’ve consistently been supported by my peers, mentors, and senior leaders. Raytheon is a great workplace for female engineers because everyone’s voice and opinions count. One of the key priorities at Raytheon is promoting diversity, through various recruiting and learning initiatives, as well as through employee resource groups. Earlier this year, Raytheon held a women’s forum with attendees from across the company, and our entire senior leadership team was there as well. Mentorship was a central focus of the forum, and that is very important to career growth, especially for women. I always tell my employees to seek out mentors —nobody is going to approach you and say, “I want to mentor you.” You need to identify people you admire and respect, and proactively seek them out.
Any other advice for new grads entering the workforce?
I would tell them: You control your career. Learn to take on new opportunities and challenges because growth and comfort do not coexist. As soon as you get into a comfort zone, you need to move and change; otherwise you will not continue to grow. The day you’re not challenged is the day you’re not learning.
Raytheon is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government, and cybersecurity solutions. We provide state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, C5ITM products and services, sensing, effects, and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries.
Our employees: Raytheon recognizes that talent is at the heart of our company. Our employees have a thirst for doing great and interesting work that directly impacts the world around them.
Ways in: We recruit full-time entry-level hires, interns, and co-ops, as well as experienced professionals in all departments, from engineering and cybersecurity, to supply chain and finance.
What makes us unique: Raytheon offers employees far-ranging opportunities to make the world a safer place through noble work. We also champion a culture of collaboration that focuses on customer success, that embraces diverse perspectives, and that provides the ongoing training and development that keep employees at the leading edge.