General Dynamics Mission Systems (GDMS) and especially Brenda Burdick have long been 1Berkshire advocates, in fact it was due to Brenda’s collaborative thinking that 1Berkshire launched its first ever member driven marketing campaign focusing on available jobs in the Berkshires (reach out to our marketing team if you want to be involved in the 2018 version of this campaign). In December, 1Berkshire checked in at GDMS with Brenda Burdick and Beth Mitchell to talk about the marketing program, jobs at their facility, and the Berkshires in general.
Location: Hilltop Orchards
Brenda Burdick is the Senior Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the Maritime and Strategic Systems line of business of General Dynamics Mission Systems in Pittsfield. She is responsible for the division’s marketing, strategic communications, community relations and public relations and supports corporate government relations for Massachusetts-based initiatives. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a marketing professional, with more than twenty years in the defense industry.
Beth Mitchell is the Director of Engineering for the Maritime and Strategic Systems line of business of General Dynamics Mission Systems. She is responsible for over 1450 engineers across the United States, 900 of them are located in Pittsfield. Beth leads these engineers in developing mission-critical systems and solutions. She has over twenty-five years’ experience with General Dynamics.
For people new to the Berkshires, what is GDMS? What are some of the innovations produced out of the Pittsfield site?
Brenda: General Dynamics is a defense contractor supporting the U.S. Navy for more than fifty years. We are a high tech company that specializes in systems integration for programs dealing with submarines, surface ships, in addition to programs for the U.S. Air Force. We employ more than 1,400 people at our Pittsfield site.
One program that has really contributed to our growth in the Berkshires is the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, which leverages our expertise on submarine programs and applies it to a new surface ship program.
Beth: Our LCS program is a collaborative effort with a number of other sites throughout the country. The LCS itself is built in Mobile, Alabama. So while installation happens there, the majority of the design engineers are located here in the Berkshires.
If you’ve lived in the Berkshire’s long enough, you learn that GDMS is a big part of the Berkshire community. What are some of the community programs you’re proud of?
Beth: Everyone at GDMS is involved in the community in one way or another. Our Soldier On fundraiser is organized by GDMS employee volunteers and employees come from other GDMS sites to volunteer or play in the tournament. We also sponsor an annual Robotics Competition for local high schools during Engineering Week in February.
Brenda: Other things we are involved in include a large employee giving campaign with Berkshire United Way and we participate in the national Job Shadow Day. For Job Shadow Day, we invite local high schools students to experience what it’s like to work at GDMS. This ‘real work’ experience gets them acclimated to a STEM career, and, more importantly, lets students know there are STEM careers available right here in the Berkshires.
Beth: We also host a “bring your child to work” day, once again, to get kids thinking about STEM careers. We’ve hosted various groups from the Boy Scouts to college student tours. However, because GDMS is a defense contractor, we have some security requirements and are not able to accommodate everyone.
GDMS made news this spring with an expansion into the former SABIC space on Plastics Avenue and with that a growing workforce. What types of positions are currently available and who are you trying to attract?
Beth: We are always trying to get people fresh out of college and recent graduates; however, right now we are in need of mid-career systems and software engineers. We have some positions available for electrical and mechanical engineers as well, but our focus is systems and software engineers.
Brenda: There are more than 180 employees in the new space working on surface ship programs like the LCS and Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF). We also have positions available in other business areas such as contracts, finance, and program management.
Recently, 1B teamed up with GDMS to attract new talent to the Berkshires. Brenda, you are the brainchild of the jobs collaboration pilot program. How did you come up with the campaign, and what led you to bring it to us?
Brenda: I was at a Berkshire United Way event and there were a number of speakers talking about jobs that were available. Between GDMS, Guardian Life, Williams College, and Berkshire Health Systems, we had about a thousand job openings, so I began brainstorming. Eventually, I reached out to 1B, narrowing the campaign to targeted jobs and companies with a focus on the Berkshires as a place to live and work. We had a number of companies sign on.
We, as employers, need to be able to sell the benefits of living in the Berkshires in addition to promoting the exciting work opportunities available at our company and get people to realize that there are thousands of jobs here. We’re not a one company region and we want to make sure people know about the wide range of career opportunities available in the Berkshires.
Also in the news last fall, was 1Berkshires Berkshire Initiative for Growth Final Report. What is GDMS doing to create a culture that increases retention, especially among young professionals?
Brenda: We look at our entire benefits package and have adopted appealing programs such as the flexibility of a 9/80 work week. That means we work 80 hours over 9 days, with every other Friday off. New hires can also expect a very attractive amount of vacation time.
As far as company culture goes, we do a lot of different things from Nintendo in the break area to college-style seating with easy access to complimentary beverages. We encourage people to work together and have found this collaborative configuration to be the best for that.
Beth: We also have a group of employees that get together to plan events in the Berkshires for all of our employees, so our employees can expect invitations to go on hikes, outings to Tanglewood and orchards and more. This group has even organized food trucks days right outside General Dynamics so our employees can sample culinary options during a lunch break. The group’s goal is to focus on bringing employees together to get to know each other and get involved in the incredible opportunities and attractions in the Berkshires.
If you’re interested in learning more about General Dynamics and the opportunities available at the Pittsfield location, visit our jobs collaboration page.