Master of Business Administration, 1992
Vice President, GE Aviation
Engineering Meets Business | Jean Lydon-Rodgers is in charge of developing the most sophisticated fighter jet airplane engine in aviation history. She blends two areas of expertise—engineering and business—to meet the challenges of her twin jobs. She is president of the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team, a unique joint venture between the two otherwise competitors formed to produce the F136 engine for the F35 Fighter. She’s also GE vice president and general manager of the F136 project.
Pioneering Engineer | Lydon-Rodgers majored in electrical engineering at Penn State University. More than 400 electrical engineering majors were in her 1985 graduating class and fewer than 10 percent were women.
Revving up Engines | After graduation, she joined GE and began in the firm’s aerospace business working on power supplies and control systems to support U.S. Navy projects. Selected a year later for a GE corporate training program, she moved to Cincinnati and transferred from aerospace to engines. “I didn’t know anything about engines, but I really liked this business, so I learned what an engine was, how it worked, how it was built and what it took to tweak it for optimum performance.” She spent eight years acquiring, as she puts it, “my functional experience.”
Business Needs | It was during that time she earned her MBA. “I was gaining a lot of functional depth by being steeped in the technology at GE Aviation, but I recognized that if I wanted to lead and use my technical knowledge in a way that could be translated to winning with the customer, I needed to be more business savvy.”
Unique Venture | It’s that business savvy that helps her navigate the complexities of leading the GE and Rolls-Royce team. “This is a joint venture with our competitor in every other market but this one. It brings together three cultures—our culture at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis and Rolls-Royce in the United Kingdom. The three cultures operate somewhat differently, but obviously we all have the same goal: to be successful with developing the F136 engine and getting it into service. So, it has been interesting to bring the different teams together and play to everybody’s strengths.”
Complex Design | Some 800 engineers and technicians are involved with developing the engine. Besides powering conventional takeoffs and landings, the F136 engine is also capable of handling short takeoffs and vertical landings. “So you can well imagine the complexity of the design.”
Big Opportunity | “Lockheed Martin expects to produce about 200 aircraft a year when they get into peak production. You expect the planes to be in service 30 -40 years, so they’re planning on a little over 3,000 aircraft just for U.S. services and eight international partners. When the opportunity presents itself for foreign military sales, that number could go to 4,000 or 5,000 aircraft sold, so it’s a tremendous opportunity.”