Sondra L. Barbour
Information Systems and Global Solutions, Lockheed Martin
Retired Executive Vice President

Biography

It wasn’t until her first day in the Engineering Department of GE’s Aerospace and Defense Division that Sondra realized how unique she was. Among a staff of about 100 people, she was one of two women. “It was an eye-opener,” Ms. Barbour says. “I grew up with three older brothers, so I was always felt like one of the guys. But the male-to-female ratio did take a little getting used to.” Nearly 30 years later, Ms. Barbour, who was twice named one of Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for her role as the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions division, faced what she describes as her biggest challenge to date: to aid Lockheed Martin’s acquisition by Leidos Holdings Inc. It was a deal that created what the Washington Business Journal described as a “$10 billion government services giant.” It’s an incredible trajectory for anyone, but especially someone whose initial career interests were wholly outside of business. Ms. Barbour walked onto the Temple Ambler campus as an aspiring pharmacist. But her first semester was enough for her to know that she wanted something else. So, she scheduled all electives for her second semester and began feeling her way around—acting, ethics, economics, computer science. That last one was a much better fit. Her mom, however, wasn’t as sure. Accounting, she said, was a more solid prospect. Every week, she mailed her daughter newspaper clippings about some positive bit of news related to accounting. So, Ms. Barbour double-majored to appease her mom. “It came in handy for me later on,” she says, “but early on, it was tough.” In fact, “pretty much everything I learned at Temple became relevant,” she says. Well-prepared as she was, Ms. Barbour never pretended to know more than she did, a trap she easily could have fallen into as a female trying to find her foothold. “I found this throughout my career: Be honest about what you know and don’t know, and find those people who can help you learn,” she says. She also worried less about trying to distinguish herself than she did enabling her team to function, another lesson gleaned from her Fox courses. “With my first job out of school, I continued to learn that if you don’t work as a team, no one succeeds; especially when you’re developing large-scale software systems, you need communication and diversity.” Ms. Barbour, the mother of a 21-year-old daughter and an 19-year-old son, credits her daughter with facilitating her most valuable career lesson. She had her children just as she was beginning to accept leadership roles. In an effort to not show any weaknesses, Ms. Barbour went to great lengths to keep those worlds separate—until daycare called one day and asked her to pick up her sick daughter. She brought her home, settled her on the sofa, and popped in a tape of the Wizard of Oz to keep her occupied while she joined a conference call. Ms. Barbour was reveling in her ability to not miss a beat when her daughter screamed, “Mommy, I have to go poopy,” loud enough to be overheard on the call. She excused herself and tended to her daughter. When she returned to the office the next morning, the reaction caught her off-guard. One by one, men and women, her staff came up to her and asked about her daughter. Everything had changed, but not as she thought it would. “Being a mother taught me two critical lessons,” Ms. Barbour says. “First, you can have it all. It’s not balanced every day, but over time you can work towards balancing both work and home. And second, it’s not all about business. A caring and empathetic leader garners more respect and productivity from her team.”

Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Business Administration ’85, Fox School of Business

Temple University Awards & Affiliatons

  • Distinguished Alumni, Fox School of Business IT Awards, 2005
  • Information Technology Advisory Board, Fox School of Business

What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
A pharmacist

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
“There are many ways to solve a problem, and your way may not always be the best. Instead of being so quick to dismiss other ideas, ask yourself why it couldn’t work.”