Delivering on a promise

Mentor program continues virtually through pandemic

Sixteen-year-old Alex Enes hopes to turn his passion for robotics into a profession. He aspires to be a mechanical engineer.

"I love technology and robots … the potential of them and problems they can solve," said Enes, who will be a high school senior in Bristol, Rhode Island. "The robot that does everything is only as good as the people that design, program and create it."

Enes is looking to the Raytheon Missiles & Defense mentoring initiative, for help in navigating his career path. The company, one of four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies, partners with Mentor Rhode Island to deliver the program virtually amid the coronavirus.

"Making that commitment to the student initially (pre-COVID-19), we were able to establish a connection face to face," said Justin Calderara, a mechanical engineer at Raytheon Missiles and Defense, and mentor in the program. "If we were to drop it when the pandemic hit, it would seem like we were breaking a promise."

Calderara and Enes began the mentoring program with one-on-one meetings in February 2020 at a company plant site in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Calderara and Enes began the mentoring program with one-on-one meetings in February 2020 at a company plant site in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

As his mentor, Calderara knew he needed to gain Enes trust early on and did this by showing him pictures of a robot he built in college and discussing engineering challenges he encountered.

"Much like our robotics team, he ran into a problem and tackled it with an idea," Enes said. "He went through the engineering design and fixed it."

Calderara designs undersea systems and acoustic communication devices at the company's Seapower Capability Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He joined the company after starting his career as a structural engineer working on jet engines at Pratt & Whitney, another Raytheon Technologies' business.

"I’m relatable as it gets for these students," Calderara said. "I was only in their shoes 10 or so years ago."

The program moved from in-person meetings to weekly group virtual learning sessions to comply with the company's social distancing measures. Calderara and other advisers present topics such as SAT preparation, money management, resume building and career development.

Calderara helps lead weekly virtual learning sessions.

Calderara helps lead weekly virtual learning sessions. (Photo: Justin Calderara)

"Life skills – they’re something you’re expected to know how to do without any training," Calderara said. "In college, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a good career center and they’ll help you retool your resume. If not, it’s kind of up to you to figure it out."

Programs like this help build interest in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, to help grow the future workforce.

"They’re great students … very involved in their ambitions, but they don’t necessarily know how to guide those actions toward their future aspirations such as working in industry," Calderara said.

The program is set to resume in August, with advanced curriculum that will introduce students to careers in aerospace, biomedical and biotechnology, computer science, cyber security, mechanical engineering and robotics.

"In my eyes, I see him (Calderara) as a person who made it," Enes said. "It would be amazing if I could someday work for Raytheon – come full circle."

Raytheon Missiles & Defense is part of Raytheon Technologies, which is using its manufacturing capacity, and engineering, logistics and finance expertise, to carry out initiatives that serve our communities, deliver on our commitments to our customers and protect our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about our efforts.