It might seem only logical for a mathematician to become a systems engineer, but in actual fact, Fiona Clark came to the company out of choice. Fiona’s long career began in 1984, when she graduated with a degree in mathematics, putting it “into practice” right away “in the position of systems engineer, which seemed to offer more interesting challenges,” explains Fiona. “As Leonardo is quite a large company, I have been fortunate to work in a number of areas since, including Simulation & Modelling, Customer Training and Business Development”.
In her current position as Head of Capability (Electronic Warfare Sensors) at Leonardo’s Luton site (UK), a centre of excellence for electronic warfare, Fiona is responsible for the sensors investment portfolio, “to make sure we are developing the most appropriate equipment for future generations”. A multi-faceted task in which she keeps in touch with the development teams "throughout the equipment design and I attend equipment trials, acting as a ‘critical friend’ to ensure the kit is as operationally capable as possible”. Fiona supports customer demonstrations, in the labs or in our trial aircraft, in order to showcase our equipment to potential customers; and she collaborates with the Sales team, providing customer-friendly technical support and occasionally travelling abroad with the team to add a deeper level of technical detail to discussions, if required.
She has faced numerous challenges in her work, such as having to deal with highly demanding military customers working on complex programmes when she was still a young engineer. She managed to succeed, always demonstrating great versatility and readiness for dialogue, offering the most appropriate technical solution for every problem: “A positive attitude! With a bit of tenacity and adaptability...”
Among the projects she has completed, Fiona remembers most fondly her contribution to the modelling and optimisation of a towed radar decoy for the Tornado, which allowed her to acquire great adaptability and a talent for improvisation. Fiona’s most recent technology innovations include the SAGE ESM (Electronic Support Measure) surveillance system for the protection of aircraft with features of small size, high performance and flexibility that make it appropriate for a vast range of fixed-wing and rotary-wing platforms.
In February 2024, she received the WISE Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to STEM outreach and her professional achievements during the past four decades. The judging panel commended Fiona “as an inspiring example of a role model who actively demonstrates how a woman can rise to senior levels in an organisation without sacrificing her motivating values. Using respect and kindness, Fiona senses when someone is struggling, and takes the time to have a coffee with them and offer support.”
Another of Fiona’s qualities is the great versatility she demonstrates in her everyday life. Like many mathematicians, she loves music, and outside work, she likes to switch off completely from the world of EW "to recharge my brain…My passion is music; I play the piano and oboe to a good standard, but mostly I enjoy singing with my local swing band. It’s such a joy to be part of a band a play live music!”
“No day is the same as the last in Leonardo,” concludes Fiona, “an exciting company that excels in creating first class solutions to complex problems. We are designing and developing capabilities that will be protecting those who protect us for decades to come.”