Rho Cauley Bruner VIDEO EXTRA: After earning her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and joining the aerospace industry in 2002, alumna Rho Cauley Bruner returned to Purdue to earn an MBA from the Krannert School and advance her career with Northrop Grumman. (Photo by Eric Nelson) 

Words of Wisdom

Award-winning alumna shares her expertise with students

Rho Cauley Bruner had a busy end of September in roles outside her demanding profession as Vehicle Management Systems (VMS) integrated product team lead for Northrop Grumman’s cutting-edge Triton program.

Cauley Bruner (BSEE ’02, MBA ’09) was recognized with the school’s Young Alumni Award during the Krannert Leadership Speakers Series on Sept. 29. The following morning she spoke with students at the Krannert Executive Forum before taking a short lunch break and presenting at the fall 2016 conference of the Dauch Center for the Management of Manufacturing Enterprises (DCMME) on the topic of “Building Smart, Lean Ecosystems."

Cauley Bruner joined Northrop Grumman in 2002 after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Purdue in electrical engineering. She now has over 13 years of experience in the areas of development, integration, system test, flight test and airworthiness. She began her career as a VMS engineer on the Global Hawk program and also served as Euro Hawk deputy chief engineer prior to her current role.

“I didn’t come out of college looking for a job in aerospace, but I had a great foundation from Purdue to build upon,” she told students at the forum. “As I took on more project management roles, I realized I needed tools that I couldn’t get from a technical background, so I came back to Purdue to earn my MBA. I thought it would be easy after having earned an engineering degree, but Krannert’s program was just as intense and just as much work.”

A Krannert MBA has been vital in her current role with Northrop Grumman’s Triton program, which includes responsibility for the flight-control software, guidance and control, flight critical avionics and closed-loop simulation. During her tenure, the program has reached several milestones, including completion of initial envelope expansion flight testing, ferry flight of the aircraft to PAX River and operational assessment. Her current efforts are focused on completing preparations for Early Operational Capability (EOC).

“It doesn’t matter what your specific job function is within an organization — everyone needs to take a leadership role,” Cauley Bruner said of her career achievements. “You need to keep people on your team moving forward not only within their area of expertise, but also in a collaborative role. Getting buy-in is critical.”

She also urged students to maintain their humility and find role models as they begin to build careers. 

“Look around yourself for mentors. No one can do it alone. We all need a support network and there is no substitute for seeing how people work in action,” Cauley Bruner said. 

“All success is a result of some good luck,” she added. “Don’t let self-doubt keep you from learning new things or taking on new challenges. Be prepared, take initiative and when opportunities present themselves, say ‘yes.’ Being someone who can kick it into a higher gear and work harder to meet a shared goal will set you apart. Your career is ultimately your responsibility — make it what you want it to be.”