Usha Shah Profile Image

Usha Shah

Usha Shah is Vice President and General Manager of US Manufacturing Operations. She has served in various leadership roles at Microsemi, Avnet, and  Motorola, and held process engineering positions at National Semiconductor & Hughes Aircraft. Usha has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from India and a Master of Business Administration in International Executive Management from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome?

Early in my career, when I worked at one of the top Fortune 500s, I was the youngest female manager on the fast track and was promoted more often than my peers. This put tremendous stress on my relationships with them. I finally decided to have a 1:1 with everyone I worked with to gain a better understanding of their concerns and figured out a way to address them without being defensive. It was a massive effort but worked! From the personal side, it was very challenging to have work-life balance with three small children, a husband with an equally demanding career and a parent for whom we were the caregivers. Having good organizational skills helped me juggle the busy schedule at work and taking care of my family. I made sure I was there any time my family needed me.

What is your proudest moment?

Actually, there are so many proudest moments in my life that it could fill up several pages! On a professional side – We were moving an established manufacturing site to a different location (needed to purchase land, build the site, relocate equipment and employees in Asia) in a very tight schedule and obviously without impacting customer schedule or quality. We had to think out of the box. No one including the president of the business thought it would be possible. We took an out of box approach, contacted key customers, got their buy-in and completed the move successfully two months earlier than plan. Our customers were thrilled, especially because they were involved! Over the course of time, this actually helped the BU grow business significantly and gain customer trust & confidence. It was great teamwork! On a personal side, my proudest moments were when each of my kids received admission to the college of their choice after high school and then achieved what they always dreamed to accomplish (all of my three children are surgeons).                                                                                     

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to do whatever it takes to make USMO/ Mercury Systems successful such that we become the #1 supplier choice for all Primes in our industry. On a personal side, spend as much time as I can with our kids and grandkids and learn to relax a bit.

What makes a great leader?

In my opinion, a person with the following traits makes a great leader:

  • Ability to articulate a clear vision and communicate that vision in a way that ensures everyone is marching to the same beat.
  • Faith in their beliefs.
  • The ability to make difficult choices without compromising.
  • Empowers their team to achieve the vision and pushes people to be their best.
  • Superb listening skills
  • Someone who can earn the respect of the team
  • A person who knows that the people are the key to success

How did mentors influence your life, and who influenced you the most?

Years ago, I was being promoted to my first ‘manager’ position after working as an engineer (an individual contributor role) for few years and I was extremely nervous. My direct manger then who became my mentor helped me build my confidence, provided me with some good tips of being a leader and coached me through solving a problem or whatever was bothering me when I needed help.

What is your advice to young women?

Always aim high, never give up and believe in yourself. The sky is the limit!

Why technology/defense industry?

I actually started my career in the Semiconductor industry and later by default moved to the defense industry. Just the thought of helping the war fighters, our nation, and helping to make the world little safer through the products we offer makes me thrilled!

What is one of the biggest advances in your field within the tech industry over the past 5 years?

In general, increasing responsibilities and challenges for women!

What changes have you seen over the years for women in tech?

Wow, this is a loaded question! So many changes that I could write pages. I think the defense industry is facing unprecedented challenges. Currently in the defense industry, women are at the helm of 50% of the largest firms. Although women are hardly new to this industry, they are moving rapidly into the top jobs. With the help of a new group of women leaders, solutions to the defense industry’s challenges are being advanced and in the process, the future of our national security is being shaped and secured.


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Usha Shah
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