Students gathered in Christendom’s St. Kilian’s Café on April 16 for the semester’s Outside the Box speaker series event, featuring Northrop Grumman’s Tom Jones. Jones, who is the Corporate Vice President and President of Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautic Systems Sector, spoke to students on how to live out Catholic values in the secular business world.

Jones is responsible for much at Northrop Grumman, with his sector handling most of the military aircraft built by the company. His sector is highly successful, drawing in about 12 billion in revenue each year and employing over 25,000 employees. It is a huge role at one of the nation’s biggest companies — but Jones does not struggle with thriving in such a role and being fully Catholic.

“I don’t think it’s that hard to work in a big company and still be a Catholic,” said Jones.

For Catholic college students, finding a good job where they can still feel like they can be themselves is hugely important. Jones touched on this point, encouraging students to seek out as much information as possible about the values and ethics of the companies they want to go and work for.

“In terms of living out your faith in the workplace, there are three types of companies,” said Jones. “There are religious companies, like EWTN, where it’s very easy to live out one’s faith in the workplace. There are also companies that are largely secular, and then there are companies that are more irreligious. What does a good company look like if you’re not going to go to a faith-based company? In my mind, you’re looking for a company where you feel you can be yourself on a regular basis.”

Finding a company that finds a way to work down the middle and make all of the employees feel like they are valued, no matter their background, is key, according to Jones. For students wondering how to find such a company, Jones encouraged them to speak with family and friends, seek out references, and reach out to people online, such as on LinkedIn.

Moving on, Jones provided students with advice on things to look out for once they are working at a company.

“You’ve had four years to learn in this beautiful environment here. If you go off to a secular company, you’ll be mixing with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and you need to understand that,” said Jones. “In every workplace, however, you will also find people like you — especially in large companies.”

Jones shared two stories that reinforced his point: the first about a person working for him who, through conversation, he discovered was also Catholic and they both began praying for each other during their morning rosaries. The second story came from earlier in Jones’ life, before he converted to Catholicism. Simply through conversation, he discovered his boss was Catholic, and he later became Jones’ RCIA sponsor.

He shared these stories because, when people think about big companies, they often do not think that such bonds are possible in the secular workforce. For Jones, his mindset follows that of St. Josemaria Escriva, namely that all work can be sanctified by working hard, practicing virtue, and striving to be joyful. By doing these things, you can bring people closer to God, according to Jones, sometimes without even having to enter a conversation with them.

He emphasized the need to follow the four cardinal virtues in the workplace as well — making someone not only an excellent employee, but also someone living in accordance with the way God wants them to live.

“Why do we bring people closer to God by acting out the cardinal virtues in the workplace? The reason is, when you see someone act with fortitude, it speaks to your heart — its natural law. When you go out and act in these ways in your workplace, your actions will speak to the heart of others,” said Jones.

Jones warned students against workaholism, but also advocated for them to create a life plan and revise it every 3-5 years, as their lives continue to change. Having a life plan, according to Jones, sets people up well for success in both professional and personal life. When big changes arise, having a life plan ensures that you can measure those changes against your value system in order to guarantee that you are remaining on the right path

“Having a life plan where you reflect on what is important to you is incredibly useful in bringing focus into the major decisions in your life,” said Jones.

Jones closed by speaking on leadership, particularly in light of Catholic social teaching. By putting the dignity of every human person first, you are able to empower your teams to be better, according to Jones. From there, by being a servant leader, one can truly thrive.

After the talk, Jones answered student questions one-on-one, further encouraging them to pursue meaningful jobs where they can impact lives for the better.

The “Outside the Box” speaker series is organized by the college’s career development office and has hosted such notable guests as U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, philanthropists Tim Busch and Declan Ganley, Sr. Joseph Andrew, O.P., Paul Rugg, and Matthew Galvan.

Watch the full talk below:

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