Stephen D. Huffman: Alum Fosters Innovative Culture

Graduation Year: 1974

Degree at Duke:
Bachelor of Science
Master's
PhD

Career Highlights:

  • Chief technology officer and vice president of The MITRE Corporation

When one thinks about working for the federal government, one often thinks of large conglomerates feeding off our tax dollars at the public trough.

However, there is actually a not-for-profit company that not only manages large programs for such federal agencies as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and Departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, but does so in the public interest. And the chief technology officer and vice president of that company is a Duke graduate, Stephen D. Huffman (BSE ’74, MS ’76, Ph.D ’78).

Founded in 1958, The MITRE Corporation has more than 7,000 employees and generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

“MITRE is an exciting place to be the chief technology officer,” said Huffman, who studied electrical and engineering during his eight years at Duke. “As a not-for-profit, public-interest company operating federally funded research and development centers, we have the freedom to pursue ideas that others might see as too risky. Because we don’t compete, other organizations are willing to share their technology openly with us.”

Huffman’s expertise covers a broad spectrum of technology, including communications theory, communications networking, satellite communications, anti-jam and low-probability-of-intercept communications, large-scale software development processes, and the design and analysis of hardware and software systems.

“A large part of my role is strategic technology planning—providing the technical vision to complement MITRE’s business vision,” Huffman explained. “I also manage our research portfolio, which includes aligning the investment portfolio with MITRE’s strategy, selecting research investments, and overseeing project execution. Through these and other activities, I try to connect MITRE to sources of technology and establish partnerships that lead to research of mutual interest.”

With more than 65 percent of its workforce having advanced degrees, Huffman sees his job as creating the conditions so they can succeed.

“I help foster MITRE’s innovative culture,” he said. “My goal is to inspire, challenge, and enable the innovative spirit of our staff. I want to provide them with an environment for the exploration and realization of their ideas."

Originally published Summer 2009.