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ASU alum is living the dream

July 09, 2010

Childhood career aspirations often run toward the dramatic — rock star, professional athlete, astronaut — and they rarely pan out. But Malissia Clinton’s high-school yearbook prediction came true.

“At age 17, I knew my heart’s desire was to be a corporate attorney,” says Clinton a 41-year-old attorney who is now senior vice president, general counsel and secretary for The Aerospace Corporation, an L.A.-based entity that provides technical analysis and assessments for U.S. military and aerospace programs.

Though she jokes that her career path was shaped by the TV drama “L.A. Law”, the Tucson native found early inspiration in her grandparents, civil rights activists who established the NAACP’s first Arizona chapter. Not accepting racial or gender barriers has since been a constant in Clinton’s life.

“My approach has always been to portray a positive outlook instead of assuming that someone is trying to alienate me because of my race or gender,” explains Clinton.

That self-empowering approach helped Clinton snag a spot with ASU’s competitive Devils’ Advocates campus tour guide program; garner summer internships with the Central Intelligence Agency; and eventually landed her at Stanford Law School. After graduating from Stanford in 1993, Clinton spent five years at a prestigious L.A. law firm, and then joined the aerospace industry at a firm that was eventually acquired by Northrop Grumman. Twelve years later, her goal of becoming a top corporate attorney became reality when she was offered her current position at The Aerospace Corporation.

“The job I have now is literally my dream job,” says Clinton, who manages a staff of 12 and oversees corporate litigation, ethics, and intellectual property management for Aerospace. She also handles employee relations issues and serves as the company’s corporate secretary. Currently, one of Clinton’s top priorities is helping the company and its customers — the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and NASA — develop long-term strategies in the face of a constrained national defense budget.

Though meeting the challenges of her busy job, three young children and a husband who runs his own business leaves her little free time, Clinton wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I get to work in a very challenging, cerebral environment, where each day is different. I plan to be here for a long time,” she says.

By Amy Roach Partridge