BAE Systems, Inc. President & CEO Linda Hudson is a true pioneer — not just the first woman to head a major military contractor, but the first female to do a dozen other things that collectively mirror the progress women have made in America over the past half century. On Inauguration Day, I interviewed Hudson about the path her career has taken and what makes her different. The picture that emerges is of an uncommonly self confident person who never allowed prejudice or setbacks to shake her faith in herself. The story of her rise, which I have chronicled for Forbes, begins in the 1960s on the front lawn of her home in Florida, from which she could view the first U.S. astronauts lofting into orbit. It ends with her sitting atop one of the most dynamic and technologically accomplished enterprises in human history, a business that has made itself indispensable to America’s military. Hudson has worked hard to make BAE Systems, Inc. a place where diversity is honored for the competitive edge it confers, an approach that is hard to argue with when you consider her operation contributes half of the revenues and returns to a parent company that is paying the heftiest dividend in the defense sector.