Laryea, Thomas Davies, III

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Thomas Davies Laryea III


Software engineer

Thomas Laryea is a senior software engineer with the defense contractor and armored-vehicle manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). His rise to prominence in developing and configuring applications for complex software systems while still in his twenties led U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine to name him one of its Modern Day Technology Leaders in 2006.

Thomas Davies Laryea III was born on November 12, 1979, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Thomas Jr., founded the computer-services company C&FSD Corporation Worldwide, and his mother is a registered nurse. Asked by Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) how he found his chosen field, he replied: "When I was growing up, I didn't have any idea what engineering was. I knew I had a passion for electronics. As such, my parents tell me stories about how I would help my father with his electronic gizmos at the age of two! So I've always had a passion for electronics, then couple that with my desire to solve problems and it led me to enter the field of computer science. I also enjoyed playing Atari and Nintendo games with my younger brother." About other interests during his youth Laryea said, "I was involved with sports. I played high school baseball and football after breaking my left femur in three places that required extensive surgery. I spent about a year in rehab, so I was glad to have come back from that. I was also the editor-in-chief of both my high school yearbook and newsletter."

Laryea recalls a few influential teachers in his life who became important mentors. "During my high school days it was Mr. David Braden and Ms. Gwen Johnson," he told CBB. "In college, it was Dr. C. L. Chen. All of these teachers took me under their wings and allowed me to scratch that inquisitive itch. They allowed me to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it to real world situations. But perhaps even more important than that, they were more than teachers, they were true friends." Laryea studied computer science at Tuskegee University in Alabama. "My four years at Tuskegee prepared me to deal with any challenges," he remarked, and noted that he entered his degree program "a full year behind in required courses" but still managed to earn his degree in four years. He also was the school's yearbook editor and served as vice president of the school's chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. During his college career he held internships with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and General Motors Corporation in Detroit, Michigan.

Laryea graduated with a bachelor of science degree in May of 2001 and began working at General Dynamics a month later as a software engineer. The Virginia-based company is one of the world's largest defense contractors and is known for the armored-vehicle systems it produces, along with an array of other high-tech weapons and battlefield gear. General Dynamics comprises several distinct operations throughout the world, and Laryea works for Land Systems, a division headquartered in Michigan that produces the M1 Abrams tank, which is the main armored vehicle used by the U.S. military in ground operations. "My role here at GDLS has changed over the seven years I've been here," he told CBB in 2008. "When I first started, I took some of the new technologies I learned at Tuskegee and coauthored a graphical testing application that has been in use for the past five years by twenty-five software engineers on eight different programs. After that, I worked on the software upgrade that was done on our main battle tank, the Abrams."

In 2006 Laryea began working on "redefining the Software Development Environment, including Configuration Management and Integration and Test for the FCS Common Software team," as he explained to CBB. This effort was expanding to GDLS locations throughout the United States, including a new facility under development in Orlando, Florida. Laryea estimated that this project would cost more than $2 million and take approximately five years to complete.

Laryea was promoted to senior software engineer in September of 2005. A year later, he was honored by U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine as one of its Modern-Day Technology Leaders, and he has also earned recognition from Tuskegee University and the Upsilon Pi Epsilon fraternity. Asked about the future direction for GDLS and his work there, he told CBB that he anticipated "a lot more of our vehicles being developed first via prototypes that are done with modeling and simulation. This key concept will not only help with rapid prototyping of future vehicles, but it will allow for soldiers to train on platforms that may not be easily available to them."

Laryea is married to a process engineer, with whom he has two children. Based in the greater Detroit area for his General Dynamics job, he belonged to the local chapter of the Tuskegee University Alumni Club, which matches professionals with local youths in need of mentoring. To those aiming for a career in software design or similar high-tech jobs, he stressed that the preparation "is a lot of hard work. The glitz and glamour of video games might look appealing, but there are a lot of complicated equations that help make that possible. You will need to be strong in math no matter what engineering discipline you enter. Pace yourself—it's a marathon, not a sprint."

At a Glance …

Born Thomas Davies Laryea III, November 12, 1979, in Chicago, IL; son of Thomas (a computer company founder) and Rubbie (a registered nurse) Laryea; married Tisa (a process engineer), July 29, 2000; children: Charesse, Thomas IV. Education: Tuskegee University, BS, 2001.

Career: General Dynamics Land Systems, software engineer, 2001-05, senior software engineer, 2005—.

Memberships: Association of Computing Machinery, Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

Awards: Modern-Day Technology Leader, U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine, 2006; Outstanding Alumni award, Tuskegee University, 2006.

Addresses: Office—General Dynamics Land Systems, 38500 Mound Rd., Sterling Heights, MI 48310.



"2006 Modern-Day Tech Leaders Are Announced,", December 22, 2005, (accessed March 24, 2008).

"CSCI Alum Honored as Industry Leader," Tuskegee University, (accessed March 23, 2008).

"General Dynamics Land Systems Employee Named ‘Modern-Day Technology Leader for 2006,’" General Dynamics, January 19, 2006, (accessed March 23, 2008).


Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Thomas Laryea in March of 2008.

—Carol Brennan

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