In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The second part in this blog series features Leanne Chacon, a Biologist for the ECBC Joint Project Manager Biological Defense (JPM-BD), Mary Hubbard, Deputy Product Manager for the Joint Service Aircrew Mask-Rotary Wing Program, and Genna Rowe, ECBC Engineering Directorate Special Projects Branch Chief. Check back throughout the month of March for the continuation of this series.
More and more women are entering the science and engineering (S&E) fields. While I think my personal experience with this may be due to my job change, it’s nice to work in an area with an equal number of men and women. When I worked in research, there were only three women compared to the 12 men in my building. Now at JPM-BD, it’s almost exactly equal. Being a woman in the S&E field can be intimidating at times; to this day I find myself counting the number of men to women at any meeting I attend. Usually the women are completely outnumbered, but I figure that just provides a greater chance for everyone to remember you. I think it’s a good idea to take advantage of that, speak up, introduce yourself to as many people as you can, and attempt to get your name out there.
If women are looking to grow into leadership positions, my recommendation is to speak up, work hard, take as much training as you can, get involved in various projects, introduce yourself to others, and always be friendly and professional. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to tell you it works!
Leanne is a biologist and has worked at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) for over five years. After graduating from Salisbury University in 2005 as a Biology major, Leanne accepted her first job on ECBC’s Laser Standoff Detection Team in the Research and Technology Directorate. During that time she also attended Johns Hopkins University and received a Masters of Science in Biotechnology. Leanne is currently matrixed to Joint Project Manager Biological Defense (JPM-BD), with the mission to field materiel solutions that detect, identify, warn, deter, and defeat biological threats to the Joint Forces. Outside of work, Leanne lives in Maryland with her husband, her 3-month-old twins and two dogs. In her free time (if she has any) Leanne enjoys playing soccer.
A few months after I started my career with the U.S Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), my boss took an assignment at the Pentagon. As a result, I was asked if I was ready to take on his workload in Joint Programs. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but with each change of career direction, I learned more about the technology and myself. When I went to college I never intended on becoming an engineer; I only knew if I was an engineer I would likely get a job upon graduation. I began my engineering career in private industry, so when I began with the Army it was a significant reduction in both pay and workload. When my boss left for his assignment, I again felt that “sink or swim” feeling that is prevalent in the private sector.
As my career progressed, I took every opportunity to learn about other functional areas. I wasn’t shy about talking with our Technical Director when he wandered around our building. During one conversation I asked how he got his job, how he got selected, how long it took, and why it took him so long. While he was a bit surprised by my final question, he said there were few people who would share their experiences with the next generation of engineers. His final piece of advice was for me to become a multi-functional acquisition employee and find a developmental assignment.
I am cautious to place myself into the “women engineer” box. I am an engineer, period. One of the biggest challenges to being a successful woman engineer is other women. Some feel that they did their time and other women need to pave their own path. Some feel that they never got ahead so neither should you. A few are the best mentors I have ever had. The more we continue to ask or wonder if we are being treated the same, the more we open the door to being treated differently. If our male counterparts can be assertive and direct with people, we should be expected to do the same. You have to be confident in your engineering skills, raise relevant issues, do the job at hand, and stop wondering about the fairness of things.
The best advice I can give anyone desiring to become a leader is to act like one. Do not confuse leaders with managers; they are not the same thing. A leader inspires people to follow, be loyal and produce. Leaders have people who will work for them because they want to. Managers have people who work for them because they are assigned to. Generally speaking, whether or not you hold a fancy title, a supervisory position, or a lead role, true leaders stand out even if their current position is not one of leadership. Do your current job the best you can. Train and learn about the jobs you want. And finally, request and become a mentor.
Mary is currently assigned as the Deputy Product Manager for the Joint Service Aircrew Mask – Rotary Wing Program and has been working as a chemical engineer since 2003. She holds undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Environmental Studies and a Masters degree in Business Administration. She is acquisition level 3 certified in Life Cycle Logistics and Systems Engineering and a member of the Army Acquisition Corps. In addition to her civilian career, she also serves as a Commissioned Medical Evacuation Aviator for the Virginia Army National Guard and has been an active member of the Guard/Reserve for 11 years.
I have always wanted to be in the science and engineering (S&E) fields. Before coming to work for ECBC, I was a high school math teacher for four years. After deciding to change careers, I chose to work for the Department of the Army, because I still wanted to work somewhere and be a part of something where I could make a difference. The participation of women in S&E fields has changed over the last 10 to 20 years. When I started my undergraduate degree, I was in the minority in the math and science classes. By the time I started taking my graduate courses, the classes were fairly even. Since 2001 until now, I have seen many smart and talented women join the S&E workforce here at ECBC and work their way up to leadership positions.
There have certainly been challenges I have had to face in this field. Other than the challenges of becoming a mother while developing a career, there were other professional challenges. In my earlier years at ECBC, I found it very difficult for my opinions to be heard and my ideas to be taken seriously at first. I learned the hard way that I had to make sure to speak up, without being asked, when I had something of value to add. I learned very quickly that if I spoke with confidence, and if I spoke up loud enough, I was eventually heard.
Several women have acted as my mentors over the years. Having well-respected and accomplished women as mentors was helpful when I had very specific situational questions. Their advice was invaluable.
Over my 9 ½ years at ECBC I have taken part in as many professional developmental experiences as possible. I have participated in the ECBC Mentor/Mentee program, the Leadership Cohort, and ECBC and Engineering Balanced Scorecard initiatives. Participating in these programs helped me build a strong professional network; that is something that all aspiring leaders should do, whether they are male or female. It is always helpful to know who to go to for guidance or advice if you have professional challenges to face. This is true for someone with two or 32 years of experience.
Genna is the the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) Engineering Directorate Special Projects Branch Chief. She has worked for the Department of Army/ECBC as an Operations Research Analyst for over nine years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education in Mathematics/Secondary Education and a Masters of Science in Operations Research.
The content in this blog entry does not represent the views or beliefs of ECBC, its employees, its management or the federal government.