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 fourth and final part in this blog series feature Robin Haupt, a quality assurance specialist in the ECBC Engineering Directorate, and Linnette Martinez,a member of the Joint Service Ground Mask Branch in the Protective Engineering Division.
Years ago, when I first started working for the Department of Defense (DoD) on the Aberdeen Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, women were not always particularly welcome in some of the automotive specialty areas. No one ever treated me poorly or was disrespectful; it was more of an assumption that women weren’t interested in automotives and therefore didn’t possess a full understanding.
I found that, as with any area of work, if you possess a willingness to learn and a constant inquisitiveness you can make the job easier and much more fun. I recall working on a very intense track test for the M1A1 Abrams tank. The hours were long and the work conditions were not always great. I decided that I was going to learn as much about that track as humanly possible. I did, and that knowledge made the months-long test a rewarding experience. Because I took the time and effort to learn every detail about the track maintenance, wear criteria, etc., I gained the respect of my tank crew, peers and supervisor. I wouldn’t say that anyone necessarily expected a woman to fail, but I was able to gain the confidence of the people around me.
I learned that it’s important for an individual to take the initiative to be willing to do what is necessary to complete projects, and to do your work well. I feel this principle applies to both men and women in the workplace. I have found my employment with the DoD then and now to be a rewarding and fulfilling journey.
Robin has worked for the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) for almost 11 years. Prior to her work at ECBC she worked for the U.S Army Aberdeen Test Center (then Combat Systems Test Activity) for eight years. She is currently a quality assurance specialist within the ECBC Engineering Directorate.
Weeks after completing a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry, I moved in with my brother who was working for the now Army Environmental Command. He had spoken highly about the U.S. Army as an employer so I decided to seek employment there. While there was a Federal Government hiring freeze at the time, certain agencies in Aberdeen Proving Ground had direct hiring authority to fill in science and engineering positions. I literally walked in with my résumé into the laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground seeking opportunities for interviews. I landed an interview and shortly thereafter my first job in the laboratory of the now U.S. Army Public Health Command.
During my job seeking endeavor, I also attended job fairs and received job offers from sales departments of a few reputable analytical laboratory equipment companies. While a job with industry was very tempting, I believed the nature of the duties of a hands-on scientist with the Army would be more interesting, rewarding, and of significant practical impact. And so, I started my now almost 22 years of civil service.
My technical career with the Army has exceeded my expectations. I grew with it. With every assignment came a learning point. With training came opportunities to network and mentor someone else. There have been plenty of ups and downs along the path, but the net result is an uphill to knowledge, significant contributions, and personal rewards.
The professional transition I have experienced went from quantitative monitoring in support of industrial hygiene, water and air quality, liquid and solid wastes, and deployment health risks; to quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the production quality of Armed Forces Protective Equipment items; and finally to programmatic support of the latter.
Transition through the career path as a woman with primary care duties of a family has been and continues to be a challenge, especially when attempting to stay atop the latest in technology, continuing post graduate education, and exploring leadership roles. Distance learning and flexible work schedules do provide an alternative to overcome some of these challenges. The rest is left to self motivation, dedication, and the development of meaningful mentorship and networking relationships. My advice to any woman aspiring to grow into a leadership position within the Department of Defense is to take charge of that goal and to focus on becoming part of the solution by taking on challenging projects and white space efforts.
Linnette Martínez holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Chemistry from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Has twenty one years of civilian service with the U.S. Army. For twenty of those years she worked in various laboratories within the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, and more recently, in the Joint Service Ground Masks Branch under the Protective Engineering Division at ECBC. In her current capacity, she assists in the planning, scheduling, reporting and directing of projects, activities, and tasks related to the successful development and fielding of the mask systems with emphasis on test and evaluation.
The content in this blog entry does not represent the views or beliefs of ECBC, its employees, its management or the federal government.