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Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Competitiveness Conference

Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Competitiveness Conference

The IC is increasing efforts to attract more diverse applicants for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) positions.

Rita Sampson, the IC’s Chief Diversity Officer, explains that the IC has been increasing demographic diversity within its workforce, but notes that there is more work to be done.

“Unfortunately, many students and professionals don’t know a lot about the IC as a career choice,” said Sampson. “So, we can’t just post vacancies and expect people to apply. Instead, we must lead outreach to communities that are not very well represented in the IC, especially individuals with the skills that we need in our core mission areas like STEM.”

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In February, the IC participated in the Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) STEM Global Competitiveness Conference, held in Washington, DC, and co-hosted a panel discussion on the security clearance process. “Many people are intimidated by the security clearance process, but they should not be,” Sampson observed.

La’Naia J. Jones, the IC’s Deputy Chief Information Officer, and Dr. Stacey Dixon, the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, shared their experience as IC STEM professionals.

Dr. Dixon reflected on her career in the IC, saying, “It’s been a great experience for me. I grew up in DC, surrounded by this stuff and I never thought I would end up in it. When I did, it just opened up the doors – not only to have so many opportunities to excel in leadership, but to use those tech skills to do things that a lot of my counterparts would not have the opportunity to do.”

Jones dispelled myths about the security clearance process and shared details of her global career experience, living in numerous countries around the world and now leading innovation across the IC.

“We’re in a competition for STEM talent, and we are doing more to attract, hire, retain, and promote diverse professionals,” said Sampson. “It’s not simply a nice thing to do. It’s essential to our mission because greater diversity increases innovation, and we must always have the competitive edge. Our national security depends on it.”

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Sampson also participated in the panel Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Managing Groups and Cultures When You Are Not in Charge, moderated by Donna Bell, the CTO Chief of Staff and Director of Research Operations for Ford Motor Company. In addition to Sampson, panelists included Crystal Jackson, Director, F-15 Development & Emerging business Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems and Kareem Maine, Assistant Plant Manager for Warrant Transmission Operations General Motors.

The panelists discussed their experiences as leaders and highlighted the importance of understanding group dynamics, knowing how to deal with difficult people, and maintaining your professionalism in a variety of group challenges. Panelists also spoke to the role of culture, values, and perceptions in group interactions.

The BEYA STEM Conference also included recruitment events, professional development seminars, and awards and recognition of outstanding engineering students and professionals. Over the three-day conference, IC professionals shared their personal stories and career information with attendees. Other IC panel discussions included insights on leadership development and career management.

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