I believe my purpose in life is to be an inspiration for others to understand the talent and abilities they possess. The foundation of my success as a leader began as a child with a strong family who imparted to me unwavering faith, integrity, respect, hard work, and passion to be the best at what I do.

I thrive on being a trailblazer. I began as a minority engineering graduate in the ’80s, became an expert field service engineer in the conservative nuclear industry, was an officer in the world’s largest electrical engineering firm, served an executive at one of the world’s most admired companies, became an energy entrepreneur, and now am the highest-ranked woman of color at the Department of Energy. My career has allowed me the opportunity to be a leading example to students and professionals who are making a difference in the U.S. and around the world. I have always believed if you empower your employees, provide excellent service to your customers, and never forget the goals of your organization, you will reap the benefits. Employees want you to appreciate their work and customers want you to value their business. Additionally, always be mindful of how you are perceived by others in the workplace because perception is reality.

I believe lateral moves are sometimes more beneficial to your career than upward promotions. Having an opportunity to manage a profit-and-loss operation and then move laterally to lead a marketing team was one of the key experiences that contributed to my success as an entrepreneur.

Lastly, a great leader provides mentorship and sponsorship to others. Over the years, mentoring has become my greatest joy. There are many blessings when you sincerely commit yourself to helping others achieve their dreams. A special interest I have is promoting the growth of STEM, particularly for minorities and women and girls. The lack of STEM education and jobs in this country is hindering economic growth and jeopardizing national security. My lifetime experiences and expertise have equipped me to accept one of my greatest leadership challenges yet: leading an initiative to increase STEM awareness and engagement of women and minorities in communities across the country.

How has education affected your career?

My father instilled in me as child that knowledge is something no one can ever take away from you. He always affirmed a great education would afford opportunities he never had. My decision to become an engineer and change my career path stemmed from a tenth grade field trip to the Savannah River Plant (SRP) in Aiken, South Carolina.

I initially planned to become a teacher, following in the footsteps of a few of my siblings, because I admired the pride and joy they received in shaping young lives. However, my interest in engineering grew as the SRP I tour guide told my class engineering is one of the most exciting and highest-paying careers, provides an opportunity to travel around the world, and is a growing area of study for women and minorities. This propelled me to pursue an electrical engineering degree and summer internships at SRP, key actions to receiving thirteen job offers after graduation.

What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?

Being successful and remaining competitive in your field requires maintaining domain expertise, sponsorship by key decision makers, and a willingness to accept challenging assignments. Being passionate about what you do combined with these actions will gain the exposure needed for your next career move.