What is your current title, department/agency, and how long have you been in your current role?
I am a Project and Space Management Specialist. I work in the Office of Inspector General. I've been in this position for four years, with the Department for twelve years, and a Federal Government employee for thirty-two years.
What led you to DHS?
At the time, DHS was a reasonably new agency, having been established eight years before I took a position here. Back then, I was looking for a fresh start. It was an opportunity for advancement, a chance to continue building my skills in project management, and a chance to get involved in a new profession.
Please describe a typical day at work for you.
Some days I feel like a firefighter managing every detail on every project related to 10 of our 32 sites. My day sometimes starts at 10 pm. I am responsible for projects that sometimes begin as full-blown construction sites with me in a hard hat, safety vest, and boots. I work with individuals who help complete various facilities projects across the country. From construction engineers, furniture/space designers, architects, network engineers, air-quality control specialists, contracting officers, project managers, leasing managers, and property managers, we work together to ensure that each site is prepared correctly and safe for each federal employee in that location.
How would your co-workers describe you?
I believe my coworkers would describe me as helpful. I am always willing to lend a helping hand to assist someone and get the job done. My colleagues know that I like to have all of the critical players at the table so that, as a team, we can make the right call and complete whatever task is at hand.
When you think of women in your specific industry/career/line of work, what comes to mind?
A woman in my line of work has to be flexible, multitask, take multiple commands, be thick-skinned, quick on her feet, and be a problem solver.
What initiatives have you instituted, or participated in, regarding the advancement of women in your current (or a past) organization?
I have a special place in my heart for assisting others in need, mentoring, and genuinely giving back to communities that have poured so much into all the members of the DHS Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) in Washington, DC, and surrounding areas. Our chapter has worked with two excellent groups, the SHARE Food Network and So Others Might Eat (SOME), to provide food and services for individuals and families in need. Our chapter also organized food giveaways in the Atlanta metro area when the pandemic initially occurred. With the uncertainty of what the pandemic would bring, Region XI Council of Blacks in Government (BIG RXI) also gave out gift cards in the DC Area to individuals who needed it. We've participated in Toys for Tots in MD and held toy drives in Georgia for the holidays. We've collaborated with local politicians to have turkey giveaways for the holiday season. The youth is indeed our future, so we have provided supplies and resources by facilitating Bookbag Drives for school-age children so they can be fully prepared to attend school. The DHS Chapter of BIG has also taken great pride in establishing a scholarship fund for high school students embarking on their journey in college.
What are some important gains that women have made throughout the history of your field or in DHS in general?
A significant gain for women, in my opinion, was when Janet Napolitano became the first woman to lead the Department of Homeland Security as the Secretary of the Department.
Giving credit to all of the progress that has been made, what would you say are some outstanding challenges that women tend to face overall? How do you envision these challenges evolving in the next 10 years?
Some outstanding challenges that women still face include a lack of equal pay, equal treatment, and the availability of ample leadership opportunities. In the next 10 years, I envision seats at the table consistently being provided to women, and women becoming key decision-makers at all platforms.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your upbringing? How did your upbringing affect who you are today?
I grew up in Washington, DC, and Prince George's County, Maryland. My dad passed away when I was five, and my mom moved from Wilmington, DE, to Washington, DC, where two of her sisters lived. There she raised my younger brother and I as a single parent. My mother is a strong woman who taught me to have faith in God; she gave me valuable life skills that I would not trade for anything. At an early age, she always held me accountable for my actions. As a young child, the morals and values she instilled in me have helped me remain transparent in daily interactions with my internal and external customers.
What are you most proud of accomplishing from either a personal or professional aspect?
I am a proud mother of two daughters and a doting grandmother of four fantastic grandchildren. I enjoy my job professionally, and I hope it shows in my performance. One of my most significant accomplishments has been becoming the President of Blacks in Government for the DHS Chapter.
Who is the most influential woman you know and how does she inspire you?
The most influential woman I know is my mom. I admire how she is always willing to help people. She has taught me so many things throughout my life, but several things have stuck with me along the way. My mother always taught me to have faith in God, let my character speak for me whether I'm present in the room or not, and to let people know that they can depend on me. She also taught me always to put my best foot forward and help at least one person in my daily walk of life.
Why is Women's History Month so important for the DHS workforce to acknowledge?
The Department of Homeland Security employs many remarkable women from around the world who collaborate daily to bring forth the mission of the Agency. Hence, their contributions should be recognized and celebrated to show appreciation regularly.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'd like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to use this platform to highlight women within our agency. I genuinely appreciate the chance, and I am very grateful. I hope I have made my DHS family proud.