U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Government Website

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Safely connect using HTTPS

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Science and Technology
  2. News & Events
  3. Technologically Speaking Podcast
  4. Minisode 17: Learn, Grow, Advocate for Yourself

Learn, Grow, Advocate for Yourself

Technologically Speaking Episode 17

In our special Women’s History Month Tech Speak minisode, S&T Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology Julie Brewer and Season 3 guests, LaTasha Thompson and Brannan Villee, offer advice, give their perspectives on science and technology, and talk about how their careers in STEM took off.


Run time: 09:10
Release date: March 6, 2024

Show Notes


Guests: Julie Brewer, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology; LaTasha Thompson, Program Director, Office of SAFETY Act Implementation; and Brannan Villee, S&T Division Director for Infrastructure and Security Solutions

[00:00:00] Intro music plays

[00:00:05] Dave: In this special episode of Tech Speak, a mini episode of the Technologically Speaking podcast, we share the stories and insights of S&T's women in honor of Women's History Month. Listen along as they give advice, share their perspectives on science and technology, and talk about how their careers in STEM began. First, we'll hear from our new Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Julie Brewer, who has been at S&T for over 15 years now in several key roles. Here's what she had to say about pursuing an engineering degree as a woman in the 90s and breaking down barriers.

[00:00:34] Julie Brewer: Vanderbilt University was very interested in bringing more women into the engineering program. So, I actually received a Women in Engineering grant from the school that covered, you know, all my books and all my living expenses and so forth. So that was, that was nice because at the time there were not a lot of women in engineering, not as many as there are today. They were really trying to bring more women into the science and engineering fields at the time. So, I think that a lot of the programs were there, and the passion was there, and my parents were supportive of me going there. I feel like women have come so far in math and science that you don't, and even in leadership in government, women and minorities have come so far in, in representation. There's still growth to happen, of course, but I never felt a barrier unless I put it up myself. Women can sometimes put up our own barriers because we often have imposter syndrome, you know, we don't feel like we're qualified enough, or we don't have the confidence, and so if I ever felt a barrier, I felt like sometimes I put it up.

[00:01:52] Dave: And here's Julie's take on her professional trajectory at S&T.

[00:01:57] Julie Brewer: I've lived in this organization. I've been a program manager, a division director, a pillar director. I've worked with Privacy, Compliance, Systems Engineering. I've written acquisition documents. I've done HR training. I feel like I've done or been partners with most everybody in this organization. So, I think what I have is a respect for every part of this organization and the role that they play in making us each very successful. Being in the organization has given me the ability to respect and know and advocate as the leader of the organization now, the role each of us play. I also am just a nerd. I love science. I love technology. I love the art of the possible. I really enjoy learning and asking questions and debate. I love that sometimes we can disagree or think about things in a deeper, more different way and take risks in what we're trying to accomplish. Really important being a part of an organization like S&T is to have kind of an insatiable appetite to continue to learn. We don't have to know everything, but we have to like, want to passionately learn about it, and then bring new ideas to the table.

[00:03:25] Dave: Women are increasingly bringing ideas and much more to the table and the numbers prove it. According to the National Science Foundation women comprised 35% of the STEM workforce in 2023. Here at S&T they comprise 40.8% of our federal employees. I'm glad to see the STEM field has evolved quite a bit since the 90s. Next up, here's a clip from one of our recent season three podcast guests, Latasha Thompson, Program Director of S&T’s SAFETY Act Implementation, about what inspired her to pursue a career in STEM.

[00:03:55] LaTasha Thompson: I enjoyed math when I was in high school, and I had, what I would like to call an angel of a math teacher to approach me one day about whether I was going to college. And I assumed that I would, right? Both of my parents are college graduates, and I just didn't know what I was going to go to school for. When I was in high school, we didn't have a lot of exposure to engineers, scientists, mathematicians that look like me. So, I didn't have a lot of exposure to those in the STEM field. So, I didn't know what an engineer did, and he just really encouraged me. He encouraged me to come to his classroom during lunch and he's like, hey, I want you to read some books on engineers, what they do. And because of that interest that he sparked in me, I ended up getting a scholarship, a full scholarship to Norfolk State University for Electronics Engineering, which was right up my alley because I enjoyed tinkering with things. I even did that as a young child, just breaking things and saying, don't worry, Mom, I can fix it. And I would fix it.

[00:05:02] Dave: And here's Latasha's advice to young people searching for their path in life.

[00:05:07] LaTasha Thompson: Be open to trying something different. It may not make sense. It may not even sound fun, but try it anyway, you know, is what I highly encourage. You just never know. And so those opportunities I encourage the young people, particularly those that, you know, are in the high school age, you know, trying to figure out what they want to go to college for. I thought it was the craziest thing for someone to ask me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I was 16, 17, like I don't know what's possible. And so, in order to determine what's really possible is that you have to try some things and say, yep, I can check that off the list because that wasn't fun, right? So, giving yourself an opportunity to do some trial and error.

[00:05:55] Dave: You can hear more from Latasha about her background and her SAFETY Act work in season three, episode five “Mitigate, Detect, and Deter,” available now on Apple and Google podcasts. We also heard from S&T’s Brannan Villee in season three, say that three times fast. Brannan, who leads S&T’s Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Research Program, dreamed of several interesting jobs as a child. Listen, as she shares how she ended up in a career in STEM.

[00:06:20] Brannan Villee: When I was little, when I grew up, I wanted to be an actress, an astronaut, and an architect. Somehow everything started with A, but I was extremely ambitious. And so, I haven't become any of those. I went to college and interestingly enough, ended up majoring in sociology. And what I loved so much about sociology is it's really the science of how people react to things and what makes people behave the way that they do. And I minored in business and marketing. And so, I took that knowledge of what makes people behave the way they do and used that in marketing to better understand how we target advertising to people. When I came into the organization, I was a program manager, but I was on the support side of S&T. So, I focused on a lot of process automation. I managed some support contracts for the directorate. However, in 2019, S&T went through a revitalization, and I realized at that time that I really wanted to get closer to the mission. I was doing valuable work supporting S&T and keeping everything running, but I knew that I wanted to get closer to the men and women on the front lines that help protect the homeland. And so, I turned down a promotion and made a move across the organization to our Office of Mission and Capability Support. As someone once told me, it's not a career ladder, it's a career spiderweb. You never know how your decisions and how things may change, and your experiences may take you in different directions, but they all really come together to make you who you are and bring your wealth of knowledge to the program you support today. And that's what brought me to the CISRR Program.

[00:08:15] Dave: Quite a journey! You can listen to more from Brannan in season three, episode four, “The Stuff You Don't Think About.” If you're looking to begin a career in STEM, remember there's more than one way to do so. Now we'll end with advice from Julie, for girls and young women considering careers in science and technology or in engineering.

[00:08:32] Julie Brewer: Don't put up your own roadblocks. Don't doubt yourself, and never let anybody tell you, you can't do anything. Just continue to learn and grow. And advocate for yourself.

[00:08:43] Dave: These women are truly remarkable. Their accomplishments and their profound impact are paving the way for women that continue to make a difference in all areas of science and technology. This has been Tech Speak. Learn a bit more about these women in their R&D contributions on S&T's website. And share your own advice and stories with us on social media at DHS Sci-Tech. DHS S C I T E C H bye.

Last Updated: 04/03/2024
Was this page helpful?
This page was not helpful because the content