DoD Leaders Encourage Women Seeking Information Technology Careers

Two senior Defense Department officials shared their paths to success with other women aspiring to succeed in the information technology field during a Women in the Department of Defense Luncheon hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, and Bonnie M. Hammersley, DoD’s deputy chief information officer for resources and analysis, spoke with the women in a “fireside chat” setting at the Army-Navy Country Club.

“I think it’s really important to have this opportunity to recognize Women’s History Month and what that means and actually taking the opportunity and time to reflect on the accomplishments of women across our nation and in all fields,” Norton said. But bringing this group together to talk about the accomplishments of women in the IT industry is really a terrific opportunity.” said.

Norton likened her career journey to her hobby of hiking.

Focusing on Footsteps

“When you’re young and thinking about your future, it’s really easy to stand back and look at the top of the mountain and say, ‘I want to hike to the top of a mountain,’” she said. Hiking that mountain, she said, is a matter of focusing on your footsteps, making sure that you’re able to traverse the path without stumbling or tripping on rocks and tree roots.

The admiral said she looks for a challenge in her roles and positions and turns those into opportunities to learn and get better, just as hikers need to stop and reflect on what they have learned and have on that path, as well as where they’re going next.

“I very much want to encourage people to look at, every time you make those choices, to think about ‘What is it that I want to accomplish — not necessarily for the rest of my life, but for the next section of the trail that’s ahead of me?’ and ‘Am I prepared for that, and is this really what I want to do?’ And ultimately, that will lead you to the top of the mountain,” she said.

Hammersley recalled the commander’s development program she entered when she joined the Navy. She was in the program for three years, but it felt more like 15 years,” she said.

“The [program] gave me a look into all of all levels of the Navy and outside of the Navy,” she said. “So if you have an opportunity to get into a developmental program, look for those opportunities, because it’s a good ride and it’s what you make of it.”

Value of Mentors

After Norton and Hammersley talked about taking opportunities and running with them, they spoke of the importance of mentorship.

“Don’t be afraid to approach someone and say, ‘Hey would you mind giving me 10 minutes of your time? I’d like to tell you my story, and here’s where I’d like to go and just see what you think’,” she said.

Both women were asked about key leadership principles have learned and why they think it helped to prepare them for their future as leaders.

Norton said it’s important for leaders to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their team and how best to encourage and enable them to be successful.

“Help them to do the things that they might have a hard time doing, then give them the full commitment and confidence you have in their ability to do that, so they can grow their own confidence and be ready to not just do the job they’re doing today, but be prepared to move on to the next step,” she added.

Hammersley’s advice was never to forget where you came from. “When I can remember back when I was in their shoes, I’m in a better position to understand what the trials and tribulations were, and I can help them do their job,” she said.

“My key takeaway for all of you would be to not just be a mentor, but really look for how you can enable the women and how you can build an environment that enables them to be successful,” Norton said.  “Look for those people and build the path ahead for them, help to encourage them and give them the advice they need to be successful, so they really can strive for the summit every day and be successful at doing that.”