Ed Benjamin, Leidos vice president for civil health program management, won a top award at a recent BEYA STEM Conference. Below are interview excerpts on his career decisions, jobs, inspiration for a STEM career, and advice for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The best career decision I made was a conscious and deliberate commitment to always be open to every opportunity, not limiting myself to a narrow definition of my title, role or profession.
This has helped me gain so much knowledge, experience and perspective. Enthusiastically taking on new challenges makes you valuable to the organization, builds your skills and capabilities, increases your confidence, makes for an exciting career, and generally opens doors.
I love the challenging nature of my job, and working collaboratively with a variety of people to meet my objectives. Just about every day, I have new and different problems to solve.
To be successful, I need to understand the big picture, as well as technical details in order to make good decisions.
I need to communicate clearly to a wide variety of stakeholders, and to be persuasive enough to win people over. I also have a real need to adapt and re-prioritize on the fly. As a result, every day at work is unique and stimulating.
The world of STEM
Knowledge and skills in STEM are cumulative. They build on one another. This means that people can build on the current body of knowledge as they make their own discoveries and developments.
But it also means that the challenge of achieving STEM grows exponentially if students fall behind or fail to grasp concepts. So it is very important to develop the basic skills, discipline and analytical thought for STEM from an early age.
By helping students to understanding the many connections between what they learn in schoolwork and the “real world,” we can help students see the relevance so that they stay excited and engaged.
My parents knew from a very early age that I was destined for STEM based on how I observed and tried to understand the world around me (sometimes in destructive ways).
I have always loved math and science, and have been an analytical problem-solver. As far as I remember, I knew that a STEM career, specifically engineering, was for me.
Lots of people influenced me along the way. So many great (and not-so-great) teachers who accelerated my trajectory into STEM. One particular teacher in 8th grade opened my eyes to how well I could perform by holding me accountable and refusing to accept sub-par work from me. Once I started working, I have been influenced by others who contributed ideas, approaches and simply had trust in me.
Overall though, I will call my father and mother my biggest influences. They gave me the values of strong work ethic, always doing what is morally and ethically right, and working collaboratively with others.
Tips and advice
You don’t have to be the top student to be in STEM; think of STEM more as something we succeed in together rather than a competitive enterprise. Have fun. Stick with it. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges.
Ed Benjamin, Leidos vice president for civil health program management, won the Dr. John Slaughter Award at the BEYA STEM Conference. Brown earned this award for being a savvy engineer and great people manager. Dr. John Slaughter is the very first Black Engineer of the Year award winner. He achieved major advancements in electronics engineering, computer control systems in naval weapons, science, and research.
Leidos has four central divisions: Civil, Health, Advanced Solutions, and Defense & Intelligence. The Civil Division focuses on integrating aviation systems, securing transportation measures, modernizing IT infrastructure, and engineering energy efficiently. The Health Division focuses on optimizing medical enterprises, securing private medical data, and improving collection and data entry methods.