This year’s Women to Watch Summit will be held on May 5, from 10:00 AM EDT on the Women of Color STEM DTX Platform. Click here to register for the May Summit.
Women of Color magazine’s annual WOMEN TO WATCH awards honors achievement in technology, telecommunications, finance, energy, industry, healthcare, utilities, and more. The list recognizes Women of Color Technology Rising Stars and Technology Allstars from Women of Color STEM conferences. The annual Women to Watch Summit is designed to encourage and inspire women in STEM to share their career experiences. The program celebrates women who have made a significant impact in their respective fields.
This year’s list includes leaders from AT&T, Ansys, Bell, Boeing Global Services, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI Shared Services Center, Continental Automotive North America, Collins Aerospace, Cornerstone Consolidated Services Group, Corning, Cummins, and Ford Motor Company. Save the date for the Women to Watch Summit: May 5th. Click here to register and view the schedule of events.
TERESA CHAVEZ is a purchasing specialist at Gulfstream Mexicali in Mexico. Over the past four years, she has worked on critical projects. Most recently, she coordinated the procurement and delivery of capital expenses for a Cuyamaca building. Her leadership was instrumental in the successful delivery of all equipment selected. Other projects include indirect procurement for all capital expenditures and memorandum of agreement contracts. In addition, Chavez has delivered goods or services on time with her team’s support. Her focus on results has enabled her to handle the responsibility for several million accounts receivable and hundreds of purchase orders.
QUN “MAXINE” LIU joined Health Catalyst in 2019 and served as senior vice president of the partner program and M&A integration. She has over 13 years of strategy experience in healthcare technology. Early in her career, she developed a medical imaging application described as an Instagram for radiologists. As a business leader, she manages a team of project and program managers and innovation engineers. She collaborates with the acquired company, the M&A team, growth leadership, and product and operation leadership. In addition, she mentors other scientists and has been recognized by the Women Tech Council with a 2020 Strategic Innovator Award.
As vice president of worldwide financial planning and analysis, OLGA MARRUFFO has one of the most critical roles in HP finance. Working with the CEO, chief financial officer, and members of the executive team and CFO staff, Marruffo’s role as head of global corporate financial planning and analysis spans corporate banking, wealth management, treasury, forecast planning, and analytics, with a focus in debt capital markets, capital allocation, cash and liquidity planning, counterparty risk management, bank relationships, mergers and acquisitions, and people management. She holds a business administration degree from Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela, and is a chartered financial analyst.
PATIENCE LOWERY is a program manager within HII, the largest military shipbuilding company in the United States. At HII, she has held the roles of business operations manager, human resources manager, and program director. She has also led organizational changes while fostering growth in nonprofit programs by 300 percent. She sorted through business management challenges in a role that saw her empower her team’s professional development as she grew revenue from $3 million annually to ~$315 million over five years. Lowery earned a project management professional (PMP) certificate from the Project Management Institute in 2018.
MING MING CAO is a senior software developer and engineer at the IBM Linux Technology Center. She grew up in a family of educators in China. Some of her favorite middle school memories are of the mainframe computers used in her school. Today, her accomplishments include software contributions to the Linux Ext3 file system and driving automation for IBM Power Systems and IBM Cloud. As head coach of a high school team since 2019, she has taught Linux cyber security, Windows security, and networking security. In addition, her team successfully implemented the cyber program created by the United States Air Force Association.
STEPHANIE GEERHEARD has served as an Infosys portfolio release manager since 2020. She joined the IT consulting company with 25 years of experience in project management. In her role as technology lead, AT&T Wi-Fi engineering software development processes have seen a marked improvement in metrics. For example, there has been a 38 percent productivity increase and a 91 percent defect reduction, which was greatly appreciated by AT&T’s Wi-Fi engineering leadership. Geerheard is a shining star in a team of primarily male colleagues. She loves to help others in the areas of project management, release management, and change management.
JOELLE FRANCOIS is a manager of projects at Jacobs. She oversees project managers and the execution of capital water, wastewater, and water resources projects. Francois started her career after she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a master’s degree in civil engineering. Her first position was at a construction site. But a pregnant Black woman doing inspections was quite a novelty. After Francois’s husband entered medical school, they moved to different cities. Throughout her experience with various municipalities, airports, and other
transportation agencies, she developed a keen insight into the workings of these agencies and broadened her horizons.
CRYSTAL WOODS is a system engineering lead in integrated mission systems at L3Harris Technologies. She manages systems requirements for the C-130H Avionics Modernization Program. She routinely helps other systems engineers and is dedicated to giving back. As a member of the Diverse Employee Network, she supports Project Christmas Tree, which helps distribute Christmas presents to local agencies for area residents. She has also served as a mentor at a school for over 12 years, emphasizing the importance of STEM as an advocate for engineering education and helping explain what an engineer does.
KJERSTEN KIPP is a systems engineer at Leidos, where she currently works in partnership with government and industry customers to lead information exchange venues with U.S. military units. Kipp began her career in the Navy. After separating from the military, she first worked for SAIC, then went outside the defense industry to serve as a tech director for Riverside Health Systems before managing IT projects for Dollar Tree. Outside of work, she is a coach for a nonprofit that trains young people to improve their times in road races and a running club that brings together runners and walkers.
AKOSS SCHUPPIUS is a project management professional at LMI. She oversees the LMI team supporting the strategic plan of the United State Postal Service (USPS). In addition to the USPS, she has supported initiatives for the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Marine Corps Logistics Command. Schuppius is a founding member of LMI’s Minority Ethnicities affinity group and the change management community of practice. She volunteers as chair for the Rotary Club of Rockville, devoting time to the environment, peace, and the local community. She is a member of the University of Pennsylvania Black Alumni Society.
CASSANDRA BOLDEN is an IT manager in the enterprise operations business at Lockheed Martin. She mentors early-career employees, supports growth, and establishes the time for staff training and professional development. She also has management responsibility for over 180,000 personal computers and phone devices. In this role as leader of a team that is operational 24/7, one big challenge is finding balance. Bolden is also a volunteer in the school system, supporting her older daughter, son, and her youngest child, who was born with Down syndrome. In addition, she is a Lockheed Martin Women’s Impact Network and Black Excellence Council member.
JESSICA RICHARDSON is currently a network/information technology cyber lead and program analyst at the Missile Defense Agency. In this role, she has managed a team of network engineers maintaining network uptime greater than 99 percent. Richardson’s work impacts the development of missile defense systems to defend the U.S., its deployed forces, allies, and friends, from missile attacks in all phases of flight. As MDA delivers the capability to the warfighter, the cyber security of MDA test networks is critical. In addition, Richardson has led the implementation of a network failover solution that ensures continuity during a network outage.
NORMA RIVERA is a technical specialist in the office of product support at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division. She leads a program that provides a vital service to the U.S. Naval fleet and warfighters with the latest tools and information. Rivera also provides support and guidance to the onshore fleet activities, training commands, and department personnel as the policy point of contact for the technical manual management program (TMMP) with the Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Systems Command. She has overseen more than 5,940 TMMP customer service requests and serves as a mentor to team members.
NANYA ORIGBO is a senior software engineer at Zulily. She mentors junior engineers across the organization. After graduating as one of the best physics students from the University of Lagos in 2007, one of her first jobs was as an applications and software engineer with Huawei Technologies in Nigeria, where she worked for more than three years. In 2011, she moved to the UK to complete a master’s degree in Edinburgh and took up an appointment as a computer scientist with a geoscience research center. Later she completed another master’s in software engineering at Seattle University and joined Zulily in 2019.
BRIGETTE BLAIR is a mission assurance manager in the enterprise services mission excellence team at Northrop Grumman. The mission team is focused on continuous improvement that enhances the employee experience. Blair manages the delivery of operating objectives tied to sector and corporate strategic goals. Under her leadership, the enterprise services organization accomplished the growth of a lean-agile culture and delivered new capabilities for service quality assessment and employee self-service. She sets expectations while leading by example. She has been chair of the Enterprise Services African American Task Group since 2019. Her certifications include a Six Sigma Black Belt & Green Belt.
After service in the U.S. Navy, KIMBERLY E. SCOTT joined Otis in 2010. She has led efforts in service operations providing direction and oversight to five service regional field operation managers and 100 service managers. She has worked to improve operational efficiency while improving service delivery to customers. Her efforts have enabled the region to grow its service base and revenue. Recently, she worked on adding a new OHSA requirement to the company maintenance delivery systems. In addition, she leads the Women in Field Operations employee resource group, where she advocates and mentors women with few examples.
JADE FRANKS is an associate producer at QVC. During her career in television production, Franks has been instrumental in changing how traditional broadcast brings vendors and their products to life. She has worked with on-air guests to hone the use of Skype rather than in-studio appearances. Because of Franks’s leadership in testing, tweaking, and training with countless guests, on-air presentations have looked and felt as complete as they did before the pandemic. Franks has juggled this work while leading a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. She has also used her voice as a member of the Multi-Cultural Marketing task force.
SARA EL-KHATIB has been part of the Seagate community since she worked as an intern in 2015. After graduating from Colorado State University (CSU) with a degree in computer science, she joined Seagate’s research group. As part of that team, she contributed to improving test platforms for next-generation drive and object storage technologies. She has focused on mentorship, inclusive organizations, and underrepresented groups throughout her career. At CSU, she founded a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, which continues to thrive. In 2021 she established the Longmont Colorado chapter of the Seagate Professionals of Color.
LINDA CASTANEDA has decades of experience in automotive engineering and manufacturing, spanning the vehicle development process. She has a U.S. patent for a tool retaining a spare cover, granted in 2002. She was also awarded the 1998 SPE award for the most innovative plastics used for the Grand Cherokee spare tire cover. Currently, she is a planning manager for the RAM ProMaster battery electric vehicle project at Stellantis. In this role, she manages product development activities, crossfunctional alignment, risk management, and mitigation. Her ability to build strong relationships enables her success in these roles.
A volunteer coach for no less than 19 sports, LYDIA CARTER is also a software engineer at Textron Aviation, home to the iconic Cessna and Beechcraft brands. Carter and her team support simulation for aircraft, including the Cessna Sky Courier. They ensure that each device receives proper hardware and software integration, implement pilot and customer feedback, and assist with the certification of devices. As a result, Carter has been part of the successful certification and delivery of ten instruments. This demonstrates that she is shaping the tools and technology to transform how pilots and aviation enthusiasts train for decades.
ANSHU SAXENA ARORA is an associate professor of marketing in the School of Business and Public Administration at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). In July 2019, Arora received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for establishing the Logistics & International Trade (LIT) Analytics Center of Excellence and developing a STEM-business-focused LIT concentration program at UDC. In addition, she serves as senior marketing editor for the International Journal of Emerging Markets. Arora was the editor for two 2020 issues on Global Value Chains, International Trade, and Markets: The Role of Emerging Economies, and Value Chain Innovations in Digital, Social Media, and Mobile Commerce.
After commissioning through the Reserve Officers Training Corps at Texas State University, MARISA TRAINOR entered the U.S. Air Force as a first lieutenant in 2019. Trainor is a mission element lead for the 800 cyber protection team at the 834th Cyberspace Operations Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio. The 834th is charged with assuring the U.S. European Command’s mission to provide support to NATO and allied nations and the U.S. Strategic Command’s mission to deter and detect attacks. Trainor leads a cyber-incident response team to defend strategic networks for multidomain projection. Trainor deployed to Korea in 2022.
ERIN CUMBO joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2019. She has been a project manager in the civil works branch of the programs and project management division in the Little Rock District for three years. During this time, she has worked on numerous projects, including the Beaver Lake land acquisition study and the dredging maintenance program for a river navigation system. Before 2019, Cumbo worked at an architectural firm. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Howard University and has worked on historic preservation, residential and commercial construction, theater, and film set design.
AFRACHANNA BUTLER is a physical research scientist. A few months after graduation from Jackson State University, she was hired by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) laboratory in Vicksburg, MS. Like many biology graduates, Butler chose to study for postgrad qualifications to increase her expertise. She was sure she wanted a career as a research scientist, but she earned a master’s degree in biology in 2002 from Jackson State and worked part-time on a Ph.D. in environmental science, which she earned in 2009. Since then, Butler has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings and delivered platform and poster presentations at numerous professional meetings. Her research areas include transporting heavy metals such as lead in soil and using plants to sustainably manage contaminated soils, sediments, and surface and ground waters.
PATRICIA JOHNSON served for more than 15 years in the Army and the Navy. She has worked in the telecommunications/information technology field for over two decades and held federal civilian jobs in the defense department and homeland security. Currently, she is an information technology (IT) specialist in the enterprise services group of the Fort Huachuca engineering directorate of the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command. Because of her early challenges as a woman of color in the male-dominated construction workforce, she has consistently advocated for minorities to get training for job opportunities in the field.
SHANDA ROBINSON is an Army financial management practitioner and Acquisition Corps member. Currently, she is a supervisory program analyst at the U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command technical center in Redstone, AL. Her financial management oversight has received a commendation, including a fiscal year closeout of approximately $700 million in mission requirements and the U.S. Army Audit—Science and Technology Audit. In addition, her proactive leadership has allowed the technical center’s financial management team to excel in every area. As a result, it will impact the nation’s science and technology endeavors and space and missile defense capabilities.
SHANEKA LAWSON is a research plant physiologist at the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center in the Northern Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is an exemplary model for bridge-building between governmental, agricultural, professional, and ethnic cultures that often fail to connect. She led a program for undergraduate students at Purdue University to introduce aquatic science, forestry, ecology, herpetology, wildlife science, and other natural resources disciplines. She also collaborated to teach at a two-week summer camp. The students participated virtually and were introduced to the careers associated with forestry, fisheries, wildlife, natural resources management, and policy.
APRIL SMITH is among the few Black analysts at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Smith’s responsibilities to ensure safe nuclear operations require a high level of expertise in nuclear plant operations, reliability, probabilistic risk assessment, and human reliability analysis. A recent example of her contributions involved her review of a facility to process medical isotopes, ultimately used for diagnosing diseases through medical imaging. She also provided expertise to issue a nuclear operations license for uranium hexafluoride conversion. With this facility, the U.S. could provide a good source of enriched uranium to fuel U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.
TYRA HARRISON is a systems engineer in the open systems security engineering team at Walmart Inc. She earned a bachelor’s degree in computer technology from Bowie State University and joined Walmart Information Security. She has also served as a cryptographic appliances and systems engineering team member. Over the past two years, she has been certified as a Venafi security administrator. She has also received the CompTIA Security+ and GIAC information security certifications. She was nominated to receive the award for her passion for learning technology that helps solve complex business problems, mentoring, coaching, research, and certifications for self-improvement.
TAMI HUDSON is a cybersecurity client officer at Wells Fargo. She spearheads the bank’s client and consumer cyber organization while interfacing with CEO and CIO leaders across lines of business, as well as individual and corporate clients. She is a changemaker in cybersecurity and has been a featured speaker at the Wall Street Journal Cybersecurity Conference and the NASDAQ Cybersecurity Summit. She participates in several cross-sector organizations across the financial services industry, including the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council. In addition, Hudson is an active mentor and program advocate with Girls Who Code.
In case you missed it, click here to read more about the 2023 Women to Watch.