There are numerous conversations about the lack of women in the technology industry and the factors stacked against them. With National Women’s History month coming to an end and the relaunch of our Women in Novetta (WiN) program this quarter, we sat down with a few of our female leaders to celebrate their successes and identify lessons learned along the way. Our goal was to highlight actionable advice that would be helpful for other women on their career journey.
1) Build Meaningful Relationships
Everything comes down to relationships – relationships with your customers, partners, employees, peers, supervisor, and with others across the company. Building genuine relationships fosters trust, communication, and empowerment, the intangibles that build a good business. Relationships are rooted in trust, so don’t ever betray that, either directly or indirectly. When I see someone behaving without integrity towards someone else, I assume it’s only a matter of time before they treat me the same way and I have great difficulty putting trust in that person.
Networking is pivotal for gaining new insights within the industry, discovering mentors, developing friendships, identifying teaming relationships, and building confidence. As a Myers-Briggs certified introvert, networking is something that I still have to push myself to do – as I often can feel exhausted when interacting with people – but I have never regretted participating. In fact, I was recruited into my last three employers based on connections I made and maintained through networking. It’s also how I secured some of the best teaming partners (whether I’m a sub or a prime). So take the time to grab lunch or attend a happy hour and get to know individuals on a personal level. It shouldn’t be one-sided. Both parties should benefit from the relationship – so be prepared to offer advice or even make an introduction to others in your network.
– A. Satterwhite
I’ve built strong relationships that I continue to invest in by keeping in touch and creating scenarios where I can reach out to folks I haven’t spoken with in years. I sowed those seeds and they served me well. It’s because of the relationships I have with our former executives at Novetta, that I am now the Vice President of HR. To me, that’s real evidence in my dedication to people. I’m always reaching down, up, left, or right to support someone. My team works incredibly hard because of the dedication I have to them as people and professionals.
– D. Carpenter
2) Adapt – Never Stop Learning.
I have an insatiable appetite to learn. I was a curious child and that same curiosity carried into my adulthood and became an instrumental and required trait for this industry. Technology changes at an exponential rate and new advances happen daily. To be effective in the cyber industry – especially when developing emerging capabilities to support our mission partners – I not only enjoy, but must spend time understanding technology, gaps, and the market. One of the best tricks that I have used for staying current is to subscribe to news feeds. I am currently using the Feedly browser plug-in that aggregates data sources to stay organized with news and information feeds that I care about.
– A. Satterwhite
Nothing changes as quickly as the tech industry, if you don’t change with it you’ll be left behind. Even outside of tech, being able to adapt to different personalities, markets, and organizational constructs will make you a more versatile employee and give you additional career options. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll catch on quicker than you think and will be better for it. Even when we fail, we learn from it and carry that with us to the next thing.
– K. Bartoe
My competitive nature drives my desire to learn. I don’t know any other way but to beat the clock, my opponents, and drive myself. I look at it as stretching myself past my comfort zone and fighting against the tendency to take the easy route, to be complacent. It’s critical to stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry. I know there’s always something that can make me better, stronger, faster, cooler, and I absorb lessons to best serve my team.
– D. Carpenter
It’s career limiting to have blinders on, you must constantly be open to learning new things. Maintaining a noticeable excitement and hunger for more will set you apart from your peers. Mentors can be instrumental here. Early in my career I worked directly for a senior executive who would explain the rationale behind the decision, path comparison, and background on his lessons learned. He then encouraged me to provide solutions and not just identify the problem. That experience and personal investment stays with you and makes you hungry to continue to adapt and improve. In this industry particularly, we have to grow with our clients, we have to keep up with technology, customer needs, and we have to be ahead of that at enormous speed.
– A. Starry
3) Stay Positive.
I wake up each day and choose to be happy. My actions, attitude, and behavior follow suit. It doesn’t mean I don’t have negative feelings throughout the day, but they happen less because my happiness is intentional. I always tell my team – “everything has a solution” – it may not be the perfect one, but there’s always a solution. So find ways to be the thermostat and not the thermometer. You control the environment, don’t let the environment control you.
– D. Carpenter
Positivity isn’t always easy – it takes practice and conscious effort to maintain. Bad news, unexpected failures, and negative people, all threaten the positive mind and focus. When faced with adversity, I refocus my vision, take inventory of what I am grateful for, and invoke my inner creativity to develop new solutions. This not only makes me feel happier, I am more energized and motivated by what I can do versus what I can’t do. I choose to approach problems in a proactive manner, confident that there are likely many solutions and possibilities. The best advice that was given to me is to surround yourself with people who’ll encourage, inspire, and believe in you. If you maintain a positive attitude, you’ll see the potential that lies within yourself and others.
– A. Satterwhite
4) Appreciate the Value in Failure.
At this point it may sound like a cliche, but failure isn’t actually a bad thing. I’ve grown quite a bit from both personal and career-specific situations that didn’t turn out how I intended. Over the years I developed confidence to push through failure and proceed harder with unwavering tenacity when coming up short. I also learned to embrace humility while not allowing myself to feel ashamed of a missed goal. Persevering and staying focused on my goals through failed experience did two immediate things for me: 1) made me less afraid of future failure and 2) armed me with better discernment for my next endeavor.
– A. Satterwhite
It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and don’t repeat them. I attribute that mindset to my Dad, “Miss your curfew once, don’t do it twice.” I carried that mindset with me into the workplace. I think this is something that has differentiated me against my peers and contributed to my career growth.
– A. Starry
5) Protect Your Work Life Balance.
Our lives are not defined by our careers; what we do at home and with our families, friends and community are truly what defines us and sustains us through difficult times. I was definitely labeled as a workaholic early in my career. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend many nights and some of each weekend working. It seemed to be fine for me personally and my career was progressing earlier than most. But when my 3-year old son was diagnosed with cancer, a stage 3 brain tumor, I left the workforce that day and didn’t even look back for well over a year. It was a hard lesson in what’s truly important, but I’m thankful for such powerful learning that has stayed with me ever since. I like to think of it as the silver lining to what was an extremely difficult experience for me, my son, and all of my family and friends. By the way, my son is now 19 and thriving as an engineering major at UVA!
I think people appreciate working with me because I do my best to set the right example of a healthy work life balance. I try to truly disconnect during vacations. I put my phone on a different floor when I sleep at night and I won’t pepper my teams with texts and emails at all hours of the night and weekend. I try to keep my composure and not freak out over a work crisis. I actively encourage my foks to strike their own healthy balance by remembering what’s really important in their lives so that if adversity ever strikes close to their home, they don’t have regrets about how they spent their family time.
– K. Bartoe
6) Be Accountable.
Whether your decisions are right or wrong you must be accountable, you have to own them. As I make decisions, I consider – If this goes horribly wrong, what are the repercussions? If this is successful, what are the possible impacts? Either way, it’s important to be confident in the decisions you make. I’ve seen examples in my career where leaders took credit for successes when things went well, and shifted blame when things turned out poorly. No one had trust in this leadership, no one wants to work for that type of person. It created a dynamic that eroded progress and growth. Leadership must be transparent and accountable.
– A. Satterwhite
Accountability is critical to a well functioning team to reinforce trust and development. In order to be accountable, you must establish transparent expectations and processes, ensure everyone understands their roles, and communicate the desired results. I never want my team to feel like Novetta’s Executive Leadership is a black box of secrets. I want them to understand how our processes work and how decisions are made so they can become better advocates and stakeholders themselves.
– K. Bartoe
While at Novetta we’re proud to have double the industry average of women (22%) and an executive leadership committee comprised of 50%, there’s still incredible room for growth. We encourage all women at Novetta and those externally, who are interested in the technology field, to have confidence in your abilities and elbow your way in. We will continue to create an atmosphere with support opportunities and mentorships readily available. We can’t wait to see where your talents can take you.
Davita Carpenter | Vice President, Human Resources and Employee Care
Davita leads human resources and employee care at Novetta. She is a seasoned certified professional with over 25 years of experience in Human Resources and Consulting in Government Contracting, Healthcare, Higher Education, Ed-Tech and IT. Her expertise includes Strategic Management, HR/Operations Consulting, Training Design/Facilitation, Policy/Procedure Design & Administration, and Employment Law/Relations. She is a student athlete alumna of Syracuse University with an M.B.A. in Business from Strayer University. Davita resides in Maryland with her Rottipoos, Snickers and Truffles, and has authored the fiction novel Woman to Woman. When she grows up, she would like to travel the world, author books and speak on the positives & possibilities of life.
Kim Bartoe | Vice President, Mission Solutions
Kim leads a portfolio of programs that leverage entity analytics for mission solutions. With over 25 years of progressive management and leadership experience in IT consulting, Kim specializes in operational portfolio management, performance management, programmatic control, risk assessment, proposal development, and crisis execution. Fueled by a passion for developing others, Kim invests in mentoring and advocating for professional development opportunities and supporting curriculum at Novetta. She holds an M.S. in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Economics from Dickinson College. When she’s not at Novetta or busy being a mom to her four children, she enjoys cooking, wine, travel, home improvement, and live music.
Amanda “Mandy” Satterwhite | Sr. Director, Cyber Defense and Enablement
Mandy leads the growth strategy and operational execution of a portfolio of programs supporting full-spectrum cyber security missions. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 1998 with a degree in Management Science – Decision Support Systems, which ignited her early career as software engineer supporting government programs. The past 12 years of her career has been focused on capturing and executing research and development programs in support of national security cyber missions where she has achieved successful results in organizations ranging in size and structure. Mandy enjoys spending time with friends, gardening, and embarking on adventures with her husband, who shares her love for the great outdoors.
Athena Starry | Vice President, Cyber & SIGINT
Athena leads the Cyber & SIGINT division within Novetta focused on the Fort Meade and Fort Gordon markets. She has over twenty years of GovCon experience in operations and financial management supporting business development and strategic market analysis. Her strong organizational skills, work ethic, and customer service oriented nature has driven her success. She has volunteered on the board of a local Baltimore chapter of National Contract Management Association (NCMA). As a mom of three boys she values the importance of balancing her career with family.