(Update 11/30/2013) Although Stephanie C. Hill describes herself as an “accidental” engineer, a glance at her background shows it’s no surprise that she has risen to become president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions’ Civil Division.
Engineering wasn’t in her family background, but achievement is no stranger in the Hill household. Her mother, Doris Cole, is a retired kindergarten teacher and her father, Harry Cole, was the first African-American elected to the Maryland Senate, as well as the first to sit on the Maryland Court of Appeals, that state’s highest court.
Their daughter discovered she was talented at mathematics while in the Baltimore public school system. Economics was a natural fit as a major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), she said.
“When I first started college I decided I wanted to be an accountant, and so that’s why I chose the major of economics,” she noted.
The so-called “accident” occurred halfway through her undergraduate days when she happened to choose “as an elective, a programming class and absolutely fell in love with it.” She went on to declare computer science along with her economics degree her junior year.
When she worked at the career center at UMBC, she learned about engineering jobs before gaining experience with the government as an engineer.
“It was one of the best decisions I have made, because coming out of college, I was able to start with Lockheed Martin and get an opportunity as a software engineer.” Two decades later, she is at the top of the defense contractor’s ladder.
Hill says her parents played a big role in her career choice.
“The way that I was reared with a focus on excellence, and my father very focused on doing the right thing, making sure you are achieving as much as you can achieve and my mother’s loving hand of care really has given me a balance as I approach the work that I do,” she said.
She describes her current position as “one which no day is like the next or like the one before.” Although she has days that are very intense, Hill says that, “through more than 25 years at Lockheed Martin, I have never been bored.”
As president of the Information Systems & Global Solutions’ Civil division, Hill spends a lot of time with customers both in Washington D.C. and internationally. She also works with employees, conducting roundtables and brainstorming ways the company can prolong its partnership with government and commercial customers.
“We look at what investment we are going to make, what technologies and areas to focus on from an investment perspective, to ensure they are meeting customer’s needs,” she said.
Hill is very involved in the effort to reach out to students, especially minority women, in all settings to educate them about the world of STEM careers. She developed the STEM mentoring program that Lockheed Martin partners with schools in Maryland to bring volunteers from the company into the classroom. These volunteers work with students and teachers to introduce science, technology, engineering, and, math in the classroom.
“I have a real passion for making sure that people, and young women and minorities in particular understand that science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM field are viable and exciting careers for them,” she said. “So we spend a lot of time in the community.”
According to the National Science Foundation, women, particularly women of color, continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all science, technology, engineering, and, math academic positions.
Hill says that, of all the women who seek a STEM education, only 26 percent of those women achieve STEM careers. “The number is already not high enough for those who know that they want to do the education. We have to get more young women to know how much fun a STEM career can be.”
Hill said there were not a lot of women in the work chart early in her career. 25 years later, it’s a different story: Lockheed Martin has a female CEO, and one of its largest business areas has a female executive vice president.
She said she lives by a philosophy of “living a holistic life that makes a positive difference.”
“This means that you have to devote time to your family, your friends, and your community,” she said.
She also wants to make a difference through her career for not just for her family, but hopefully to inspire a young person unaware of the opportunities in STEM fields.
Outside of work, Hill enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. She also enjoys cooking and sings in her church choir.