Stephanie C. Hill did not grow up aspiring to a career in engineering. She loved math and had set her eyes on becoming an accountant.
“In fact, I call myself an accidental engineer,” the 49-year-old told the AFRO with a laugh.
Hill’s recognition as the 2014 Black Engineer of the Year is no accident, however. Despite its beginnings, Hill’s 27-year engineering career, her outstanding leadership in the field and commitment to promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education earned her the annual distinction, the highest honor given at Career Communications Group's annual Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) STEM Conference on Feb. 8.
“It’s really hard to put into words what it means. This is such an amazing honor,” Hill said about the award. “It means a whole lot because it recognizes the work that we do as engineers and scientists to help our nation.”
The Baltimore native ascribed her success to dedication, focus and respect.
“I believe that if you work very hard and treat people with respect you can make a difference wherever you are, whoever you are,” Hill said, essentially minimizing the challenges she may have faced as a woman of color in the field.
It helped that she is employed at a company long devoted to inclusion and diversity, she said.
Hill joined Lockheed Martin in in 1987 as a software engineer and steadily climbed the ladder of responsibility in her almost three decades there.
Now the Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin's Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) Civil Product Line, she oversees approximately 10,000 employees who are responsible for a wide array of information technology systems and services in areas such as information and cyber security, finance, transportation, citizen protection, energy, health care and space exploration. The business serves various nondefense U.S. government agencies, international governments and regulated commercial industries.
All of this became possible because Hill decided to take an elective course in computer programming while matriculating at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, from which she eventually graduated with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and economics.
“I fell in love with it,” she said of computer science. But the field and its potential careers were things she and her parents had not been exposed to. Unfortunately, Hill said, the same is true for many American families as it relates to STEM-related careers.
“The nation has a challenge with attracting students into STEM college programs and jobs; we are at a national crisis there,” she said. “And African Americans are the least likely minority to be involved in STEM.”
That’s why she is so “passionate” about STEM exposure and education, Hill said. “We have to shout it from the rooftops how exciting careers in STEM fields are. We have got to let our students know that this is an incredibly rewarding career and they can be as successful as they want to be if they work hard,” Hill said.
“Twenty-seven years and I’ve never been bored…I don’t think many people can say that.”
Lockheed Martin’s Science and Engineering Festival, the largest STEM event in the world, will be held April 25-27 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The event was created with an eye to increasing public awareness of STEM and encouraging students to pursue careers in STEM fields. For more information, visit: www.usasciencefestival.org.