NATICK, Mass. -- Anita Perkins, the technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort, addressed students at this year's Black Engineer of the Year Awards -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Conference held in Washington, D.C., on February 7 to 9.The BEYA STEM conference includes seminars, workshops, and career fairs, and creates an environment conducive to mentoring and networking. The event also aims to educate attendees about possible STEM career paths.The Department of the Army sought out Perkins to speak at a BEYA STEM seminar focusing on helping students prepare for job interviews. Perkins educated students about the importance of networking and helped them hone their interview skills through exercises where students had the chance to act as both interviewer and interviewee and then receive feedback.Perkins, a footwear research engineer in the Soldier Protection and Survivability Directorate at the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, has a long history with BEYA. When she was a student at Tennessee State University, she attended BEYA and served as the student coordinator for her school, helping students who wished to attend the conference to do so.After graduation, she attended the BEYA conference and was hired by the CCDC Soldier Center (then the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center). She returned to BEYA last year to facilitate student interviews and provide guidance.Perkins felt honored to have been asked to speak at this year's event."The conference is a great opportunity to give back to young people," said Perkins.
Perkins recounted how one student in particular came up to her the day after the seminar and told her how her tips had already helped him land a job."I felt so grateful that I had the opportunity to come and interact and help students," said Perkins. "The conference is a great opportunity to develop networking skills. So many opportunities come through networking. The networking skills help you not only when you are looking for a job but after you get one."Perkins has a talent for connecting not only with students but also with young Soldiers. Her warm, engaging, caring, and outgoing personality, combined with her technical expertise, are an asset when she is seeking all-important feedback from Soldiers.Soldier feedback is key to providing Soldiers with the very best equipment possible. Properly fitting boots tailored to specific conditions and operations play a key role in Soldier readiness and lethality."The face-to-face interaction with Soldiers is an important part of my job," said Perkins. "Making sure that they have what the need to focus on their jobs and perform their best is very rewarding."