From engineer to Senior Executive Service member: one Army leader’s journey from the lab to the forefront

By Alex Snyder, DEVCOM C5ISR CenterApril 6, 2023

The U.S. Army will induct a new member to its Senior Executive Service during a ceremony on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland April 17.

C5ISR Center
Elizabeth “Beth” Ferry, the newly appointed Director of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center Center’s Engineering and Systems Integration Directorate, will take the Senior Executive Service oath of office during an April 17 ceremony hosted by Center Director Joseph Welch. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Elizabeth “Beth” Ferry, the newly appointed Director of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center's Engineering and Systems Integration Directorate, will take the oath of office during a ceremony hosted by Center Director Joseph Welch.

The Senior Executive Service was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, as a cadre of executives with shared values, a broad perspective of government and possession of solid executive skills. In the Army, senior executives are the civilian counterparts of general officers. Of the 330,000 Army civilians, approximately 260 are SES members.

“Beth’s selection is indicative of her professionalism, character and demonstrated success,” said Welch. “In every position she has served, Beth has shown she has the skills and dedication to develop, motivate and inspire employees, and to influence and drive change across the Army.”

As a component of Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, the C5ISR Center provides research, development, engineering and analytical expertise, expediting the delivery of near-, mid- and far-term C5ISR capabilities that allow Soldiers to be more lethal on the battlefield. The area Ferry is leading is delivering game changing communications, networking, and cyber technologies to the Army while also streamlining and synchronizing lab- and field-based experimentation and life-cycle engineering, allowing stakeholders to make informed decisions that best support Army modernization priorities.

“Induction into the SES comes with significant responsibility, and Beth is the right leader at the right time for our organization,” added Welch. “I also want to thank her family for supporting her as she has continued to take on tough additional challenges.”

Ferry’s family, which includes her high school sweetheart and husband Tyler, along with their children Grace and Jack, is the biggest priority in her life.

Beth Ferry and family
Ferry, pictured with her husband, children and parents, credits her upbringing for her strong work ethic and sense of fun. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beth Ferry) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Mr. Welch has set the tone of ‘be where you’re needed,' which is so important because it enabled me to take on this significant leadership role while also remaining true to my core values of putting my family first.” noted Ferry. “That is also something that I really try to impart to younger professionals – especially younger women. My number one value is my family – my husband, my kids, my parents, my brother… they all come first and staying true to this enables me to be an authentic leader and work hard for the Army.”

According to the last-published Office of Personnel Management data, women make up just 37% of the Senior Executive Service. While the proportion of women in the SES continues to rise, women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions in the federal workforce. Ms. Ferry is among a select few female Senior Executives who hold a master’s degree in engineering.

“For women, or really any young professional starting out, you need to understand what is important to you and what motivates you. If you’re not clear on what is important to you, you don’t have a way to evaluate the different paths you can take,” said Ferry. “Early on in my career, I heard the saying ‘grow where you are planted.’ As a farm girl, this resonated with me and meant striving for excellence and growth in whatever role I am in, with the philosophy that if you add value where you are, other doors will open.”

This approach has helped Ferry throughout her career with the Army, which began in 2003 at the former Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center on Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Having completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Virginia – a college she was so set on attending that it was the only one she applied to – Ferry took a position developing, testing, and implementing electrochemical fuel cell systems for Army applications to reduce the Soldier carried load on operational missions.

After she and Tyler got engaged in 2006, Ferry moved to Aberdeen Proving Ground as part of the first group of CERDEC employees – which later became known as the C5ISR Center – transferring to the installation from Fort Belvoir and Fort Monmouth, NJ as part of a Base Realignment and Closure effort. As the fuel cell team leader and Army technology objective manager, Ferry led all technical activities, program coordination and management, and acquisition management regarding electrochemical fuel cell technology. Working her way up in roles such as associate director of the Center’s Technology, Plans and Programs Office, Power Division chief, and most recently as the assistant director of the Center’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber and Intelligence and Engineering portfolios, Ferry has honed her skills as a technical expert and leader.

“Beth is smart, strong, and capable,” said Kimberly Ploskonka, C5ISR Center’s principal deputy director of the ESI Directorate. “I couldn’t be prouder to see her step into this new role, where I know she will bring all the energy, expertise and work ethic that has helped so many of us working with her for the past two decades."

The work ethic Ploskonka references is apparent to all who know Ferry. Always willing to speak up and pitch in, her drive is deep-seated – something she learned from her parents Mike and Cathy Bostic of Church Hill, Maryland. As successful farmers, Ferry said her parents’ dedication to their family and hard work has been on display for as long as she can remember.

“Growing up in a farming family is such a blessing and instilled a strong sense of devotion to family, community and fun. I learned how to work hard together even when things were tough and play hard too," said Ferry. "My parents are among the best and have always encouraged and supported me. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without their love and guidance."

Reflecting on the figures in her life who have shaped her career – like her parents – has offered Ferry time to consider the type of leader she is, and what she brings to her newest role.

“The approach that has served me well in my career is to really focus on developing personal relationships and getting to know people, so that you can then understand what is going on with the technical work and be able to make things happen quickly both in and out of the organization,” Ferry said. “The work we do in the Center is absolutely critical to everything that the Army does. Tanks don’t drive and airplanes don’t fly without all the pieces that we do. I am so proud and humbled to be a leader in an organization that does this type of vital work, and I am focused on bringing further value to it as a SES member.”