REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - The road to progress along the Army civilian career path starts with the first step. For many years, the shoes to those footsteps all belonged to men. But now, women have a firm footprint in STEM fields, and they are in demand across numerous industries, even while still students.
And that is what took Mary Dotson and Brooke Baugh from Huntsville to "Happy Valley," Pennsylvania recently - to find the best students and let them know the Army is the place where they can be all they can be, even as civilians. And they can do it before they walk off the stage with their engineering degree.
Dotson, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 for Installation Management Command Directorate – Sustainment, and Baugh, an Army Fellow also at ID-S, visited the Pennsylvania State University in State College Aug. 17, for the Women in Engineering Program Orientation (WEPO). It was the perfect opportunity to share their own Intern-to-IMCOM journeys on behalf of the Army Civilian Management Activity. Both Dotson and Baugh followed the Army intern and fellow path as professionals who have chosen to serve their nation as Army Civilians in the engineering field.
According to the Penn State College of Engineering, WEPO is an award-winning, four-day orientation designed to pair first-year students with mentors and highlight academic and career resources to empower a successful journey to becoming a Penn State world-class engineer. In today’s competitive job markets, an inside track can lead to job waiting after graduation and a long career as an Army Civilian – just ask Dotson.
“Before my junior year of college, I started working during the summer as part of the student intern program at Redstone Arsenal in the Directorate of Public Works,” she said. “Through this opportunity, I was able to see different engineering fields and civil engineering concentrations in action. Ultimately, this helped me better identify what I wanted to concentrate on studying during my last two years of college to best meet passions and prepare for a career in public service.”
For Baugh, her STEM aspirations started even earlier in high school, and being a native of the Rocket City, as Huntsville is affectionately called, the opportunities were abundant for her to explore. She was also a “legacy” – both her mother and grandmother were Army Civilians.
“I completed the engineering pathway within my high school, which solidified engineering was where I wanted to focus my studies as I entered college,” she said. “I decided on civil and environmental engineering because Erin Brockovich was one of my favorite movies growing up – it influenced my hope to enter a career of service that allows me to protect/restore the environment and help people.”
For Dotson, who started as a GS-3 at 20 years-old, she graduated and entered the Army fellows program, and currently serves as a GS-15. Her inspiration has always been focused on public service and supporting servicemembers.
“We all have hard days or projects/programs that aren’t quite as inspiring to us as others,” she said. “But advancing the quality of life of our Soldiers, ensuring facilities and infrastructure are ‘ready to need’ and seeing the “why” in action every day is rewarding and motivating.”
While Dotson is at the pinnacle of Army Civilian expertise as a GS-15, Baugh is just starting out in her career. Both have been afforded unique opportunities they feel they would have missed in a non-military civilian setting.
“Everyone I’ve encountered and had the opportunity to work with has been a champion for my growth and supported me in learning the fundamentals and specifics of how the Army operates its programs,” said Baugh. “Also, the opportunities afforded to me – rotations, training, leadership courses…I’ve had the opportunity to complete rotations at multiple echelons and build relationships with a host of people that will be increasingly helpful as I continue my civilian career.”
And it’s that mentorship and support though interning that Dotson found pivotal in her success and development as an engineering subject matter expert, as well as leading her ID-S team, which serves as functional leaders for 10 Army installations DPW offices nationwide.
“The internship was critical to my success as it allowed me to rotate to different areas of the Army and IMCOM Public Works organization which gave me invaluable experiences, relationships and exposure to a wide breadth of Public Works services and problem sets,” she said. “Through a fantastic group of mentors, a willingness to say, ‘I’ll try it to the hard jobs,’ and a bit of luck, I was able to be selected for my current position in the time span of 15 years.”
Penn State is one of eight key universities selected by the Army Civilian Career Management Activity for targeted outreach events due to its association with difficult-to-fill positions and the amount of under-participating demographics that are involved in their degree programs.
It’s also ranked fifth in the United States for graduating the most women with engineering degrees. Happy Valley is clearly a place STEM has some steam when it comes to producing women in the engineering. It’s talent like that the Army seeks to acquire for its diverse and highly skilled civilian workforce, making a target-rich environment to recruit rock stars for the IMCOM team.
This year, participants at Penn State consisted of 140 first-year College of Engineering student peers and 50 inspiring upper-level College of Engineering student leaders and mentors. Participants were able to network in their career field, learn engineering resources for success, and earn one academic credit.
Are you ready to be all you can be as an Army Civilian intern or fellow? For more Information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.