The National Women’s History Project takes suggestions from supporters to develop a theme for the year’s events. After reviewing more than 100 submissions, this year, the organization selected the theme of:
Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination:
Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting the contributions of some of our women working in technology fields, and getting their viewpoints on what National Women’s History Month means to them. This week, we are highlighting Leigh Palmer, Manager of the IT Operations Group within our Intelligence and Security Sector’s SpecTal business. Ms. Palmer is focused on providing IT solutions for her Intel Community customers, to include: Enterprise Network Management, Application Development, Analysis and Mission Support.
- What inspired you to pursue a STEM career?
I sort of ‘fell’ into a STEM career. When I was in college, I started in an Engineering discipline. Quite honestly, I hated it. I was frequently the only women in my classes and the curriculum felt rigid and stuffy to me. I sought out a more typical liberal arts degree which allowed me to focus on reading, writing, and to engage the creative side of school. That being said, I am a very logical thinker and I have always loved computers and logic puzzles. When I went to graduate school, I had the opportunity to work with one of the founders of raster Geographic Information System – Dana Tomlin. It was there that I discovered I could be creative AND use the logical side of my brain. I started taking computer programming courses, landed my first job as a developer and the rest is history!
- Are there any women who inspired you along your career path? If so, who are they, and how did they inspire you?
I have a mentor who I have known since early in my career, and I still connect with her for advice to this day. When I met her, I was very new to the working world and I was very naive. I believed in my core that everyone was created equal, and it was a shock to me at some of my first jobs when I saw behavior that was far from equality. My mentor was very confident in her convictions, and always stood up for what she believed. I watched how she handled herself in difficult situations and knew I had to become more like her to excel, so I sought her advice. Today, I still seek her advice, but the topics have changed. Now it’s more life-balance types of discussions, but I still feel very fortunate to have met her early in my career.
- What does National Women’s History Month mean to you?
I recognize how very fortunate I am to be a woman in the United States. I have opportunities that would not be possible if I lived anywhere else. These opportunities are because of all the amazing women that have come before me, and I see it as my responsibility to help others that will come after me. I have a daughter. I want her dreams to be a thousand times more than I ever dreamed.
- How do you hope to make “history” in your career?
I do not have a grand plan or specific path I plan to take. I have a few fundamental principles that keep me going. Is the work meaningful where I can have significant impact? Am I challenged? Do I like the people I work with? If I can answer “yes” to all these questions, a great team can be assembled to accomplish amazing goals. When people look back at my assignments or over a career, I want them to say “those teams really stretched themselves and accomplished what no one thought they could.”
The U.S. Government first recognized March as National Women’s History Month in 1987. For more on the history of the declaration, and to celebrate the many contributions women have made throughout history, visit http://womenshistorymonth.gov/.