Raytheon, a defense contractor with a large presence in Huntsville, held its annual “Introduce a Girl To Engineering Event” this week.
The company invited students from Alabama’s School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) to take part in an engineering challenge, followed by a panel discussion with accomplished female engineers and cyber professionals.
Yellowhammer News asked Teresa Shea, vice president of Cyber Offense and Defense at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, about the state of women in the cyber engineering and defense fields. Shea was one of the panelists that spoke with the students on Thursday.
Shea joined the federal government’s National Security Agency shortly after earning her engineering degree and went on to have a distinguished career in the defense industry.
“What struck me then and inspires me to this day is the impact that intelligence has in saving lives and influencing policymakers. I’ve been in this field for over 40 years and would encourage all young women and men to consider intelligence and defense as a career choice. It is extremely rewarding and purposeful,” she told Yellowhammer.
Shea said that in recent years she has been thrilled to see more women joining fields based on science, math and engineering. She observed that many young people she meets in those fields “want to make the world a better place.”
“Many see cybersecurity as a way to do just that. With the increased amount of interconnectivity, cyber is underpinning everything we do. Protecting that foundation is critical. I’m excited that young women are recognizing that and taking on the challenge of becoming engineers and computer scientists to improve our security nation-wide,” Shea advised.
Yellowhammer asked Shea what kind of impact schools like the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) are having on the engineering field.
“The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering is the only high school in the nation for students seeking advanced engineering and cyber technology studies. It’s groundbreaking for our country,” she began.
“We know that, especially for girls, exposure to STEM at a young age is very important. If we can reach high school-aged students, we can show them not only how important cyber is, but also how much fun and rewarding a career in cyber can be, especially when working closely with others as a team to problem solve. If we can ‘hook’ them in high school, we’ll have a strong pipeline of engineering talent for life,” she added.
Two young women involved in the event told WZDX that they found having prominent women involved in engineering fields “inspiring.”
In speaking to the assembled young women, Shea started by saying, “I am so proud of each and every one of you for choosing to attend ASCTE.”
“There are endless opportunities for you to make the world a better place – and cybersecurity is not always the easiest of careers. Like every field, you face challenges every day. However, working in cybersecurity is extremely rewarding and is a choice I’m proud to have made. I give you lots of credit for making this choice early in your educational career and I know that your contributions to this field will help make the world a safer place,” Shea told the students.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.