Stephanie Cole Hill ’86 sometimes feels like a woman in a man’s world.
Most of the other executives at Lockheed Martin Corporation, a major engineering firm which earns most of its income from contracts with the U.S. military, are men. Hill began to face feeling like “the only one in the room” early in her computer science career, a feeling she still experiences sometimes. However, she learned not to let that feeling get her down.
“I have learned that you have a choice. You can allow others’ perceptions to define you, or you can decide to define their perception and be a pathfinder,” she said. “Although some may still wonder initially if I have what it takes to make it, working hard and performing with excellence and professionalism at all times quickly answers their question, and I get to define their view in a very positive way.”
A Turning Point
As an undergraduate at UMBC, Hill originally planned to major in economics and become an accountant. However, she became interested in computer science after taking a programming class and decided to double major in economics and computer science. During her sophomore year, Hill interned at the U.S. Department of Labor, applying her computer science knowledge to the real world. It was a turning point in her education.
“I realized at that point that all of the things that I was learning in school would be applied as I entered the workforce as a professional,” she explained. “Although I was always a conscientious student, this experience reinforced the importance of the subject matter being taught and I was more invigorated to learn.”
Putting Knowledge to Work
After graduating in 1986, Hill quickly moved up in the corporate world. She currently works as a program director and site general manager at Lockheed, where she oversees 600 employees specializing in engineering, finance, business development and production and is responsible for business growth, program execution, community involvement, and site morale.
She credits UMBC with teaching her several important lessons that helped her to get to where she is today, from the necessity of working hard to the importance of teamwork.
“The variety of classes that I was fortunate enough to take also helped me to be better rounded and able to function in the corporate environment,” she added.
Lessons in Diversity
Additionally, UMBC taught her important lessons about diversity. As a member of the Black Student Union, she enjoyed the social interaction and support of the group as well as their work on serious issues. Additionally, the diversity at UMBC prepared her for conditions she would later encounter in the workplace.
“The diversity of the student population is so very representative of the real world,” she said. “Understanding how to interact and make things happen with multiple cultures and backgrounds was an invaluable experience in preparation for corporate America.”
Today, Hill passes on this lesson in diversity in several ways. She works with the Society of Women Engineers to encourage high school girls to pursue a career in engineering. She also mentors many younger employees at work.
“I hope that I help them to see that regardless of their obstacle, whether it is perception based on physical difference or personality type, that they can show their value and make the difference for the business and grow in their career,” she says.
A Great Support System
Hill has a passion for working with children as well. She leads the children’s ministry and directs the children’s choir at her church, and is active in sports and the arts with her three children, Kori, Cole, and Cameron. Hill admits that balancing a family and a career can be difficult sometimes. However, she doesn’t let her job get in the way of her family life.
“I am fortunate enough to have been able to have an incredible family and great career. It’s hard work, but it can be done. You need to have a great support system, good priorities, and personal courage, and you need to be clear about your personal boundaries,” Hill explains. “I am a wife, mother and executive – in that order.”
– Jennifer Matthews ’07
Originally posted November 2006