Talk to Angela Messer, and it’s clear she’s passionate about STEM. As executive vice president with Booz Allen’s Strategic Innovation Group (where she leads the firm’s Predictive Intelligence Business), Messer focuses much of her time on mentoring the next generation of technology leaders.
“It takes a village,” says Messer, who credits a mentor with her own decision to pursue an engineering management degree years ago from the United States Military Academy. Yet, another mentor inspired Messer to co-launch a computer software development company, which focused on ways to make learning centers more effective through technology.
Now that Messer leads a multi-disciplined team of talented professionals at Booz Allen, focusing on cyber security and cyber analytics, as well as cloud, mobile, social and an array of other advanced technologies, she routinely spreads the message:
“A STEM career and accompanying skillsets will continue to be in high demand – because the world is a much more complex place and the vulnerabilities ever more increasing.”
Recently, Messer shared top venues for STEM advancement that Booz Allen is passionate about contributing to – and ways parents and working professionals can get involved.
1. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). Based in Manchester, N.H., this program designs initiatives that inspire young people to pursue STEM careers. “We love partnering with them because it helps design innovative, mentor-based programs that really motivate young people,” says Messer, of the program geared toward students between the ages of 5 to 18. “The whole effort encourages not just a focus on technical skills but on self-confidence, communication and leadership,” says Messer, who sees public speaking and good project management as equally important as technical skills.
2. USA Science and Engineering Festival. The national grassroots effort, held every other year in Washington, D.C., attracts over 350,000 attendees, with STEM participants that include leading academic centers, government agencies, research institutes and technology companies. “It’s the only one [event]on a ‘national’ science festival level that really incorporates contests, school programs, the Nifty Fifty science program, and our employees,” says Messer.
3. Discover Engineering Family Day. In the Washington, D.C., area this annual event, held in February, is an annual event reaching on average 9,000 visitors per year. “We like this program a lot because it’s another way of driving awareness in the engineering fields – plus, it engages parents,” says Messer, of the program that’s geared toward students ages 4 to 12.
4. (ISC)² Safe and Secure Online program. Booz Allen has partnered with the (ISC)² Foundation’s Safe and Secure Online Program to increase awareness in schools around cyber ethics, safety and security. “These areas are clearly underserved in today’s schools,” says Messer. Booz Allen employees serve as mentors in the foundation’s “Safe and Secure Online” program, putting cyber professionals in the classroom to discuss ways to be smart online.
5. U.S. Cyber Warrior Scholarship Fund. For working professionals, Booz Allen is sponsoring this effort for transitioning veterans returning to the workforce. “This year we are really excited because the program now helps support military spouses and also focuses on getting cyber certification for our returning veterans to transition into the workforce into STEM and security fields,” says Messer, who is a veteran and comes from a military family herself.
6. STEM Girls 4 Social Good. Booz Allen has sponsored this program to groom young girls for future careers in analytics and other STEM-related fields. Booz Allen employees are among those who speak to young women about how analytics can be used to solve social problems. “We focused on the hard problems around data exploration, modeling and social networking,” Says Messer.
7. Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology. For working professionals, Messer recommends associations like these to stay ahead of technology trends. “You can’t go it alone, so we’ve set up strategic partnerships with entities like these to collaborate with,” says Messer. “We are very active not just in mentoring but actively sponsoring women,” she adds. In addition, for Society of Women Engineers, Booz Allen has led and delivered the Making It Matter engineering exploration badge to hundreds of Girl Scouts in fourth through sixth grades since 2006.
8. Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital. Booz Allen created and has delivered the three-part Make the Connection program for over 100 high school age Girl Scouts annually that includes a STEM exploration day focused on data analytics, cybersecurity and environmental impact topics. The program is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
For Messer, all these programs speak to an important need. “The STEM field is absolutely critical in what we believe are some of the most important problems that our clients are facing today,” says Messer. “You need multi-disciplined skills to address the cyber gap. It takes a diverse team to solve some of these hard problems.”