How Booz Allen Is Building a STEM Ecosystem in Central Georgia
In early October, young girls from LK Moss Elementary School in Central Georgia gathered for a day of innovation and exploration. They built a robot using only a small motor and plastic drink cups. They created animations from scratch with entry-level coding tools. Most important, they discovered new possibilities for STEM-related careers.
The activity was the latest highlight in the year-long partnership between Girls Who Code and Booz Allen’s office in Warner Robins, Georgia. Their goal? Shrink the long-standing STEM gender gap.
“Elementary and middle school is the time when girls usually stray from STEM courses, so we want to catch and maintain their interest,” according to Lizz Said, a principal at Booz Allen who leads the firm’s Warner Robins office of 65 people and growing.
Volunteers from Booz Allen spent the day helping students with their projects and discussing everyday applications of STEM, which often aren’t part of the prescribed curriculum, Said explained. “We help teachers add them as an enhancement and get girls working together on solutions.”
Nurturing technical talent in central Georgia
Booz Allen’s motivations aren’t entirely unselfish. Said herself began work with Booz Allen 20 years ago as a junior Oracle database administrator for U.S. Navy systems. This led to roles in Houston supporting NASA and the International Space Station, in San Antonio helping Booz Allen grow its IT practice, and eventually back home to the southeastern United States—where a budding innovation ecosystem is growing.
Booz Allen’s Warner Robins location supports the U.S. Air Force at nearby Robins Air Force Base with the analog-to-digital transition of planes and their weapons systems. Services include enterprise integration, talent development, cybersecurity, cloud architecture, and DevSecOps.
Booz Allen’s work in Warner Robins creates lucrative opportunities for professionals in areas like cloud architecture, DevSecOps, and cybersecurity. “You can be on the ground floor and help build it up,” added Said. And when the girls at LK Moss Elementary are starting their careers, Said envisions the base and the region overall will be an established “center of technical excellence.”
Strengthening STEM nationwide—and around the world
Booz Allen’s partnership with Girls Who Code in Central Georgia is just one way the firm is fostering the next generation of diverse tech talent:
In Huntsville, Alabama, Booz Allen Scientist Blake Fernandez and Lead Associate Shawn Lester shared their experiences as tech professionals with Madison County Schools for National Engineering Week.
In Honolulu, Hawaii, Booz Allen has been working for over a decade with FIRST Robotics to introduce STEM projects, careers, and opportunities to students age 6 to 18.
In San Diego, California, Booz Allen recently helped 55 Girl Scouts earn their cyber badges.
Booz Allen is also empowering girls worldwide to achieve gender equality and catalyze social change. The firm recently partnered with the United Nation’s Girl Up initiative for the organization’s first virtual global leadership summit, where Booz Allen representatives mentored participants and facilitated a STEM bootcamp.
“It’s not always obvious to see how what you’re learning in a classroom can be applied to real life,” said Lead Scientist Erin Hansen, who facilitated a STEM for Social Good Solutions Lab during Girl Up’s STEM Day of Action this summer. “I hope the main takeaway for participants is that STEM topics are tools for solving problems—including problems that could have profound societal impacts. And, while you may be a minority in a field, you are by no means alone—supportive networks of women and allies exist that want to see you succeed.”