Operations Director Enables Strategy Execution and Mission Delivery

June 2020
Charlotte Farmer
MITRE Employee Charlotte Farmer

Charlotte Farmer is a true leader—knowledgeable, forward-looking, accessible, and results-oriented. As the operations director for MITRE's Center for Programs and Technology, a corporate division, she directs the work for the company’s nearly 8,000 technical experts.

“I focus on strategy execution and mission delivery," she says. "Anything I do enables others to deliver mission outcomes and develop capabilities for a safer, healthier, more secure world.”

Farmer has been with MITRE since 2011 and specializes in systems engineering, which “incorporates all engineering disciplines," she says. "That’s why it's so powerful. It compels stakeholders to consider multiple perspectives for holistic solutions.”

Her approach to achieving these holistic solutions encompasses people, processes, infrastructure, technology, financials, and communications. “Those are the health indicators for most organizations,” she explains.

Within that, Farmer says the top priority is scaling an organization’s ability to deliver on its promises.

“On a daily basis, this means getting top talent to the work as quickly as possible. We boldly aim for instantaneous engagement using machine learning solutions and rapid sub-contracting practices. As soon as there's a strategic, capability, or mission need, it’s filled. This is critical for global impact where we must outpace persistent, evolving threats."

Farmer’s focus on impact in the public interest is just one of the many reasons she was named to Savoy Magazine’s 2020 Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America.

A Wide-Ranging Career Influencing Global Security

A lifelong learner, Farmer didn't start out as a systems engineer. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering. She also has a master’s in chemical engineering and an MBA.

As a participant in MITRE’s highly competitive accelerated graduate degree program, she earned her doctorate in systems engineering from The George Washington University while working nearly full time. To top it off, she's a lean six master sigma black belt, change management advanced practitioner, and a certified project manager.

Her decision to join our company grew out of earlier experiences in her career as a general management consultant. She recognized that the majority of her NASA and Department of Defense clients were systems engineers; MITRE offered an opportunity to build new muscles and explore complex systems in action.

“I decided to join MITRE to get smarter in systems engineering. If you're going to learn a new capability, you want to align yourself with the best in the business."

Before taking on her current role, Farmer’s influence at MITRE crossed multiple government sponsors. They include, among others, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Homeland Security.

For example, in partnership with our Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute™, Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, and technical centers, Farmer recommended and established a new TSA Secure Flight Lab. The decision garnered the clients' praise, both for the speed at which the lab was developed and secured for use and for the team’s integral contribution toward safeguarding global transportation systems and personnel.

In partnership with our Center for Enterprise Modernization and MITRE's technical Centers, she contributed to the successful rollout of a worldwide capability to securely exchange tax and investment data. The program engaged more than 150,000 foreign financial institutions and more than 200 countries.

Helping Staff and Students to "Engage with Purpose"

Widely known for her work ethic and approachability, Farmer helps organizations thrive by establishing programs that attract, retain, and engage talent in purposeful work.

Farmer says her number one goal is delivering greater mission impact with enterprise and external partners. “Recruit top talent, engage them in high-impact opportunities, empower them to innovate bold solutions, and mentor them to become better than they ever thought possible,” she says.

Living by an African proverb, "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together," she rarely goes it alone. For example, she created an "IMPACT team" that streamlines processes and removes barriers to execution in partnership with work programs, portfolios, tech centers, IT, HR, finance, purchasing, labs, strategic communications, and business transformation. "We crowdsource ideas, and we crowdsource the execution, accelerating viable ideas to action,” she says.

“We strive to improve the experience of our world-class professionals as they transition between tasks. When mission delivery is not an option, we immediately involve staff in strategic initiatives or capability development efforts that help them develop, grow, and engage with purpose.”

Despite all of her professional commitments, Farmer still makes it a point to give back.

When President George H.W. Bush appointed her the 551st Point of Light, she joined our nation's everyday heroes who make an impact on their community. 

Along with the Savoy Magazine honors, she's been recognized by West Point Military Academy and other institutions for her commitment to initiatives in STEM, leadership, and ethics. She's also a BEYA STEM Modern-Day Technology Leader Award recipient, which honors underrepresented people in technical fields.

At BEYA 2020, she provided the opening remarks for a design challenge for students across 15 of the historically Black colleges and universities with ABET-accredited Schools of Engineering.

Not surprisingly, she encouraged the students to "create systems-thinking solutions to engineering problems."

—by Aishia Caryn Freeman

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