Veteran Excels at Moving Missions ForwardAugust 2019
Dagmara Shepard knows the experience veterans bring to MITRE is invaluable. "When you're a soldier, you don't have the luxury of choosing who you work with or the environment you're in. You quickly learn to work with anyone and everyone to get the mission done, whether it's tactical, operational, or strategic."
She should know. As a former active duty soldier who served multiple tours of duty overseas, she brought those skills with her to MITRE last year. She works with a diverse team of government and MITRE staff helping her Department of Justice sponsor design and implement an organization-wide enterprise data transformation.
Making Data an Enterprise Asset
As many studies have shown, government data is a national asset of great strategic and economic value. However, the sheer volume of data presents many of our sponsors with both huge opportunities and equally huge hurdles.
For over a decade, MITRE has been supporting our sponsors in data collection, management, and analysis in multiple sectors, including aviation, health, and defense. As a trusted partner and operator of seven federally funded research and development centers, we're helping them solve our nation's most complex data challenges.
"The project I work on is about making data an enterprise asset for our sponsor," Shepard says. It requires more than a technical fix. "It requires changing the culture and the way our government sponsors approach how they deal with big data.
"My role in planning and communicating the strategy—both internally and externally, and efforts in organizational change and data governance initiatives—is a big part of that."
This overall effort is built upon the sponsor’s four data pillars—capability, technology, talent, and stewardship—and is comprised of 14 data-driven initiatives that aim to accumulate quality, appropriately accessible data and information, while enabling mission success.
"We've reached several major milestones, including publishing the sponsor’s first enterprise data strategy, launching a data community science of interest, developing and expanding the sponsor’s digital workforce, and hosting multiple data-themed summits. We also completed assessments of the sponsor’s current initiatives in data architecture, data access management, and the institution of a data lake." (A data lake is a centralized repository of large volumes of structured and unstructured data.)
MITRE's objective input and assessment are critical. "Our sponsors know that we will accurately assess what's working and what's not," she says. "We're not trying to sell them something. Our goal is their goal—give them the tools and data they need to complete their mission."
Transitioning to the Next Chapter
As an Army veteran, the multilingual Shepard knows how military skills—especially collaboration—can benefit a large-scale project. "We're used to working in diverse and often high stress situations. Clear communication and an emphasis on inclusion and teamwork are both high priorities."
She adds, "I believe that communication, inclusion, and diversity are some of the most valuable 'soft' skills that veterans can bring to the civilian sector."
Her background also helps her focus on the big picture. "It can be easy to get bogged down in the details of large, multiyear projects. It's valuable to step back and say, 'What are we trying to accomplish here?' Let's stay focused on the mission and keep pushing forward."
Balancing Family and Career Opportunities
Early on in her interview process, Shepard recognized that MITRE would be a good fit for her professionally and personally.
"I could tell that MITRE invests in their employees and works hard to provide a top-of-the-line working environment."
While Shepard works onsite at her sponsor's facility in Washington, D.C., she doesn't hesitate to participate in online opportunities and events at our McLean, Virginia, campus.
In her first couple of months here, she joined MITRE's Career Advantage Program. The optional program helps staff craft theirpersonal vision of career success, showing them how to communicate that vision to others and get the support they need to be successful.
In March, she served as a panel member during a company-wide event, “I Answered the Call: Military Women Then and Now,” where she shared her experiences as a deployed soldier.
She also continues to support her fellow veterans. This summer she'll participate in a MITRE working group focused on "Design for Life: Applying Design Thinking to Veteran Suicide Prevention."
Shepard appreciates MITRE's collaborative environment and diversity of work opportunities. And as an Army reservist and mother of three who's married to an active-duty Marine, she values another feature of the company culture.
"The work-life balance is second to none. I know I can get my job done and still have the flexibility to address the needs of my family."
—by Kay M. Upham
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