Deploying Cost-Effective Technology for the Department of Homeland SecurityMay 2012
Rosie Posadas Pridemore's career has been dedicated to analyzing data for government agencies to help them succeed in critical missions. Prior to joining MITRE, she worked primarily to support the government, at such organizations as the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service. Her growing expertise and interest in requirements engineering, operations research, business process modeling, and risk management analysis led her to MITRE in 2006.
"I wanted to apply my analytical skills to support government initiatives, because these activities have such an impact on people's lives," she says. "MITRE was a perfect match."
Pridemore is now a multi-discipline systems engineer in MITRE's Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HSSEDI™). In this position, she influences the development of tools available to technology users at the Department of Homeland Security. The HSSEDI is the federally funded research and development center, or FFRDC, operated by MITRE for DHS.
Helping Users Make Smart Technology Choices
"Requirements engineering is really about finding ways to understand what users need," Pridemore says. "The aim is to develop the most useful and cost-effective solutions."
Her work supports the DHS's Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the agency's research and development branch. "S&T engaged MITRE because it needs to develop solutions that provide value and can be used in the field right away. Given the importance of the DHS's mission, it's critical to minimize the risk of failure."
She works closely with S&T officials to gather data to prepare documents that explain what users need from a given technology and how they expect to use it to advance the DHS mission. Then Pridemore and her colleagues perform a detailed analysis before comparing the various systems and rating their effectiveness.
Armed with this analysis, she works with S&T personnel to develop concepts of operations and risk assessments for technology deployments. "With this information, DHS can develop a concrete idea of how well various technologies will perform in the field," she says.
"What I like best about my role is that I can bring ideas to the table, get sponsor buy-in, and ultimately see those ideas come to fruition. I use my experience and systems engineering training to influence better decision making."
Asked what attributes are necessary for a systems engineer to be successful in such a role, she says it helps to be open to your ideas being scrutinized and critiqued.
"Everything we do is highly collaborative. All our work products are peer-reviewed within our team and also outside the team," she adds. "We try to come up with the most innovative response to sponsors' needs, so we need as much feedback from the MITRE community as possible. This ultimately makes our work products stronger and more effective."
Developing MITRE's Approach to Diversity
Aside from her systems engineering duties, Pridemore also leads a diversity subcommittee on "Outreach and Engagement."
"We focus on bringing awareness to diversity and inclusion within our company," she says. At MITRE, "diversity" encompasses workplace skills, along with the differing perspectives held by employees of a variety of races, ages, and ethnicities.
Her subcommittee sponsored a discussion on emotional intelligence in the workplace late in 2011. "When managers understand the internal motivations that drive their team members, productivity improves. We see this as an important aspect of diversity."
The subcommittee recently helped organize a volunteer outreach event for MITRE employees at a Virginia elementary school. The "Outside the Box Day" event helped students develop critical thinking skills in science and math by encouraging them to try to solve problems without concrete, obvious answers. During the event, MITRE volunteers worked with kindergarteners and first graders to make cardboard cars that they moved with magnets. They also assisted fourth graders in creating wearable light sources and fifth graders in building model bridges.
"We feel that part of diversity is reaching out to the community," she says.
In addition, Pridemore serves as tutorial chair for the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) in Washington, D.C. She helps set the agenda for INCOSE's systems engineering tutorials, many of which are held on the MITRE campus in McLean, Va.
"I think it's really rewarding to give back to your community by volunteering."
—by Maria S. Lee
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