MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia --
Marine Corps Females in Technology, or MC-FIT, a new organization sponsored by the Marine Corps Systems Command engineering competency, hosted its inaugural professional development event Nov. 13 at the Gray Research Center on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
Called “Making Connections,” the forum included discussion of the contributions of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Attendees also heard personal stories and advice from two women who continue to succeed in those fields.
Guest speaker Dr. Karen McGrady is support branch manager for the Developmental Test and Evaluation Division at MCSC. McGrady, a chemist, wife and mother of four, discussed how she balanced her career and family life over the years and found fulfillment in both.
“Find balance,” McGrady said. “Seek balance with your family, your friends, your interests and your work. Sustain yourself.”
McGrady also emphasized the importance of making and maintaining professional connections.
“Find a mentor, find another one, and then find a lot more,” McGrady said. “Create your network, continually expand it and sustain it. You have more tools now than ever before to do that, so there’s really no reason not to.”
Keynote speaker Mary Lacey, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, is a mechanical engineer. She encouraged the audience to “never stop learning.”
“A mentor of mine advised me to learn something new every day,” she said. “Everything you learn helps you look at things in a slightly different way. That helps you build your comfort with uncertainty, deal with people with different perspectives than you, and it will give you some humility. Realizing that you don’t know what you don’t know will make you a better leader.”
Like McGrady, Lacey said to “reach out and keep your network alive.”
“You meet many people every day, you interact with them for many reasons, and then you’re done and never think about them again,” she said. “Make a pledge to not do that. There is something you can learn from every one of those individuals.”
As assistant program executive officer for engineering in Program Executive Officer Land Systems, has a vested interest in ensuring women in technical fields stay connected. She also serves as the MC-FIT chairwoman.
The idea to establish MC-FIT was born from mentoring relationships Evans-Morgis had with female colleagues in the engineering field. Their talks indicated a broader need for women from different professional backgrounds and at various points in their careers to have a forum to discuss the unique challenges they faced, as well as share knowledge, training and mentoring opportunities, she said.
Earlier this year—with the sponsorship of Jim Smerchansky, MCSC’s acting executive director and chief engineer of the Marine Corps—MC-FIT established a charter and formed a steering committee to determine the mission and vision of the organization.
“We wanted MC-FIT to be about women—to focus on all the things we have to balance as women, [like] family, career and health,” Evans-Morgis said. “But we also wanted it to be inclusive. It’s an engineering-sponsored organization, but it is open to all.”
As membership in MC-FIT grows, the goal is to rotate members into positions on the board of directors and the committee charged with planning and carrying out the organization’s activities and events. The group plans to hold formal professional development events like the “Making Connections” forum twice a year and less formal social events quarterly.
“It’s a group effort and everyone has been contributing—we’ve been very fortunate in that respect,” Evans-Morgis said. “We’re emphasizing making connections across the command, across the Marine Corps and across the larger Department of the Navy communities.”