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Meet the 2020 Women of Color in STEM awardees from NOAA

November 20, 2020

Four NOAA employees were recognized at the annual Women of Color in STEM conferenceoffsite link, which was held virtually October 8-10, 2020. These awards highlight significant achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

From left to right, Dr. Jeanette Davis, Cindy Woods, Melissa Hooper, and Jennifer Dickens, were recognized at the annual Women of Color in STEM conference, which was held virtually October 8-10, 2020. These awards highlight significant achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Congratulations to NOAA’s inspiring award recipients,” said Louisa Koch, Director of NOAA Education. “These women were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in their NOAA careers. As a woman in STEM myself, I am proud to work for an organization that is committed to building a talented, diverse, and inclusive workforce. These experts work tirelessly to support NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship.”

Get to know these NOAA employees as they share their paths to a career at NOAA and their advice for future STEM leaders.

Dr. Jeanette Davis, Technology Rising Star Award

Policy Advisor
Deputy Under Secretary for Operations
Dr. Jeanette Davis, Policy Advisor in the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations Office, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference.
Dr. Jeanette Davis, Policy Advisor in the Deputy Under Secretary for Operations Office, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference. (Dr. Jeanette Davis/NOAA)

1. How did you get your start at NOAA?

I started my career at NOAA as a 2015 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. I am a marine microbiologist by training and was interested in using my knowledge as a scientist to help manage ocean resources. I've learned that scientists are not limited to a laboratory or fieldwork but should actively be involved with decision-making. It's important to bridge the gap between science and policy.

2. Do you have any advice for early-career STEM professionals or students who are interested in STEM?

My advice to those interested in a career in STEM is to ensure that your work or research is aligned with your personal vision. This will make your work meaningful and enjoyable. I would also add that you are not restricted by people's limited perceptions. You are the most creative and produce the best work when you are authentic.


Jennifer Dickens, Technology Rising Star Award

Information Technology Project Manager
Office of Chief Information Officer, Cyber Security Division
Jennifer Dickens, Information Technology Project Manager in the Office of Chief Information Officer, Cyber Security Division, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference.
Jennifer Dickens, Information Technology Project Manager in the Office of Chief Information Officer, Cyber Security Division, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference. (Jennifer Dickens/NOAA)

1. How did you get your start at NOAA?

I started my career with NOAA working as a contractor on the GOES mission at NASA Flight Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The innovativeness, collaboration, business acumen, and team dynamics with both NOAA and NASA was the best experience I have ever had. From then on, I knew I wanted to be an employee for NOAA.

2. Do you have any advice for early-career STEM professionals or students who are interested in STEM?

STEM is an extraordinary field, and if you want to take part in it, you are capable, able, and welcome to be part of the experience in your life's journey. Some advice I'd like to offer early-career professionals and students in STEM:

  • Stay woke. Stay informed on where technology is going and advancing. Be in front of the trend and know your role in it.
  • Seek mentors. Mentors are one of the best relationships you will ever have in your career. They will guide you through, be your advocate, and challenge you to think differently. It is all for growth.
  • Gain perspective. Take an innovative approach to solving problems — or what I like to call "opportunities." Research game-changing industry breakthroughs to help resolve your issues.
  • Keep learning. Continue to learn, whether it is formal or informal training, certifications, and seminars. Join professional organizations in your field of interest.

Melissa Hooper, Technology Rising Star Award

Permits and Monitoring Branch Chief
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Office
Melissa Hooper, Permits and Monitoring Branch Chief in the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Office, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference.
Melissa Hooper, Permits and Monitoring Branch Chief in the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Office, received a Technology Rising Star Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference. (Melissa Hooper/NOAA)

1. How did you get your start at NOAA?

I knew I wanted to work for NOAA because I wanted to apply science to real-world problems and make a difference in people’s lives. After graduate school I was fortunate to be hired as a Fishery Management Specialist at the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. My job entailed working with fishermen to manage their fishing permits and to understand the regulations, and assisting more senior policy analysts writing and implementing fishing regulations. This position gave me a great foundation for pursuing more complex policy and data work.

2. Do you have any advice for early-career STEM professionals or students who are interested in STEM?

  • Network. If you think you are interested in a particular field or job, contact professionals there for informational interviews. They can tell you what the work is really like, offer advice on how to break into the field, and let you know about job and internship opportunities.
  • Look for opportunities to get your foot in the door. Internships, contracts, term positions, and fisheries observing are great ways to get experience that will qualify you for the job you want.
  • Keep an open mind. I felt like my focus in college was on research and fieldwork, but there are so many different types of positions in the STEM field. Being open to different paths can allow you to combine passions and skills you didn’t know could fit together into a truly satisfying career.

Cindy Woods, Leaders and Legends Award

Chief of the Operations Division, Director of the National Weather Service Operations Center
National Weather Service, Office of the Chief Operating Officer
Cindy Woods, Chief of the Operations Division, Director of the National Weather Service Operations Center in the National Weather Service, Office of the Chief Operating Officer, received a Leaders and Legends Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference.
Cindy Woods, Chief of the Operations Division, Director of the National Weather Service Operations Center in the National Weather Service, Office of the Chief Operating Officer, received a Leaders and Legends Award at the 2020 Women of Color in STEM Virtual Conference. (Cindy Woods/NOAA)

1. How did you get your start at NOAA?

I started my career with the National Weather Service (NWS) in 1990 as a Meteorologist Intern at the NWS Forecast Office in Jackson, Mississippi. I was a senior forecaster at offices throughout the NWS, and then I moved to NWS Headquarters in 2005 where I worked as a physical scientist, program analyst, and supervisory meteorologist. I am currently the Chief of the Operations Division and Director of the NWS Operations Center. The advancements, promotions, and relocations did not come without their share of challenges. In dealing with these challenges, I chose not to focus on the negativity and perceptions, but on the purpose for and quality of my work and the positive contributions I was making on a daily basis.

2. Do you have any advice for early-career STEM professionals or students who are interested in STEM?

I would encourage girls and women to follow their dreams of becoming a scientist, engineer, or mathematician. There are a number of positive role models in the workforce today, and I encourage young girls and women to connect with those role models for help and guidance as they pursue interests and careers in STEM fields.