Iron Bow’s Women in Leadership Share their Stories
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we sat down with some of our strong female leaders within Iron Bow and chatted with them about their career paths, who has served as their inspiration and what advice they have for the future generation of leaders. Here is a small sample of our many women in leadership “spotlighted” over the month of March.
Featured women in leadership:
- Cindy Hamilton, Vice President, Business Development Operations, tenure at Iron Bow: 7 years
- Cynecia Harris, Director, Engagement Services, tenure at Iron Bow: 8 years
- Josie Smoot, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, tenure at Iron Bow: 16 years
Give us a brief summary of your career path; how did you get to where you are today?
- Cindy Hamilton: My career path is actually interesting. I started out in the Department of Defense as a General Schedule worker, working my way from an intern through GS 14, serving there for 11 years in procurement and I did some stints in small business. I actually moved over to the private sector working for EDS, Force3 and Convergent Solutions before coming to Iron Bow in December of 2014.
- Cynecia Harris: I started off at Iron Bow as a Senior Project Manager. I really got involved in project management very early in my career. It just naturally works with my personality. Project management is really focused on communication and partnering well with others.
- Josie Smoot: I was actually a business marketing major at James Madison University. You find a lot of people these days that don’t really stick with that but it was a great place to learn about all the different tactics and different avenues I could go in. I started off in sales which gave me a great introduction into how this world works and being in marketing as I am now we are a sales support role so understanding that process end-to-end, I think, has been really helpful in me getting to where I am.
Tell us about someone who inspires you or that helped you get to where you are today.
- Cindy Hamilton: I don’t know if it should be alarming or what to me that no one person comes to mind. Actually, who I think of are those individuals which have negatively influenced me so I look at those situations or individuals and shape what I want to be by making sure that I don’t copy or become managers like them.
- Cynecia Harris: The person that has really inspired me the most throughout my entire life has been my mother. She worked for the government and taught me at a very young age to go after my dreams, my goals, my accomplishments but she was very forthcoming in letting me know it isn’t going to be easy. Being a woman having a high-powered career, being a wife, being a mother there are a lot of different dynamics you have to be able to manage. I have really looked to her to model my whole being. She was my Wonder Woman; she was the one that was able to do it all. She’s inspired me to this day and we’re always talking about how to empower women.
- Josie Smoot: There’s been quite a few people through my career that have been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. When I was first brought on, I was very fortunate the have a boss and mentor. Throughout the tenure with her, I was so thankful for her consistent encouragement to do more, letting me take risks and letting me grow where I needed to. I also have to give it to my parents. They’re both from very different worlds but they’re always open to the conversations and have been really helpful in allowing me to talk things out.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career and do you feel like you have overcome it?
- Cindy Hamilton: I’ve had many challenges over my career. I actually left the government because I was told by an Army colonel that I needed to wait my turn for promotion after being very successful for many years and I’m not sure if that was because I was young or I was a woman but I didn’t stick around to see the outcome and I haven’t looked back since.
- Cynecia Harris: One of the barriers that women feel is just not being “one of the guys.” Women in IT and tech companies are always the minority. Maybe they don’t want to go golfing, maybe they don’t want to hang out with their drinking buddies. It feels like being excluded from those male-dominant types of relationships. But we want to be seen as a respectable and knowledgeable partner within this industry. I think that’s a big challenge to overcome that gender bias within the workspace.
- Josie Smoot: I don’t think I’ve ever really had any barriers due to my gender but more of my age and I think just being confident in what you know, building that credibility and justifying it before you ask for things. I think here at Iron Bow I have been fortunate that they’ve given me that ability. They’ve trusted my advice and my ideas – and no idea is ever a bad idea – it may not be the right one at the time but it might get you to that final solution that you need.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
- Cindy Hamilton: Regardless of your gender, have a plan, work to implement your own plan. You have to be your own advocate before you look for someone else to advocate for you. Lean in, help others, and make a difference – every day.
- Cynecia Harris: You have to be a little bit selfish. Sometimes women will be viewed as less assertive or passionate or driven within this particular industry and you really just need to psych yourself out and say, ‘you got this, you know what to do.’ Also, align yourself with people who you want to be like. It’s very important to know what your brand is and how you want people to see you within your organization and within business. This will help elevate yourself to the next level.
- Josie Smoot: Always be open. Take opportunities to learn and may not necessarily be within your role. When I first started, I was always the first one to take on something else, always volunteering to say ‘I’ll go to that tradeshow,” or “I’ll go to that event.” This gave me the opportunity not just to learn but also grow my professional network and experiences across the board. Do it when you’re young, when you don’t have responsibilities like kids or spouses. Be open to opportunities that are out there. Say yes whenever you can.
How do you think women can support other women within their organizations?
- Cindy Hamilton: Roles in the work force as well as within the family have changed so drastically and we need to be more inclusive than exclusive. So my message to all is to be your own advocate. Know when you reach a plateau and do not stay past your freshness date. I have two favorite sayings: ‘failure is not an option’ and ‘through chaos comes opportunity’ and I’ve used that as a guide for myself throughout my career.
- Cynecia Harris: Organizations can continue to include women and we can support each other by coming together. It’s really important to have a mentor or to get together with smaller groups and talk to women about the challenges. Discuss the elephants in the room, don’t just sweep it under the rug and say “Ah, those are just guys being guys.” Really try to address the issues and discuss amongst your peers or even people who are at different levels, get their feelings and empathize with that. Women tend to be very empathetic, it’s one of our natural traits. Own that, use that as a skill and partner with other people to discuss what feelings they’re experiencing. This is really important to evolve change within an organization.
- Josie Smoot: I think we can support each other as women or as leaders to other women in an organization is to push each other to invest in ourselves. I think a lot of us, myself included, deal with the “mother’s guilt” meaning we feel like we’re not doing enough. Either we’re not spending enough time with our kids or not enough time getting work done. We feel like we have to choose one or the other. We should encourage each other to balance priorities. Go to that soccer practice one week and maybe next week go to that business happy hour. It doesn’t have to be one or the other all the time.
Share one interesting fact about yourself than folks may not know.
- Cindy Hamilton: I am addicted to Bikram yoga and I actually practice five to six times a week. It’s something that I did years ago and recently went back to. For those of you who do not know what Bikram yoga is, it’s 90 minutes of 26 postures in a room that’s 105 degrees. It’s my red badge of courage. It has helped me both mentally and physically not just through COVID but in a job like mine with lots of deadlines and pressure.
- Cynecia Harris: When I was younger, I wanted to be one of two things. I played violin for about 20 years so I wanted to be a virtuoso. Either that or a linguist. I have a knack for languages, I speak another language, I like to communicate, and it’s about paying attention and listening. So between music or language, anything with the ear, has really driven me because with both of those things I had to listen very well to others.
- Josie Smoot: This past fall I was nominated onto the board of the Women’s Center which is a local organization with a mission in helping to build a better and healthier community, not just for our women but also their families through offering mental health services, education as well as just career counseling and training. It’s been a great experience so far.
Stay tuned to Iron Bow’s LinkedIn and Facebook for more Employee Spotlights throughout 2021. Iron Bow isn’t the only company supportive of women, diversity, equity and inclusion. Check out what our partner, Intel, is doing here.
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