Elaine Ward is a member of the new generation of women leaders who broke down the barriers of gender and race – and then cracked the glass ceiling to take technical and business positions traditionally reserved for men.
Elaine is the only African-American woman at her level and position within MITRE. Elaine is the Technical Director of The MITRE Corporation’s Technical Center for Enterprise Strategy and Transformation within the Center for Connected Government (CCG). Her Technical Center is a corporate resource responsible for providing enterprise strategy and transformation capabilities to MITRE’s full suite of federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) and associated customers. MITRE’s FFRDCs are specifically focused on addressing the nation’s most complex challenges, and assisting the United States government with scientific research and analysis, development and acquisition, and systems engineering and integration.
Elaine Ward’s career reflects continuous learning, experience and recognized excellence in the application of enterprise engineering principles, methods, and related research. Both as a government employee and contractor, Elaine's goal has always been to significantly improve government service to citizens by evolving federal government agencies’ strategic direction, enterprise architectures, business process engineering, and organizational change management practices.
Elaine grew up in King George, Virginia in the late sixties/early seventies, during the aftermath of the civil rights movement and the effects of desegregation in the south. Her brother had attended a segregated high school—the school for non-white students, Ralph Bunche High School and her childhood education began in a desegregated Head Start program in the same building. In her early life, Elaine expressed an interest in math and music, which her mother began teaching her at age four. Her teachers noticed how adept she was at math in kindergarten. In first grade, she gave a short 20-minute music recital displaying her musical talent to her fellow first graders and their teachers. After that performance, she was asked to play in various community and school talent shows for which she received award ribbons throughout elementary, middle, and high school.
She continued to excel in math and science (and the arts) and was offered the opportunity to skip second grade, but her mom thought it would put her at a disadvantage. She began identifying with a cousin who had attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She watched her cousin graduate in the mid-seventies and receive a well-paying entry-level mathematician job at Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. Elaine saw this as a beacon of hope, light, and opportunity for herself and potential for a career in the white-collar world.
This was particularly significant to Elaine, because her parents had not attended college. Her father had to drop out of secondary school to help take care of his siblings. He later received an honorary high school diploma in his seventies. Her mom completed high school and then held several jobs in the role of domestic worker, allowing her to serve many families over the years.
Elaine continued to excel in math, science, and the liberal arts throughout middle and high school. She applied for and received her first assignment at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) -- previously Naval Weapons Laboratory -- as a sophomore in high school at the age of sixteen. Her official title was Scientific and Engineering Apprentice and she earned $3.83 per hour. She was so excited! In this job, which she later realized was the beginning of her career, she focused on operational systems conceptualization, requirements specification, design, development, test, and deployment of the AEGIS U.S. Navy phased array radar-based combat system. She continued this job as she began her undergraduate computer science (CS) program at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Despite challenges of being the first CS co-op, she found ways to return to NSWC during every spring, summer, and winter break throughout her undergraduate degree program. During some years she would take off a spring or fall semester so that she could continue working and learning. The co-op program was helping to finance her education. She was the first in her immediate family to attend and graduate from a university.
After graduating, her mentor at the Naval Surface Warfare Center convinced her that it was time to move on from the federal government and to try her hand in private industry. Elaine resigned from the federal government and accepted a job with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). At CSC, she was a key member of a research and development team developing an end-to-end object-oriented lifecycle methodology for creating software systems deployed to Dessert Storm and Shield. Her principal investigator of this project had previously worked for MITRE and encouraged Elaine to consider MITRE later in her career. By an interesting turn of events, she had an opportunity to interview with MITRE much earlier and decided to accept a position as a senior member of the technical staff within the Software Engineering Technical Center.
In her early days at MITRE, Elaine delivered engineering advice to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Veterans Benefits Administration. She leveraged her knowledge, skills, and abilities in systems and software engineering, oriented-analysis and design, and data modeling to key customer programs and projects. During the mid-nineties, part of MITRE’s work was transitioned to Mitretek Systems. Due to the nature of the work that Elaine was performing, she was automatically reassigned to Mitretek Systems. With Mitretek Systems (now Noblis), she applied logical data modeling, design, and systems middleware design to programs within the Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration. Elaine had planned to stay at MITRE for a long time, but when the split between MITRE and Mitretek occurred, she decided to put her resume on the street. She had recently completed her M.S. in software systems engineering leveraging MITRE’s Advanced Graduate Degree Program.
She joined the consulting arm of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Concepts Center. There she guided teams at an insurance company (GEICO) and was engaged in projects developing tools and techniques to deliver object-oriented systems, leveraging commercial off-the-shelf middleware products. Later she joined a spin-off from MITRE, Concept Five Technologies, where she continued to provide enterprise-engineering support to projects in the pharmaceutical, insurance, banking, and investment domains – clients included Novartis, SmithKline Beecham, United States Automobile Association, Chevy Chase Bank, Merrill Lynch, Fair Isaac, and Hitachi Ltd.
With the encouragement of her husband, Elaine later returned to MITRE after the birth of her two amazing daughters. She held progressively responsible technical roles and positions. With the creation of the Internal Revenue Service FFRDC (now evolved to become the Center for Connected Government (CCG) which now manages five FFRDCs), Elaine first supported, and was the lead MITRE interface to the U.S. Customs Service enterprise architecture program. She then served as the senior technical advisor to the Department of Veterans Affair’s Chief Enterprise Architect and made major strides toward maturation of the VA architecture program.
MITRE's leaders recognized Elaine’s breadth of technical knowledge and experience and asked her to take a leadership role as a department head in the newly established Center for Enterprise Modernization’s practices (now technical centers) in the area of business engineering. Soon after, Elaine was asked to lead an additional department, Enterprise Architecture that was later combined with business engineering to form the new Business Engineering and Architecture department. Later, Elaine asked to take on the position of division manager, responsible for leading three departments: Enterprise Architecture, Business Engineering, and Organizational Change Management. She excelled in this assignment, creating teams of expertise in these areas who are now sought by MITRE customers to guide and support their enterprise strategy, transformation, architecture, and enterprise modernization programs.
As MITRE implemented an internal transformation to become more customer and business focused, it became apparent that a reorganization of our Technical Centers needed to be considered. Elaine was selected to be a member of the study group assigned this task. In the kick-off meeting, MITRE's chief technology officer asked her to lead this study team. In that role, she strategized, planned, organized and directed the team’s analysis, design, and recommendation activities. She brought the expertise of her practices (strategy, architecture, business process engineering and change management) to this team and led the creation of the recommendations that have since been implemented as nine distinct corporate technical centers, each with a specific suite of capabilities to support portfolios and work programs across all of MITRE’s customers.
MITRE's CEO lauded her actions, noting, “Elaine demonstrated outstanding leadership in the corporation’s efforts to assess and provide recommendations to strengthen corporate Technical Centers. The team that she led was widely recognized by the officers as a truly high-performing team. Elaine and all team members demonstrated a selfless approach to a difficult topic which is likely to have impact on each team member. They drew upon many diverse sources to produce an assessment that led to a set of actionable recommendations to eliminate, merge, consolidate and create technical centers. Elaine and her team demonstrated great courage in their approach to the task and they built support for their recommendations every inch of the way. I continue to complement Elaine for both the approach to the task and the results. The results have been acted upon and set the foundation for tech centers for the foreseeable future.”
Elaine has displayed similar leadership with regard to the norms and processes of CCG, tackling the myriad of difficult project planning and staff selection problems that arise within such a dynamic business and customer environment. These efforts have delivered programs such as “Ask the Experts” and “Right Staffing” models and services.
“Ask the Experts” was created as a result of internal MITRE customers asking of there was an easier way to "reach" experts within the CCG Practices. Elaine and her team created a tool to allow anyone to ask a question, which was then posed to a group of capability experts who would respond within 48 hours. The questions and answers were logged in a searchable knowledge repository allowing anyone across the company to query.
“Right Staffing” provides a framework and decision model to support getting the right individual with the right competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities)—regardless of their assigned department, assigned to a CCG project or task. It emphasizes better integration of Technical Center leaders into work shaping and work formulation that then creates a forum for right staffing.
Both initiatives were executed leveraging a framework that differentiates organizational stewardship of capabilities from competencies of our staff. Elaine clearly articulated the importance of decoupling these components while showing their relationship in supporting top down business forecasting, organizational accountability/ownership, and strategic management of our workforce.
Elaine is passionate about enterprise transformation. She was invited to participate in the First International Workshop on Enterprise Transformation at the Tennenbaum Institute at Georgia Tech. It was noted that what her team is doing at MITRE to integrate the disciplines and backgrounds of organizational change (psychology), strategy (business management), and business/technical transformation (information management and systems engineering) is a novel and warranted concept to be further explored by academia and industry.
Elaine is also a champion of women in leadership and diversity and inclusion. She currently serves on the Linkage Board of Advisors for Women in Leadership and has been on the board since 2013. In 2012 she was awarded with Linkage’s Women in Leadership Passionate Champion Award. She also serves as co-chair of the Workforce goal of MITRE’s Corporate Council for Diversity and Inclusion. She participates actively in the MITRE Women’s Lessons in Leadership Program that provides opportunities for a selected cohort of women from across the company to study and explore women’s leadership topics with senior MITRE leaders throughout the year. Drawing from her interest in these initiatives, Elaine uses her leadership role to mentor and coach other women, helping them to develop the competencies they need to "stay in the arena."
As someone who has always been active in her church and community life, Elaine currently serves as youth small group leader for high schools seniors and previously served as a small group leader for middle school girls in her church. Last year, her pastor asked her to serve on a youth pastoral selection committee, and subsequently volunteered to assess the youth program and to help set it up for success as the new youth pastor was coming onboard. In addition, she serves on the worship band, as a keyboardist and backup vocalist.
Foremost, she enjoys spending time with her husband and family. She has a passion for traveling and seeing the world. She and her husband are raising two talented girls (a sophomore in high school and ta sophomore in college) who know there are no limits to what they can accomplish – in school, in dance, and in their future careers. Elaine also loves spending time planting and pruning in her gardens.
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