Director, Cyber Strategy Implementation
It all started with a box.
In her first internship in government, Roberta “Bobbie” Stempfley was told to shred a box filled with documents. Initially, Stempfley, who had graduated with an engineering degree days before, was discouraged. But as she started shredding, she began reading.
Soon, she had devoured all the papers and was asking her supervisor for more information about what she learned. The box jump-started Stempfley’s 23-year career in the federal government.
Everything is an opportunity, even if it doesn’t look like it.
Stempfley rose through the ranks in government, eventually to become the acting assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity office. Now, she’s director of cybersecurity implementation at the nonprofit Mitre, where she deals with and confronts the same challenges she did at DHS, but instead researches them from outside the federal bureaucracy.
“Like so many people I know, I find that people are passionate about a couple of things: They’re passionate about their ability to contribute, and they’re passionate about having meaningful things to work on,” Stempfley said. “Public service gives me those pieces. These are not problems that the market is going to solve naturally.”
Since her early days, Stempfley said she has made an effort to make sure that the perspectives of everyone in a room are heard.
“I’ve really taken it to heart to make sure that everybody in the room, be it a woman, or someone who’s got a perspective completely different than the one being presented” has his or her ideas heard, Stempfley said. “We’ve got such hard problems to solve, and we can’t solve them with yesterday’s ideas.”
Stempfley said her best piece of advice for a young woman in science and technology was to take advantage of every possible opportunity.
“Everything is an opportunity, even if it doesn’t look like it,” Stempfley said. “Don’t let yourself get discouraged by it. Find that opportunity.”
– Jake Williams