CRANE, Ind. – When Dr. Angie Lewis was 18 years old, she got a call – and a question – that changed the course of her life forever. She had just graduated from high school and was looking for summer work. She was Ball State-bound, majoring in education and mathematics.
“When Human Resources was filling intern positions, they called me and asked, ‘Are you a math major, or an education major? Because we need mathematicians,’” said Lewis at a recent Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) mentoring event. “So I became a math major.”
On her first day, she reported to her duty station. According to her supervisor, a mathematician wasn’t needed. A computer scientist, however, would be essential. Lewis, always one to adapt, became a Computer Science major. After one year of classes at Ball State, however, she quickly discovered it wasn’t for her. Business, she realized, was where she excelled.
At the time, Crane didn’t have internships for Business students. Lewis thought her time at Crane had come to an end. As a last-ditch effort, someone in HR sent out an announcement: “Could anyone use a Business Student?”
“And that’s how I ended up as a logistician in the Airborne Electronic Warfare Division,” said Lewis, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, both from Ball State University and a Ph.D. in Management from Sullivan University. She also received a Public Management Certification from Indiana University. “It just goes to show – as long as you’re open to opportunities and willing to acclimate to new situations, you can always find a way to make the best out of an unexpected situation.”
Now, Lewis serves as the Department Head for Corporate Operations. She and her staff ensure a mission-ready environment for the command’s operations. Her current department and staff responsibilities include enterprise level planning, corporate strategy, program office assignments, customer advocacy, human resources, infrastructure, safety, security, congressional and public affairs, information technology, corporate business office services, business and financial management, and property management.
Between her time as a student in the Airborne Electronic Warfare Division and now, she has held positions in Human Resources, Information Technology, the and the Corporate Business Office. Lewis also served as Deputy Department head for the Global Deterrence and Defense Department, and was selected as the Command’s first female Chief of Staff.
Lewis said that although she had experience leading groups of people where she did not know the work from her time in Information Technology, she was still apprehensive about her role as a leader in Global Department.
“I knew I could contribute to the department, but I was somewhat nervous that others might not see it the same way,” said Lewis. That’s when Ben Harkness, the department head, took her aside. Harkness is responsible for the overall strategic and operational direction of the department as it relates to execution and technical capability. The department provides design, development, acquisition, and life cycle support for Strategic Missions systems and hardware.
“He told me, ‘I selected you to be my deputy because you are different than me,’” Lewis recounted. “He said, ‘You see things I don’t see, and as a result, you make me better.’” This experience was a turning point in her career, she shared that “it was then that I realized I could be a leader at Crane that provides value, that I didn’t need to be Ben, or any of the other senior leaders at that time, that I could be me and that would be enough.”
Lewis said that simple conversation has helped orient her thinking when it comes to what she can bring to the table.
“Being a business person in an overwhelmingly technical environment, coupled with the fact that oftentimes I was the only woman in the room during meetings, it could be intimidating to speak up,” said Lewis. “It all came down to trusting my own experience and expertise. I hope that’s one lesson young women can learn from my experience - acknowledging the limits of your comfort zone, but not letting that stifle your growth.”
Lewis was selected by the Indiana Commission for Women as a Torchbearer in 2015 for significant achievements as a woman in government and for her contributions to her employer, local community, and state. She is a member of the Southern Indiana Section of the American Society of Naval Engineers, a member of the Crane Chapter Federal Manager’s Association, and a lifetime member and past president of the Hoosier Hills Chapter of Federally Employed Women. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence County.
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.