PORT HUENEME, Calif. —
Like a track runner clearing hurdles to race to the finish, Shamikka Chalmers has used challenges she’s faced in life to propel her forward.
The information technology specialist for NSWC PHD, with a penchant for computer networking, puzzles, numbers and teaching, has been named a Technology Rising Star by Career Communications Group's “Women of Color” magazine and partners Consumers Energy and General Motors Co.
The award recognizes women of color who early in their careers have significantly contributed to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields. Technology Rising Stars must also help shape future technology workers, who will be mainly women, racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants as Baby Boomers retire, the magazine says, citing a Department of Labor study.
Chalmers’ long list of professional accomplishments range from satellite communications control and private industry technical support to high-level network engineering, system administration and teaching. She has also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information technology and information systems management, respectively, and teaches at a local college.
“The drive is intrinsic to who I am,” Chalmers said. “It’s always been this way.”
Department superiors who nominated her for the award describe someone who rapidly absorbs new information, balances complex responsibilities, is innovative, helpful, easy to work with and charming. They commend Chalmers for working full days on the base and then teaching for three hours at Laurus College’s Oxnard campus four days a week.
Successful juggling is a primary reason she was nominated, said Christine Delgado, a PHD branch manager and Chalmers’ supervisor.
“When we see her contributions toward what she does for the fleet, and her compromise of having two kids and the two jobs, we wanted to let her know we see it, and we wanted to make sure she knew we appreciated her and her contributions,” Delgado said.
Her life has always been a balancing act, Chalmers said. Several times, she raised her children alone while working full time, often attending classes, as her husband was deployed overseas with the Navy.
People who worked with her remember Chalmers for her expertise and capabilities. Such as Jeff Koe, a department manager now overseeing Chalmers’ supervisors. He worked with her previously in the special security office and said he “jumped at the chance” to work with her again. He also wrote Chalmers’ nomination letter.
“She was a perfect match for that category—what she brings to our department with her expertise, demeanor, professionalism and energy,” Koe said. “We’re lucky to have her on our team.”
The Navy entrusts Chalmers with the cybersecurity of its newest ships, such as the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), and recruited her to work with the Program Office in Washington, D.C. to get it authorized to operate.
“That involved managing and mitigating risks,” Koe said. “She made sure that the Zumwalt could run, and to do that, each of those systems had to be accredited. That one also has a TSCE, or Total Ship Computing Environment.”
Chalmers is also a subject matter expert on TSCE, the network that runs the littoral combat ship she works on, according to Delgado. As the TSCE In-Service Engineering Agent, or ISEA, for the Future, Chalmers devises solutions for ships in trouble.
“The ships can’t go anywhere without it (the network),” she said.
When many hurdles surfaced, Chalmers has been alone, such as when it was time to pick a college to attend while finishing high school in her hometown of Las Vegas.
“There was no guidance—everyone just said I would be great, and that I could go to any college I wanted,” Chalmers said.
An Army recruiter was there, though, and spent time with her as she enlisted and chose to study satellite communications, a choice which led to her information technology career.
She eventually joined Port Hueneme Division in 2013 and has been in her current IT position specializing in information security since 2016.
The hurdle Chalmers continually has to clear is that of being a “triple minority”—a woman of color in a STEM field, she said. She does it by “allowing my intelligence and capability to speak for myself.”
“For me, being able to emulate success as a minority to little girls who look like me, who look up to me - this award shows them that we’re seen,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers plans to attend the 2019 Women of Color STEM Conference in October in Detroit.