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News | Aug. 12, 2022

Cybersecurity specialist wins STEM award

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

Nicole Dobson realized in high school that she wanted to pursue a STEM career.

Her original plan was to join the Air Force, but during her senior year of high school, she took a computer programming class, which sparked her interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

“After that class, I changed my mind instantly and decided to major in computer science at Bethune-Cookman University,” said Dobson, who is an information technology cybersecurity specialist for Defense Contract Management Agency’s Technical Directorate. “I was determined and excited to represent African-American females in a STEM career.”

Women of Color magazine recently recognized Dobson’s STEM enthusiasm and professional performance at DCMA with the publication’s STEM Technology Rising Star award. She will officially receive the award at the Women of Color STEM Conference Oct. 7-8. The Detroit-based event will be broadcast for those unable to attend.

Dobson, a nine-year DCMA team member, works in the Technical Directorate’s Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Assessment Center, known as DIBCAC.

“I feel so appreciative, honored, happy and humbled to have been selected for this award,” said Dobson. “This recognition is amazing and surreal. I am still processing and thinking to myself whether this is really happening to me.”

Women of Color promotes minority achievement in STEM careers. The organization sponsors multiple conferences, including the Women of Color STEM Conference and Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Global Competitiveness Conference.

“This award means so much to me to know that my leadership and peers have been watching me and chose to recognize my work ethic,” Dobson said. “It really gives me an incredible feeling of being acknowledged, seen and heard for the many efforts that I have put in over the course of my career.”

Dobson said her job allows her to support the nation’s military and hone her technical skills. Prior to her current position, Dobson worked as a quality assurance specialist — and later as a software technical specialist — for DCMA Special Programs South within the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. In addition, she has worked as a technical support analyst and computer systems security analyst for Lockheed Martin. Her diverse experience helped develop her IT cybersecurity specialist skills.

“Nicole is the most conscientious person I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” said Mia Hazelgrove, DIBCAC team chief and Dobson’s supervisor. “She truly cares about each individual person. She makes every person feel welcome and comfortable, no matter the situation.”

As an IT specialist and DIBCAC assessor, Dobson provides detailed Defense Industrial Base cybersecurity assessment findings and results. She is responsible for providing an in-depth analysis of the current cybersecurity practices and implementation throughout the DIB’s IT infrastructure and network. She facilitates instructional cybersecurity assessor training and certification for all Department of Defense agencies to ensure cybersecurity compliancy.

“In my current position as an IT cybersecurity specialist, I act as a verification instrument to the Department of Defense’s cybersecurity enforcement policies and doctrine,” she said. “I believe my technical prowess, communication skills, encouraging spirit, friendly attitude and calm demeanor have enabled me to be placed in high-pressure situations where I have produced positive outcomes for the warfighter. I train personnel from the DOD agencies to perform assessments with the correct analytical and technical skills to achieve the optimum assessment results. My assessment results show a real-time representation of a contractor’s ability to meet the requirements necessary to protect controlled unclassified information in nonfederal systems and organizations, and ultimately, their ability to safeguard controlled unclassified information.”

As she reflects on her recent recognition, Dobson is glad to be a part of the DCMA team.

She said the agency provides employees with various training experiences and opportunities for mentorship. Dobson also appreciates the flexible work schedule and interacting with her coworkers who have a wealth of knowledge.

“We have a diverse group of employees here who all contribute to the mission success of DCMA by providing a variety of different experiences, unique skills, increasing morale, and creating efficiency and effectiveness within the organization,” she explained.

Dobson thanked her leaders and peers for helping her grow in her position. She has learned a lot from them over the years and appreciates the mentorship, guidance, and encouragement. Two of her mentors are Angela McLean, a cyber-governance risk and compliance staff analyst for a DOD contractor, and Mike Ludtka, a DCMA Special Programs South quality assurance supervisor.

Dobson’s immediate career goals are to stay with DCMA and  continue to support military personnel and their global missions.

“I want to continue to grow in my career where I can continue to learn, take on additional responsibilities, and contribute as much value as possible to the team and organization,” she said. 

Dobson has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Bethune-Cookman University and a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Webster University. She has multiple DOD, Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, known as DAWIA, and Computing Technology Industry Association certifications in IT, quality assurance, security, networking, and software. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she mentors school-age children in various youth initiative programs.

Dobson encourages youth, especially females and minorities, to pursue a career in STEM.

“We need more women and minorities in STEM careers to help to expand on the small percentage of their presence in this area today,” Dobson noted. “Today, it is presently and historically dominated by males. I believe that a bigger representation of minority women in STEM will encourage other young women to pursue a career in STEM.”