By Matthew Montgomery
DCMA Public Affairs
YORK, Pa. - Women’s History Month is not only a time to reflect on the historical contributions of women, but also an ideal time to highlight the accomplishments of those currently making their mark.
Sonia Foster — the only female mechanical quality assurance specialist for the Defense Contract Management Agency BAE Systems York location - is currently writing a history of success that is supported by the efforts of so many who have come before her. Foster, still in the Keystone program, is setting high standards for future employees.
One of her major accomplishments with DCMA was passing the American Society for Quality Certified Quality Technician exam two years before the recommended agency timeline. She has also completed all of her core and core plus requirements in the quality assurance skillset and finished agency courses from QUAL100 all the way up to QUAL120. These courses have been completed years earlier than many of her counterparts.
If that wasn’t enough, Foster has also acquired radiographic, liquid penetrant, magnetic particle and packaging plus requirements and is demilitarization certified. During her Keystone program she was able to serve several rotational assignments where she received training in air launch and recovery equipment critical safety items, electronics, the Advance Combat Helmet and Modular Integrated Communications Helmet, body armor, clothing and textiles, wire and fiber rope assemblies and many other programs.
“I take great pride in learning the necessary training and getting the necessary certifications needed to align myself with my duty station needs,” said Foster. “I want to do my best, I take great pride in my work and believe in putting the DCMA mission first - supporting the warfighter.”
She describes herself as being “fiercely patriotic,” but draws her inspiration from the leadership team at her contract management office. Specifically, she said Ron Demelio, quality assurance director, and Bill Edwards, DCMA New Cumberland deputy director, have provided her the latitude and tools to succeed with the agency.
“I wish everyone would have the pleasure to be as lucky as me, and be able to work for such great people,” said Foster. “The guidance they’ve provided, and the confidence they’ve shown in me, have allowed me to accomplish much in a short amount of time.”
Their confidence in her recently resulted in her being presented a coin for her “outstanding efforts on the staff assistance verification visit team as a process auditor,” she said. The SAVV team is a management internal control review panel. Foster’s main purpose was to measure the quality assurance effectiveness, mission readiness and continuous improvement process while promoting customer satisfaction and positively impacting the effectiveness of the Philadelphia office.
While many DCMA employees associate the term Keystone with new workers just starting their career with the federal government, many are seasoned professionals with years of experience. Foster, for example, started her career twenty five years ago working for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as a language assistant for an anti-smuggling unit. She later served as a nuclear resident assistant for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission where she worked directly for the nuclear resident chief. Before DCMA, she worked for the Army supporting port operations for the import and export of weapons, ammunition, explosives and military equipment.
“My jobs prior to DCMA provided me with great insight into how various branches of the government use the acquisition process to accomplish their mission,” said Foster. “It also provided me with a solid foundation to build upon with the agency.”
It is not only her professional experiences that have provided her the skills necessary to succeed. The grandmother of two says the skills from her personal life, raising a family and volunteering in the community, provide her with a unique perspective and help her stand out among her team members.
In her personal life, Foster received the Presidents Volunteer Service Award from the American Cancer Society in honor of her many hours of service and civic participation in the fight against cancer.
When her daughter was younger she served as a Girl Scout leader; 4-H leader; cheerleading coach; tumbling, softball and soccer mom; fundraiser and volunteer at local schools; and mentor to young children, helping them learn to read. Foster delivered Thanksgiving groceries, Christmas meals and presents to needy families. She assisted the elderly, and sent care packages to service members and wounded warriors.
“Women are usually the family and community caregivers,” said Foster. “I think this brings patience, communication, and nurturing care for the customer and my co-workers. I have a softer, but effective approach when it comes to the job.”
This unique outlook on an all-male team provides great perspective and insight to the office.
“I've been fortunate to have witnessed first-hand what diversity brings to a team, especially when we're talking about breaking down barriers in a male-dominated career field like quality assurance,” Edwards said. “We have to ensure that we have the best athletes on the team, regardless of gender. I'm very proud of how DCMA ensures there's a level playing field by hiring and promoting based on a person's skills and abilities.
“We expect Sonia's accelerated training progression to pay us huge dividends by her application of those learned concepts as she gains more practical experience over time. The federal government should model inclusivity to private industry. Diversity broadens the team's perspective and we know that it brings depth to our decision making processes,” continued Edwards.
Foster believes her position as the only woman on the team is just the beginning of a broader movement of women coming to the agency. “I believe there will be more women in DCMA's future because DCMA supports the needs of women by offering career development and flexibility. Roles normally occupied by men provide unique challenges for women and an opportunity to contribute new ideas.”
Some of Foster’s favorite phrases to live by: Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Seize the opportunity. Work hard. Never give up. Communicate your direction. Continue to improve yourself every day. Evaluate yourself. If you fall down, dust yourself off, and keep striving. If you don't reach your goals, try a different approach or process. Don't be too hard on yourself. Know everybody has a bad day. Don't let obstacles get you down. Continue your work. Always respect others. Tell the truth. Help people. You are an asset, never believe otherwise. You make a positive difference. You are loved.
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