Earlier this year, I wrote a post for Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March). It occurred to me a few weeks later that I did not need to wait for February or March of each year to spotlight the talents of phenomenal women that are doing amazing things in their respective fields and careers.
Today’s post has been assigned under a new category, Her-Story, for this blog. My plan is to capture the stories of female dynamos, unsung heroines, and trailblazers that have and are creating a path for others to follow. Why? Because I can.
My subject for this post is Alma Martinez Fallon. Alma is the director of supply chain procurement at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII). I first met Alma while we were both serving on the board of directors for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 1999.
In her current position, she is responsible for sourcing over $1 billion annually in materials, subcontracting and service requirements for all programs at NNS, and joint procurement with General Dynamics Electric Boat — NNS’s partner in the building of Virginia-class submarines. In this position she manages 4,000 suppliers across North America and Europe. Her employment tenure with NNS and it’s predecessor companies is more than 25 years.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Alma immigrated to the U.S. at the tender age of nine with other family members. She is bi-lingual with English as her second language. Language barriers can be very daunting, especially for a young girl learning to live in a new country. Yet, as so many others have done, one learns to face these and other fears and overcome challenges to reach success.
“Mountain tops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” Winston Churchill
An important factor that has contributed to Alma’s success is her willingness to embrace change rather than fear it. Initially, she began her professional career in education teaching at the high school level. A few years later she returned to the classroom to pursue a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University.
She began her engineering career at NNS as a co-op intern. From there she progressed forward through the organization eventually to lead projects that include the George H.W. Bush and the Ford Class aircraft carriers. Along the way she carved out the necessary time to acquire a graduate degree in engineering management from George Washington University. Today she is one of the top leaders in supply chain procurement and subcontract management in the U.S.
Personally, if I ever found myself stranded on the open seas, one of the first persons that I would try to reach is Alma. Her work and many connections with air craft carriers and submarines would definitely come in handy.
Alma contributes much of her success to values that were instilled in her at a very young age by family members. “If you can help others, help them”, she says. “Be the best that you can be, and always put your best foot forward.” These values along with her education formed a foundation to build upon. Add materials to build with such as mentors at work, professional organizations, and personal and professional relationships and networks. The product or outcome is a leader who is comfortable in her own skin, knows what she is made of, and what she can accomplish.
As a visible and transformational leader, she not only focuses on the product but the process. She recognized long ago that one must go above and beyond to reach the next level. Alma has and continues to be an active member of the engineering community. She has served in a number of elected and leadership positions that include:
o FY2004 national president of SWE.
o ASME Board of Governors.
o 2007 Chair of American Association of Engineering Societies.
She is a senior life member of SWE, and a Fellow of ASME and a member of their Committee on Finance and Investment.
Other awards and accomplishments are too numerous to list here, however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of them. I had the honor of serving as president-elect under Alma’s leadership as national president of SWE. During her tenure in this position, she was recognized by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) in 2004 for her outstanding contributions to engineering and science, including management, administration and education.
This SHPE award is named for Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary. Award recipients demonstrate a pioneering spirit and tireless enthusiasm through their innovative accomplishments, leading to the advancement of engineering and science. This award really captures the essence of Alma as a professional as well as the unique individual that many know her to be.
She started the first continuing development workshop series within SWE to encourage professional growth in members, and established and chaired a math and science conference program, Bridge to Tomorrow, for female students from sixth to 12th grade as a member of the American Association of Engineering Societies.
When asked what it takes to be successful as a female in engineering?, here’s what she might say: “First, gain credibility within your company or industry by mastering technical proficiencies. Next, learn how to lead others even if you are not a supervisor or manager. You need support from those you work with and you have to support them as well. Looking beyond that is capturing opportunities to transform your organization, the company, supply chain, etc. through innovation and creativity.”
Alma is married to Bob Fallon. They live near Newport News, VA with their three corgis.