Leading Leidos Women: Erlene Adams, Debbie De La O, and Toni Marzulli
In recognition of Women’s History Month in the U.S. and International Women’s Day (IWD), Leidos and its Women’s Network Employee Resource Group will celebrate with a series of spotlights on influential women at the company. The spotlights will run through March, coinciding with the #BalanceforBetter campaign built around the IWD theme. This fourth installment features Program Manager Erlene Adams (Civil Group), Portfolio Manager Debbie De La O (Defense), and Senior Program Manager Toni Marzulli (Intelligence).
Read below, in their own words, what motivates them, what are their biggest accomplishments, and what #BalanceforBetter means to them.
Who or what has been your biggest influence in your career?
Erlene: As I look back over my career and the person I have become, I would say that my father, Mr. Joseph Myers, has had the biggest influence on my career. I watched him go to work day after day, always giving 110 percent, even when his health was failing. My dad instilled in me the importance of having a good work ethic and to keep your word. If you said you were going to do something -- do it! He taught me that my works should speak for me even if I never uttered a word.
Debbie: My mother has been the greatest influence in my career. She was a working mom, and I grew up watching her juggle home and work responsibilities. She had a successful career and I don’t think she missed a beat in the “mom” department. She instilled a strong work ethic in me and taught me that anything was possible through hard work, commitment, and the willingness to go after what you wanted. Early in my career I had a second important mentor, Linda Morrow, who saw potential in me. She placed me in challenging situations that helped me grow and develop my leadership skills.
Toni: From an early age, both of my parents made the biggest impact on my career path and pursuit of goals in life. My father owned a small business and my mother was a stay-at-home mom, raising children and supporting my father behind the scenes. Although they had different roles and responsibilities, they shared strong core values and encouraged me every step along the way. They both taught me that persistence and hard work were essential to success in any field. They challenged me to take risks and pursue my dreams, which was realized when I received a scholarship to attend university, as the first person within my family.
How did you become interested in your field?
Erlene: As a teenager I was exposed to IT. My mother, Clementine Myers, worked on mainframe computers and used key punch machines. I often went with her to work in the evenings. My fascination with the work she was doing in the area of IT began at that time. IT has evolved tremendously since then, but my interest has never waned.
Debbie: I started out in logistics and supply chain management and worked closely with engineering and IT functional teams. Over time, technology insertion became critical to modernizing logistics functions. I found myself increasingly interested in IT, and it eventually led me down the path of managing IT projects. My portfolio grew over time and last year I was given the opportunity to manage a different line of business. My career has taken a few turns here and there, but each position has prepared me for the next challenge.
Toni: I started pursuing two majors (biology and French) at university because I loved the balance of critical thinking and communication. I was passionate about science and understanding how complex forms of life exist and relate to one another within the world. Biology was a perfect fit and taught me how statistics, research, logic, and theory can be applied to many aspects of life. I easily moved from biology to business and IT because the underpinning skills and thinking patterns are aligned. In my current role, I’m able to blend disciplined thinking, problem solving, and communication to lead a high-performing team and generate successful technology outcomes for customers.
What motivates you to pursue professional excellence and achievements?
Erlene: I can sum my pursuit of professional excellence up in one word: Teamwork. I know that I can't do this job alone. I am motivated by the work we do for such great customers like the Army Corps of Engineers, and knowing that the services we provide have a direct impact to their very important missions.
Debbie: I’m naturally driven and I love what I do. I feel invested in Leidos and invested in what we do for our customers. Our work matters, and that motivates me every day.
, Senior Program Manager
Every day, we wake up with the possibility to live life to the fullest and choose to have a purpose. It’s important to me to bring my full self to the work I do, both professionally and personally. I’m motivated by a shared responsibility for humanity: to act with integrity; show respect for one’s self, others, and the environment; build relationships; and be receptive to learning. This enables me to present my best contributions to the workplace, co-workers, customers’ missions and, really, to the society in which we all live.
What is your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
Erlene: My biggest professional accomplishment was having the opportunity to lead an AWESOME team on the ACE-IT contract, enabling our customer to be the first agency to successfully consolidate 55 local service desks to one consolidated Enterprise Service Desk.
, Portfolio Manager
In August of 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It happened just after I’d been given the opportunity to run a larger portfolio. Cancer turns your world upside down, but my work was important to me and I knew that it would allow me to keep a sense of normalcy in my life. I worked through my entire treatment and I had tremendous support throughout the company. My entire team rallied around me and on the days when I was a little more tired than usual, there was always someone who lifted me up. We had a very successful year! We achieved close to $1 billion in contract wins and we were awarded the Defense Group President’s Award. It was a challenging year but I feel a great sense of accomplishment in persevering through some tough days.
Toni: I’m most passionate about leadership and would herald the high-performing Project Services team (within the Centralised Processing Program for Defense Chief Information Officer Group) as my biggest professional accomplishment to date. Through this rockstar team, Project Services has been able to turn a challenging red program to green. As a team, we prioritised customer relationships and their mission success. We created an environment for all team members to flourish, take accountability, and drive success. I’ve focused on genuine relationships and communication to ensure we resolve issues and respond to critical needs as quick as possible. Everyone is working toward the same goals, there is a deep trust with one another, and we all realise our existence as a team is greater than the sum of its parts. Investing in people results in wild success!
What does #BalanceforBetter mean to you?
, Program Manager
#BalanceforBetter is a timely theme for 2019. It provides an opportunity to look back and forward at the same time. Women have made progress on so many levels - from education to medicine, from politics to business, and yet there are many more doors that need to be opened. #Balanceforbetter gives me a peek into the idea that more opportunities for women will be the reality and not a dream. It means that different perspectives will be appreciated and there will be open and honest communication around diversity and inclusion. #BalanceforBetter reflects the idea that the glass ceiling will be shattered! I'm glad to be a part of the new normal.
Debbie: #BalanceforBetter is a reminder that diversity in the workplace is something we have to continue to strive to achieve. We’re a better company when we are inclusive. We create better solutions for our customers when we bring together the ideas of people from different backgrounds, different experiences, and different cultures. I’m motivated to learn more and take on more responsibility in the hopes that it opens the door for the next generation of women. As the mother of a college-aged daughter, I’m hopeful that she will benefit from the hard work and success of the many intelligent and successful women that I work with every day.
Toni: #BalanceforBetter highlights the importance of difference and a gender-balanced world as a clear path to a safer world. Currently, the use of a ‘standard male’ in research has a big impact on women’s lives. It may seem trivial at first glance, but when crash-test research uses men’s measurements as the standard and when safety personal protective equipment is created based on a male face and body…women are at risk every day. It’s catastrophic for half of the population to be at risk and this leads to a lack of trust, physical suffering, and an absence of safety. I worked in a pharmaceutical research lab for many years, and it’s troubling to think that women are not being adequately protected. We are currently living in an exceptional time for women and there have been many advancements in equality. However, focusing on more nuanced aspects of gender-balance will enable us to catapult to a more secure, safer, and richer life experience for both women and men.