Sharde Estep: Growing her career by breaking out of her comfort zone
Sharde Estep is co-hosting an AWS GameDay for fellow Leidos solution architects this summer. The objective for this event is to help her fellow solution architects develop new skills through gamified, hands-on learning. She hopes that this upskilling event will not only help her team innovate and improve their current work but also win new business moving forward.
Sharde cares deeply about helping people develop and go after their career goals. After all, she has benefited from others doing the same for her.
After landing at Leidos in mid-2013, Sharde worked hard and earned recognition and career guidance from company leaders, , including from Kevin Fogarty in his former CTO role within the Cyber & SIGINT Solutions (CSS) organization.
Currently, Sharde is participating in the Technical Leadership Development Program (TLDP), which gives her opportunities to learn by rotating through the intelligence group and taking on responsibilities outside of her everyday role.
“Our CTO has advocated for me along the way," she says. “Now that I'm in the development program, his guidance and gentle push have encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone both to learn and to gain exposure within the organization."
Sharde's formal mentor, Meghan Good, director of the Cyber Accelerator, gave similar advice. “She also adamantly told me to branch out into other programs and other customers," Sharde says. “Meghan and Kevin have both made virtual introductions for me, and I've taken it from there."
This process has helped Sharde grow more comfortable with furthering her career by asking for what she wants. “The key to going after things is to be ready to follow through," Sharde says, explaining that as more people saw that she was both willing to do the work and successful at it, more and more people began to seek her out.
Sharde has built a strong network, including mutually supportive relationships with senior leaders. To get similar results, Sharde recommends taking risks.
“My first couple years at Leidos, I came to work, did my job and went home. Then one day, something clicked," she says. “I thought, 'You're more than this. Go ahead and ask for more.'"
Sharde began to volunteer for proposals and lead teams. If she found herself outside her comfort zone, she'd figure it out. In Sharde's experience, once you ask for more and do a good job, you'll create a favorable cycle that keeps sending more opportunities your way.
“At Leidos, leaders have always been supportive of career development, especially when they see someone who wants to go further," she says. “They always push you forward. I've never been disappointed and can honestly say that I've been very happy in my career."
Sharde doesn't just focus on creating opportunities for herself, but also for young girls. As a volunteer with Black Girls Code, Sharde hopes to motivate minority girls to consider careers in STEM fields. She hopes that by participating in the Black Girls Code program, more girls will realize that they have a wider variety of options to pursue.
“I hope it pushes them and opens their eyes to what's possible, so they realize the sky is the limit," she says.
As Sharde's experience shows, inclusion is a core value at Leidos. We aim to create a welcoming work environment in which employees with various backgrounds can express their perspectives, draw from their experiences and share their opinions.
“I have nothing but great things to say about working at Leidos. I never feel like an outsider — I feel included and important," Sharde says. “I believe that we're a very diverse and inclusive company."
Leidos Inclusion Hiring Event
Our diverse teams perform at high levels, and our organization benefits from those improved outcomes as a result.
To further our purpose of building and supporting a diverse workforce, Leidos will be hosting virtual hiring events in the coming months for diverse Systems Engineers, Software Engineers, Network Engineers, Cyber Engineers and Project Managers.
If you're interested in learning more about Leidos and joining our teams, we invite you to register now.