Cynthia attended the U.S. Air Force Academy as a member of the 10th class of women. Although she was interested in some of its unique aspects, she didn’t pick USAFA because it was a Service Academy–Cynthia picked it because she wanted to be an astronaut, and of the top 5 universities in the nation in aerospace at the time, they were the only ones with a program called “astronautical” engineering. Little did she know that their interest at the time–the end of the Cold War–was designing missiles, not space stations. More importantly, she didn’t know that the route from military academy to astronaut was test pilot…and under the Combat Exclusion Law in effect at the time, women could not be test-pilots because test-pilots could be activated for combat. By the time she discovered all this, in her third year, it was too late to change her mind about the Academy, but with only a single astronautical engineering course and a couple of electrical engineering courses to go, Cynthia did change my major…to Humanities with an emphasis on Philosophy.
Cynthia was in a near-constant struggle through her time there with Authority, often over feminist issues, yet when she finally made it into the “real” Air Force Cynthia found the things that had gotten her in trouble at the Academy were strengths. She was fortunate in her first couple of jobs, which connected her with life-long mentors who valued creativity and tolerated irreverence. Ultimately her career in communications–which morphed into cybersecurity as that field emerged–gave her skills and leadership opportunities she would never have gained as an astronaut.
Cynthia have led organizations all over the world, including Iraq, Kuwait, Haiti, Germany, and the U.S. She’s been the tech-iest and the least techie person in the room, or in the whole organization. She’s been the youngest, the oldest, the only woman, the follower, the leader, and the person in charge (not always the same). What she has loved about her career to date is embracing change and helping others visualize the future in a way that lets them embrace it too. She has loved challenging leaders–including herself–to do more with what they have, and to think differently about the opportunities and challenges they face. She has loved finding complex problems, figuring out how to tackle them, and inspiring others to see the possibilities outside the status quo and seek the opportunities that arise during periods of disruption and change.