How Did I Get Here?

I was just asked by a recent college grad: How did I get where I am in my career? This is a typical question for persons early in their career who are trying to determine what paths they may want to choose. I think one of the best things about telling your story is that everyone will glean something different from it and remember different parts of it as it relates to their own journey. My yoga instructor always says that we are all connected and this blog is one way that I honor that connection. 

‘He will open doors’   

My last 3 jobs were opportunities that opened doors for me: 

1. Working as an Assistant Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) 

2. Working as a Business Specialist (contractor) at the Office of Naval Research (Arlington, VA) 

3. Starting my own company, The Westmoreland Group and continuing my work as a Business Specialist at ONR under a subcontract with ADS Corporation (now ADS Federal) 

As I entered my final year as a graduate student (ABD – all but dissertation) at the University of Maryland – College Park (my 5th of 5 years – Wooosa..) my advisor heeded that it was time to start searching for a job. I researched schools with top Mechanical Engineering programs with a design emphasis, as the Capstone Design Process was my (and my advisors) specialty. I purchased a shiny new teal notebook where I would collect ‘job’ information and keep need-to-know details, because buying something new and shiny is my love language to myself! I was now ready to find a job. I did the traditional online job searching and also attended a few job fairs. I spent plenty of time searching for the best school for me to become a faculty member, reading school profiles, reading job descriptions, reading research agendas, and learning about course curriculum. In the end I was offered 3 opportunities: 

1. Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) [read…home] 

2. Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) [read…I’m no city gal] 

3. United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) [read…yep yep yep] 

In the end I chose (and they me) USNA because of (1) my prospective mentor who also happened to be the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department and (2) the student centered focus of USNA. The pro was that I could focus on students first but the con meant that research would have to be fit in after my teaching responsibilities. The learning curve was steep and challenging but I was more than prepared. I signed a 2 year contract as an Assistant Research Professor. 

As I entered the second half of my second year at USNA, it became clear to me that I may want to choose a different path. I pulled out my shiny (old) teal notebook and started my job searching again. Enter the age of LinkedIN, I had a profile but hadn’t updated it in a while so I dusted it off and updated it with my latest accomplishments since being at USNA. What happened next was surprising – the job found me. A recruiter for ADS Corporation contacted me via message on LinkedIN and I responded and set up a phone interview. The interview was pleasant and informative. I followed up with an in person interview at the ADS Corporation office in Arlington, VA. The contract for my position had not yet been awarded but I was offered a contingent position. I was thrilled but understood that no contract meant no position for me so I continued to search. In December 2014 the contract was awarded and I started my new position at the Office of Naval Research as a Business Specialist. 

The government contracting world was brand new to me, there was so much for me to learn. I thrived in my new office environment and learned my clients’ needs and exceeded them with efficiency that even surprised me. As a Business Specialist I work on finance, project management, program management, technical reviews, technical reports, briefs, speeches and presentations, program outreach, program planning, and ‘other duties as assigned’.  This means I can do many important things for the programs I support (within the confines of my contractor position). During my second year in this new position I started talking with the CEO of my company about pursing a PMP Certificate. In talking with the CEO regularly I gained a lifelong mentor and I was able to successfully obtain my PMP Certification through training at Georgetown University in November 2016. 

In August 2016 I formed The Westmoreland Group LLC as a company of 1, woman-owned small business firm specializing in Project Management, Financial Management, and STEM Programs. Through the guidance of my mentor I was able to go through the steps of forming my own company; acquiring government permission to sub-contract to ADS Corporation and continue to support my same client.  In December 2019 I will have spent 5 years at the Office of Naval Research and the future for me and The Westmoreland Group is bright and abounding with opportunities.  

In the right season in my life God has opened doors for me. 

I am grateful for the opportunities and also for Him preparing me to walk in them. 

He will open doors for you. 


-Sophoria Westmoreland


Image by seth0s from Pixabay

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