Meet Ann Marie Burke and Hawa Zahra Dirie: two MITRE early career professionals so passionate about STEM Outreach, they’re taking their knowledge on the road. When Ann Marie, STEM Council Treasurer and Software Engineer, and Hawa, STEM Council Operations Lead and Data Scientist, aren’t sharing their own STEM knowledge with local students, they become students themselves.

In November, Ann Marie and Hawa were wowed by the speakers at STEM Media’s STEM Success Summit in Atlanta, GA, an event designed to equip and empower early career professionals and students to launch successful careers in STEM. Attending on behalf of MITRE, a sponsor of the event, Ann Marie and Hawa enjoyed the in-person VIP experience, networking and learning from STEM professionals around the country. They not only gained knowledge for their personal career journeys – like maintaining a “both, and” mindset, they also took away tips and relationships they will use to develop MITRE’s STEM Outreach initiatives.

For two leaders on MITRE’s STEM Council, this was a can’t miss opportunity – Ann Marie and Hawa were so inspired, they decided to share their experience and encourage colleagues and students in the STEM community to get involved in professional development events.

Tell us how your involvement in MITRE’s STEM Council led you to the STEM Success Summit.

Hawa: The STEM Council leads STEM outreach at MITRE; we are a place where MITRE employees get students excited about STEM and inspire the next generation. The STEM Council connects STEM outreach at MITRE by coordinating volunteers, holding meetings to discuss upcoming opportunities and events, and providing workshops.

Ann Marie: The STEM Council has been transitioning from a virtual to hybrid model as the pandemic changes, just like the STEM Success Summit, so we’re looking forward to 2023. MITRE’s Inclusion and Diversity team sponsored the Summit, so we were invited to use this opportunity to network and meet new people also interested in STEM.

Which speakers and events stood out to you the most?

Ann Marie: My favorite was Kantis Simmons’s presentation on public speaking for STEM professionals. He laid out a sandwich of how to create an engaging presentation when communicating sometimes complex STEM information, which I will apply to future presentations I give at MITRE.

Hawa: My favorite speaker was Donald Boone, an entrepreneur and founder of moving company Boxed Up. I really enjoyed his journey of founding his business: dealing with the struggles of a start-up, his personal and professional challenges, navigating employees and investors. It was interesting hearing from someone leveraging his STEM background (mechanical engineer) to become a successful entrepreneur.

What are you biggest takeaways from the event?

Ann Marie: My biggest takeaways are:

  1. Even if you’re scared, take the leap to do what you want to do. In Donald Boone’s presentation “Do it Scared,” he talked about starting companies that didn’t work out and failing. The whole time he was scared but he persevered and became a success.
  2. Have a “both and” mindset. Nehemiah Mabry talked about keeping your goals in mind; you don’t have to say yes to everything if it doesn’t help you accomplish your goals.
  3. And, echoed by many of the speakers, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, know your value, and fight for what you want.

Hawa: Great networking. We met students from North Carolina State who were excited to hear what professionals are doing with their different STEM backgrounds: a chemical engineer who works in cosmetics, entrepreneurs, real estate agents, and structural engineers. It was impactful for us and the students to see the spectrum of what people do with their degrees.

What lessons have you learned that you’re applying to your work on MITRE’s STEM Council?

Hawa: It’s so valuable for people working on STEM outreach to go to events like this because we were able to develop relationships, creating opportunities for future events we host. Being more visible and involved, and having MITRE’s support, helps to support the STEM Council and engage more communities.

I was also impressed with the college-age students attending the Summit – something our STEM Council is exploring. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders, so usually, we focus on the K-12 audience. But there’s a lot of room for outreach to students beyond this age.

Ann Marie: One of the events the STEM Council hosts is a virtual workshop series for K-12 students. We kicked off 2023 with our Learn to Code with Python demo. I’m excited to make this series and other events more engaging by applying concepts from Kantis Simmons’s communication seminar.

And for your colleagues and students, what advice do you have to make the most out of networking events and conferences?  

Ann Marie: Whether it’s an in-person event or virtual, ask questions and engage with the speakers. There are no stupid questions. And remember to reach out afterwards. Being able to talk to the speakers and attendees after the workshops was helpful but make sure to grab people’s emails and reach out after the event.

Hawa: I was scared the whole time, but I still introduced myself to people. Don’t overthink it, be confident, do it scared. Know what you have to offer and be ready to listen, learn, and ask questions. People like to be listened to – so be present and try to engage with new people. You’ll be surprised what you can learn.

Ann Marie and Hawa are leaders on MITRE’s STEM Council, a Business Resource Group composed of volunteer leaders leveraging the expertise of MITRE’s employees to build the future STEM talent pipeline. The Council engages with educators, parents, and students across the country to offer large-scale and local engagements, virtual workshops, and self-service resources.

To get involved with MITRE STEM Outreach, visit



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