Heather Morgan grew up at REI Systems. She started at the company a couple of years out of college and now, 19 years later, she is a senior project manager who recently received two prestigious honors.
She was a finalist in the 20th annual Leadership Awards presented by Women in Technology and she received a Federal 100 Award.
These awards recognize standouts in information technology. Yet when Morgan attended the University of Maryland University College, IT wasn’t on her mind. She majored in business administration and had an interest in human resources. Her first job was at a small business, where she supported recruiting, employee benefits, payroll and proposal development. She started at REI in 2000 doing similar tasks.
After about a year, she moved into a new role supporting NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research/ Small Business Technology Transfer program.
From that, her IT career, with a heavy focus in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, was born.
Morgan rose through the ranks at REI and is now a senior project manager in the Science and Technology Business Unit. She currently serves on the leadership team responsible for project health and financials for 10 contracts, while maintaining oversight of a portfolio of projects at NASA. She also is supporting business development activities to expand REI’s SBIR footprint across the federal government.
Morgan, passionate about advocating for innovation at NASA, says her vision is to help the public sector create and use technology to foster innovation in the private sector.
“I love seeing how technology helps enable our clients’ missions,” she said. “It really transforms the way people do business. We’ve been able to do really innovative things. That’s what keeps me excited and interested in the field.”
Throughout her career, Morgan has prioritized mentoring her colleagues, particularly women. She promotes women who report directly to her and regularly meets with junior female staff members to discuss their professional development. Morgan provides constructive criticism and helps mentees develop professional growth plans and find opportunities to learn about new technologies. She also advises her mentees on how to foster professional relationships while connecting them with senior company leaders.
“I’ve been so fortunate in my career at REI to have strong mentors and people who believed in me and gave me opportunities that led to significant growth personally and professionally,” Morgan said. “To give that to someone else is so rewarding.
“I’ve seen people grow up here and excel here,” she added. “It almost feels like a family environment. I get excited when I see good things happen to them. I want to see them succeed.”
What advice does Morgan have for women interested in STEM careers? “It’s really important to keep learning and being open to change,” she said. “STEM and innovation go hand in hand, which is what makes the field so exciting. Find a work environment that is collaborative, and don’t be scared to share your ideas.”