NAME: Kelly DiCristina


AFFILIATION: SMART Scholar and PhD student, New Jersey Institute of Technology

STATE: New Jersey

Q: What inspired you to explore the national security community? Do you have a connection to the Military/Government Service?

Growing up, I always felt tied to the military community. My father works for the Department of Defense which allowed me the opportunity to visit a military base and arsenal. Seeing our armed forces, and the government employees who help support them, working hard and sacrificing for our country led me to want to make a difference for our country and armed forces. After receiving the fellowship to work with NSIN, I got the opportunity to meet countless civilian and military employees with like-minded goals of improving the national security community, which ultimately solidified my decision to pursue a career in government service.

Q: As a woman, how is the national security community different for you?

Completing an internship with NSIN and mentoring in a DoD STEM summer camp, I came across strong women who became valuable mentors in my life. They took me under their wing and then taught me how to fly. While working together, these women valued my voice and cultivated my potential. Witnessing the incredible impact that these women had in their respective fields grew my interest in working in the military community, leading me to apply and accept a SMART scholarship to pursue my PhD and work for the DoD upon graduation.

Q: What legacy do you want to leave for the next generation of women professionals in the innovation ecosystem?

I would like to be an advocate and mentor for the next generation of women. As a biomedical engineering student, I was fortunate enough to learn from strong women who paved the way for me to achieve my goals. They taught me that the most important thing you can do is bet on yourself. As a current PhD student and future employee of the DoD, I hope to mentor and encourage women both within academia and the workforce to achieve their goals. When society tells them it is too hard, I will tell them that they will succeed.

Q: Do you remember a moment when you saw a difference for women in the professional world? What do you remember? How did it impact your work?

As an engineering student, from the time I got to college I saw the disparity in the ratio between men and women in the field. Yet, in this male-dominated culture, I met women who never stopped believing in me and pushed me to go farther than I could have dreamed. This encouraged me to work harder for the respect of my peers, but more importantly, for myself and the generations of women to come after me.

Q: What books, podcasts, or thought leaders do you recommend when it comes to Women’s History Month and understanding the issues facing women in the workplace?

Some podcasts and thought leaders that show what women are capable of accomplishing are “Girlboss Radio” with Sophia Amoruso and Neha Gandhi, and “She Did it Her Way” with Amanda Boleyn.