SHEILA ALI, Scientist

“Be persistent.” Sound advice from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Scientist Sheila Ali when asked to share guidance with anyone starting a career or finding their career path.

According to the award citation, Ali’s nomination as a Rising Star was due to “her skill, tenacity, and willingness to share and grow others through her software development work, which was instrumental in developing and testing database tools. Her accomplishments include creating solutions to control functionality for a simulator used to train U.S. Air Force crews flying aircraft that support Special Operations troops in ground engagements. Using her expertise, she adapted existing software to make it more flexible to the needs of the user community. She also serves as a ‘go to’ advisor, helping new employees assimilate and reach their full potential within the organization.”

Born in the South Asian country of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Ali was always interested in math and logic and was encouraged by family to pursue medicine. When she took her first programming class and wrote a calculating problem, she knew she had found her passion. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas and worked as a software developer in Dallas for seven years.

Ali continued her education and earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas, and soon accepted an internship at NSWCDD. She currently works in the Battle Management System (BMS) program and loves every minute of it.

Humbled by the award, Ali said “I am absolutely honored to receive this award. It makes me feel recognized for my contributions and achievements. It gives me a sense of pride to be part of the BMS team.”

ASHLEY WILSON, Engineer

Growing up in a small town where STEM careers weren’t prevalent, Ashley Wilson’s early career goals were in education — she wanted to be an English teacher.

Fast forward to Sept. 2021, when Wilson, a Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) systems engineer for the Battle Management System program, received the Women of Color magazine Technology Rising Star Award.

The award is presented yearly for achievements in science, technology, engineering and math careers. It recognizes women with 14 or fewer years in the workforce helping to “shape technology for the future.” Wilson was nominated for her “demonstrated technical leadership and future potential for excellence, exemplified by her outstanding support of the Battle Management System Program at NSWCDD.”

Wilson’s personal motto to “always strive to see what’s next and how I can better myself” led her to apply to the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program through the Office of Naval Research during high school. After being accepted into the program, she discovered her passion for STEM. Wilson then participated in the Student Career Experience Program through NSWCDD, which funded part of her education in exchange for three years of employment after graduation.

She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and later earned a master’s degree in systems engineering from Old Dominion University. After her three-year employment repayment, she chose to stay and build her career at NSWCDD. “At the end of three years, I could choose to go anywhere I wanted to but I chose to stay at Dahlgren. Since then, I’ve worked in a few departments. I really enjoy what I’m doing.”

Receiving this award “is a testament to my personal growth, and it’s pushing me to go even further and see what other goals I can achieve for myself,” Wilson said.