Crystal Simmons has always been passionate about the greater good. Her mother is a retired social worker, her father retired from the legal industry and was active in the community, and her parents passed their values to their daughter. Crystal’s career took her from pre-law to an internship with the Department of Education to a role in government IT, and finally to her current position at Booz Allen, where she helps strengthen government cybersecurity.
Crystal is a Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) Modern-Day Technology Leader for 2019. Her sense of responsibility extends from protecting the nation’s data to helping other lesbians and people of color get into tech. “I’ve seen the field evolve over the course of my career but there’s more work to do,” Crystal says. “I still get surprised looks when I say I’m in a leadership role in cyber, while my straight white male colleagues don’t get a reaction at all.”
Part of that effort is being out at work. “When people who look like me and love like me are thriving and happy, we attract more industry-leading minorities. It’s not about fulfilling quotas; it’s about acceptance and development of minorities into leadership positions.”
That inclusion, says Crystal, is where Booz Allen steps up and stands out. “I feel respected. I walk into the office with my tailored suit and closely cropped hair. I volunteer with Booz Allen’s STEM Girls 4 Social Good. I take advantage of the training, the tuition assistance, the chance to grow through different types of work. You can change the world with the opportunities here.”
Empowerment. Respect. Development. They’re all here, Crystal says. But what’s surprised her most of all? “I feel celebrated for the first time. Not just tolerated. Celebrated. There’s a big difference.”
Crystal plans to help other LGBTQ+ people of color feel that difference, too.