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USAF CIO’s Guide to Success as a Woman in STEM

Venice Goodwine shared words of wisdom at the recent STEMpowerment forum in McLean, Virginia.


All it took was one application, one interview, leading to that one job offer. So is the story for Venice Goodwine, chief information officer (CIO) for the Department of the Air Force—and mother of six—whose journey represents nothing less than discipline, grit and perseverance. 

“Why do we need women in STEM?” she asked at the recent Women in AFCEA STEMpowerment Forum. “It’s about time that we as women should be able to choose where we want to work, what field we want to work in and not go in every day . . . and prove that we belong to be there,” she stated. 

Beginning her career as an enlisted airman basic for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in 1986, Goodwine’s path took her around the globe for 10 years, from Florida to Texas, England, Korea and Germany.  

Leaving active duty for love, Goodwine’s journey led her to the Air Force Reserve. “How does someone like me that comes from being an airman into a tech sergeant, and then I end up being commissioned as a second lieutenant doing communications?” 

Statistically speaking, Goodwine explained, growing up in Tampa, Florida’s public housing meant three life trajectories: a husband, six children and a high school degree as the highest form of education. “That’s not a stereotype. I’ve seen it in my neighborhood,” she said. While two of the three are indeed true in her case—with a marriage of 26 years and counting—Goodwine’s determination did not allow her to give in to the odds. 

“The first thing I had was grit,” she stated. When her husband’s military assignment moved him to Japan, Goodwine decided to follow him and leave her role at Lockheed Martin’s Space Center. “They wanted to put women in leadership, specifically African American women,” she said of her position at the time. 

Upon their move to Japan, Goodwine’s grit took her to the Education Center. “I became head of the IT [information technology] department ... because I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted,” she told the audience. 

However, the eager and determined often face a common human obstacle: diminishers. 






















Serving as a GS12 at the time, Goodwine recalled a conversation with a GS14 colleague. “Pay your dues,” the colleague told Goodwine when asked how to reach her grade level. 

In her own research, Goodwine found that working in one grade level one year could lead to a promotion in the next. And that’s what she did. “I became a 12 for one year; I did the 13 for one year; I did 14 for one year,” she shared as the audience cheered. 

At that point, Goodwine was aiming for the highest role she could possibly get. “There’s this thing that’s called Senior Executive Service, but none of us do that,” the same colleague told her.  

“What did I take from that story? That was her story that she was trying to put on me and I was not having it,” Goodwine said. “Ladies, don’t share your story midrange to everybody because everybody you talk to are not for you.” 

For every opportunity presented, one must take control and take action everyday action to achieve set goals. When it comes to diminishers, they should be viewed as fuel rather than a threat. To her point, Goodwine encouraged the audience of women to journal. 

“I want you to plan deliberately and learn continuously,” she stated. Goodwine’s ritual, for example, is listening to something that lifts her spirits on her morning route to work, and something that educates on the way home. 

And failure should only be viewed as a training opportunity, Goodwine emphasized. It’s a chance to do an analysis to ensure the next opportunity presented can be met differently and with better preparation. 

Sitting in Okinawa in 2006, Goodwine decided to aim for the highest role she could get in information technology. “They said you can be a CIO.” She had to look it up. 

“So, I created what I use today called a skills matrix,” she went on. “Down the first column, I put all the competencies; I put all the jobs I had; and where that competency and that job intersect, I put an ‘X.’” The pictorial view of her skills and gaps in competency helped set realistic goals for the now CIO.  











Venice Goodwine, deputy chief information officer, Department of the Air Force
It’s about time that we as women should be able to choose where we want to work, what field we want to work in and not go in every day . . . and prove that we belong.
Venice Goodwine
Chief Information Officer, Department of the Air Force


Another important element in achieving growth is building a team of mentors, sponsors and coaches—and just one person cannot represent all. 

A mentor must always be in a role you strive for. Equally, mentorship must never be confused with friendship. A coach, however, looks at the skills one possesses to help make them better. 

“Sponsorship you don’t ask for, it just happens,” Goodwine went on. “You will not be in every room where you are discussed, but you want somebody in that room that’s going to speak up for you,” she stated. 

Adding onto her words of advice for the women in STEM, Goodwine referenced a theory to success called PIE: performance, image and exposure. Performance is only worth 10%, she said, speaking on the value one brings to their role. 

Image, representing authenticity, is worth 30%. “How do you want to show up when you walk into a room?” she asked. 

60% represents exposure, not to be confused with annoyance. “If you go to a meeting and have nothing to say, you probably shouldn’t go to that meeting. You’re not a stakeholder there,” Goodwine explained. “Exposure is how you’re stretching yourself in your opportunities.” 

"How many of you say, ‘I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of person?” she asked. “Please don’t say that. You are not.” 

As wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and workplace team players, women typically wear many hats in their everyday lives. Only with grit and perseverance can one remain ambitious and successful. Goodwine’s final suggestion was about affirmation. 

“Everything I’ve told you to do requires work,” she admitted. Once you’re finally in that room, Goodwine told the auditorium of women, take a moment to yourself, pull out your compact mirror and say, “I belong here.”