During Barbara Humpton’s childhood she was under the impression that everyone enjoyed math as much as she did; her math professor parents often brought home math challenges, puzzles, and problems to solve. However, as she grew older she learned that mathematics is a field, which often intimidates other people. She did not let this hold her back; she excelled in mathematics and was hired directly after college by IBM. An early assignment as an IBM programmer was a satellite command and control project, which entailed quaternion multiplication, or as her father said – simple four-vector calculus applied to mechanics in three-dimensional space.
Humpton worked on the ground control segment of the Global Positioning System, which required heavy-duty mathematics and physics. Because large-scale software development is complex and requires diverse skills, Humpton learned that she enjoyed not only solving problems and building systems, but also bringing people together to generate solutions. Her interests led her to accept a management role, leading teams of programmers and engineers.
Such specialized assignments increased throughout her career at IBM and then Lockheed Martin. She tackled some of the federal government’s most challenging problems: satellite command and control, border security, and biometrics. However, after 27 years of working in leading-edge information technology, she decided to switch gears and accepted a job offer at Siemens, a global corporation with products in energy, healthcare and infrastructure.
Today, her job revolves around business development for Siemens with the U.S. federal government. She is proud of what Siemens has accomplished since she joined the company, especially in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Siemens is building the federal government’s largest wind farm. Last year they installed the Army’s largest solar array, and developed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of energy savings.
When asked about the importance of STEM education, she made one thing clear – without young people studying in STEM fields and making breakthroughs, the U.S. won’t be able to progress. “STEM education will harness that brain power to take us to the next level,” said Humpton. “Likewise, technical fields like renewable energy are an inspirational challenge to capture the minds and imagination of young people.”
Preparing for careers in the renewable energy STEM field does not mean that you have to relinquish your other passions. Barbara was a mathematics major at Wake Forest University, but minored in Italian and art history. “A lot of people get so drawn into science that they forget about the art and the beauty of the world. By having diverse experiences you not only become more adaptable to different circumstances, but also more sensitive to different cultures; a great asset in the business world.”