Shannon M. Faye
Shannon M. Faye is a project manager with TUVA. She has been with the Akima family of companies for one year.
After working as a contractor for the U.S. Army Medical Command for 10 years, Shannon M. Faye remembers the moment when “opportunity intersected with readiness,” as she describes it. She had been encouraged to apply for a senior role with the command staff, but taking the job would mean uprooting the life she had built for herself in Washington, D.C. Still, the son she raised was off to college and she didn’t have a real reason to stay. So she applied and soon found herself on her way to San Antonio, Texas.
“Who doesn’t want to go up to the next echelon, to help shape policy, and to have, really, a larger impact on the organization?” Shannon asks. Shannon had been making leaps to the next level her whole life.
She grew up in a farming community in Tennessee, raised by her grandparents alongside their other seven children. She harbored dreams of being a writer—fostering a love of the written word that would ultimately propel her career. She majored in English and mass communications at Fisk University in Nashville, and then came to D.C. to pursue African studies—film and literature—at Howard University. Over the next few years, her life took an unexpected turn.
“I met a guy, got married, had a baby and became a single mom, in just a matter of five years,” Shannon says.
Through all of that, her desire to write remained undiminished. In 2000, she found work as a technical writer for a government contractor to the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland, where she helped create documentation for the agency’s Wide Area Network expansion project.
“I didn’t have much background in IT, but I learned a lot from the engineers and the network architects, and I helped them develop the documentation they needed,” Shannon says.
After the Census Bureau, Shannon landed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and then the Department of the Treasury, continuing to progress in the technical writing field. “In each place, I learned more and more about certification and accreditation because they all had systems that needed to go through the C&A process,” she says.
From then on, Shannon began building a career around those C&A skills and spent the next decade working as a contractor in military medicine. It was at the Regional Health Command – Atlantic in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, that she made the leap to the U.S. Army Medical Command and her current role as a project manager.
“Although my family wanted me to pursue law enforcement as an attorney, this is the closest I was willing to come. In this role, I get to tell people what to do and make them follow the rules,” Shannon says with laughter. But getting to that point wasn’t a cakewalk, she acknowledges.
“Being a woman and a person of color, I am oftentimes the only one at the table,” she says. “The good thing is that here, where I’ve spent the large part of my career, I have been brought to the table by other women in leadership roles. I was brought to the table, at least in military medicine, by other minorities in leadership roles—by a minority woman, by a minority who was a woman and African-American.”
Having been a single parent at the start of her career, Shannon says balancing motherhood with her career has also been a major challenge. But in the end, she overcame that hurdle as well. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of hours with my son to make sure that I had a seat at the table,” Shannon says. “My son is okay. I think I was a better mother to him because I worked.”