SAIC Pays Tribute to the Talented Women in Our Ranks
March is nationally recognized as Women’s History Month. At SAIC, our organization comprises women who are critical to our success and our customers’ missions. Our female professionals go above and beyond each and every day.
This Women's History Month is especially poignant as we witness societal transformations happening in the U.S. and around the world. A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change, according to International Women’s Day (IWD). SAIC joins IWD’s 2021 #ChooseToChallenge in striving to eliminate gender bias and inequality, as we celebrate women’s achievements and help create an inclusive world.
Here, we spotlight the remarkable contributions of our women colleagues at SAIC, who #ChooseToChallenge every day by being leaders at work, at home, and in their communities.
Director, Small Business Program
Rita Brooks joined SAIC in 2018 as the director of SAIC's small business program, where she is responsible for guidance and leadership in small business relations, diversity in supplier sourcing, geopolitical advocacy, and business development.
Throughout her career, Brooks has held numerous positions of increasing authority, leading teams focused on supplier diversity. She brings extensive experience to SAIC and our customers in small business usage and advocacy. Prior to SAIC, she managed small business efforts at Textron Systems and Northrop Grumman.
Brooks earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She is a Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity. She is active in organizations that support her efforts in small business advocacy at SAIC and is a new board member of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Diversity Council. Her passion for her work and outstanding efforts have been nationally recognized as the first recipient of the HUBZone National Council Small Business Advocate of the Year Award in 2020. She frequently participates in discussion panels and speaking events.
Brooks exemplifies #ChooseToChallenge by challenging herself to raise the bar in recognizing and utilizing minority and small businesses. Away from work, Brooks served on the nominating committee for the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland's executive board for two years and is an active board member of the Ravens Roost #131, which is a philanthropic organization supporting those in need in her community through fundraising and donations.
Favorite quote: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” —Sheryl Sandberg
Corporate Social Responsibility Analyst /
Co-Lead, Connect & Grow Business Resource Group
Kerrie Ford is a corporate social responsibility analyst at SAIC. In this role, she works with a variety of nonprofit partners and local supporters to lead company-wide fundraising, volunteerism, and related reporting. She also supports SAIC’s six Business Resource Groups (BRGs) and contributes to company-wide inclusion and diversity efforts.
Ford joined SAIC in 2017 as a national security analyst, supporting a contract in the company's National Security and Space Sector. From there, she supported the Government Affairs team before assuming her current role in January 2019.
Ford is the co-lead of the Connect & Grow BRG. The group aims to provide a forum for young professionals and their supporters to champion their connections and growth within the company, encourage employee development and engagement, and retain top talent. As co-lead, Ford played a major part in restructuring the leadership team to capture greater engagement during an increasingly virtual work environment. She has demonstrated the #ChooseToChallenge motto by fearlessly speaking up in support of advancement opportunities for young professionals at SAIC.
Ford earned her bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University and her master’s degree in international affairs from Texas A&M University. In her spare time, she enjoys coaching a youth soccer team.
Favorite quote: "We have to find a way to continue to lift other women up in our worlds and in our lives as much as possible." —Michelle Obama
Quality Assurance Analyst, Defense and Civilian Sector / National Co-Director, Women’s Business Resource Group
Natasha Hansen is the national co-director of SAIC’s Women’s Business Resource Group (WBRG) and supports the program management office of the company's Vanguard contract with the U.S. Department of State, leading quality assurance efforts.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Christopher Newport University in 2015, majoring in political science with a double minor in business administration and U.S. national security studies, Hansen joined SAIC as an intern and took on a technical role, learning new skills to provide IT support to SAIC's government customers.
She was quickly offered a full-time role to support the Vanguard contract’s program management office in numerous capacities, initially as a business management analyst helping with overall position management, subcontract management, and financial management. Then, she helped lead the contract's quality assurance and ISO certification program.
Hansen's willingness to take on the many opportunities SAIC offered has led her to a rewarding career start. In 2019, Hansen was awarded an SAIC CEO Award for performance in financial excellence through her support on the business management team. In 2020, she was given the highest praises by her State Department customers for her leadership and guidance throughout their respective ISO certification processes and audits.
During her tenure at SAIC, Hansen has embodied #ChooseToChallenge by continuously building her skill set to increasingly help SAIC customers in both the defense and civilian sectors and to also better serve her WBRG members.
Favorite quote: "I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has." —Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Program Management Senior Director / Deputy Program Manager, Vanguard Program
Jacqui Hurley is a program management senior director in the Defense and Civilian Sector at SAIC. She is the deputy program manager for the Vanguard program at the U.S. Department of State, managing approximately 900 people and an annual budget of approximately $200 million.
Throughout her career at SAIC, she has held numerous positions of increasing authority, leading teams focused on service delivery, IT operations, project management, and cybersecurity. Before working on the Vanguard program, Hurley was the deputy program manager for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., providing IT operations and maintenance and IT security services, and was the program manager for a U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command program, overseeing ashore operations support services for the command's IT enterprise. She has been a certified Project Management Professional since 2005, and she is also ITIL Foundation, TBM Executive Foundation, Network+, and Security+ certified.
Hurley is a leader and cookie manager at Girl Scouts Nation's Capital, certified in archery and first aid. She has served as board president for her children’s daycare and is an active volunteer in her community and at her church. Hurley personifies the #ChooseToChallenge motto in every aspect of her life, from leading engineering teams to furthering her education and raising her family; she is constantly finding ways to embrace a more inclusive world.
Hurley earned her bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America, a master of science in project management from George Washington University, and an MBA from the University of Maryland. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and four children.
Favorite quote: "The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you're very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble." —Serena Williams
Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic Program Management Manager, Naval Business Unit
Janelle Varlas is SAIC's program manager for U.S. Navy tactical vehicle integration. She joined the company in 2009 as a project manager/systems engineer, where she oversaw design, documentation, and production of mobile tactical shelters for the U.S. Marine Corps. She continued to lead as a technical manager, serving multiple armed services customers and tactical vehicle integration programs. Varlas then proceeded to become the manufacturing engineer manager for SAIC's platform integration team in Charleston, South Carolina. She also served as a company solutions architect with a focus in product management.
Varlas started her career as a crew training engineer, supervising and coordinating nuclear submarine operations and training. She continued to qualify as an engineer on the Navy's nuclear platform. She was the senior contractor manager assigned to serve as the liaison between SAIC and the Navy's crew and training department for all aspects of naval nuclear training, leading a team that qualified over 250 nuclear operators.
Varlas is the SAIC Women’s Business Resource Group's Charleston chapter lead. She has led SAIC for two consecutive years in fundraising for Charleston’s Light the Night event benefiting the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Varlas was also the Charleston champion for SAIC's ethics network. Varlas leads by example to create an inclusive world, where everyone can #ChooseToChallenge, and has earned respect as a strong contributor, representing women technical managers and always looking for opportunities to empower women in the workplace.
Varlas earned her bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences from the University of Michigan. She earned her Project Management Professional certification in 2012.
Favorite quote: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." —Marie Curie
Senior Supplier Quality Analyst, Procurement
Penney Vernieri is a senior supplier quality analyst for SAIC's Procurement organization. She joined SAIC in 2018 as a supplier quality engineer supporting the platform integration of the U.S. Marine Corps' Assault Amphibious Vehicle. She then transitioned to the development of supplier quality metrics, supplier evaluation tools, and supplier assessments for all programs across the company. Now she leads the supplier enablement team, which provides assistance to the company's suppliers in registering and setting up their user accounts in SAIC’s Supplier Portal.
In her career, Vernieri has held numerous positions in engineering, supplier quality, and quality engineering, first at Hill-Rom and then at Boeing, cultivating her passion for process improvement and watching people and teams succeed. She was a Boeing problem-solving facilitator, helping production teams identify, improve, and thrive on optimized processes. She spent three months at Kennedy Space Center, helping the Boeing Starliner team transition from development to production by establishing a corrective action board.
Vernieri began her career as an engineering technician, designing and building tooling fixtures for a medical device start-up. She moved to Charleston, South Carolina, a few years later and transitioned to quality engineering, focusing on the procurement life cycle and the supply chain. Her expertise and passion about process improvement allow her to #ChooseToChallenge not only herself but also coworkers and friends every day to overcome hurdles with solutions that come in all shapes and sizes.
Away from work, she volunteers as a coach for a couch-to-5K running program and mentors runners working to complete their first (or 50th) 10Ks or half-marathons. She loves helping others reach their potential and celebrates their joy as they cross the finish line after weeks, months, or even years of hard work and determination.
Vernieri earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from North Carolina State University. She holds a Six Sigma Green Belt and is a Certified Supplier Quality Professional.
Favorite quote: "If I quit, everybody's going to believe women can't do this." —Kathrine Switzer
LEARN MORE: Visit SAIC's Inclusion & Diversity page to see how we are building an inclusive culture that values empowerment and drives innovation.