Na'ilah Bowden
Na'ilah Bowden

What is your cultural background? Where did you grow up? 
I am an African-American and Ohioan. My father, originally from Kenya, and my mother, a Pennsylvania native, met in Cincinnati where I was born and raised.

How do you support NNSA? 
I am the Director for the Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance Division. My division is responsible for ensuring essential mission operational support at the sites and continued sustainment and maintenance activities of NNSA infrastructure facilities.

How did you become interested in the field you are in? How did you end up on this career path? 
I knew that I had an interest in problem-solving from an early age and naturally gravitated toward STEM fields. I went on to receive an undergraduate degree in architectural engineering and a graduate degree in civil engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. If asked what I thought my career path would become upon completion of my bachelor’s degree, I would have affirmatively stated, “a career with a Construction firm.” However, after spending some time learning and interning with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy, and following the completion of my master’s degree, I realized that I wanted a career with the federal government and the NNSA. Twelve years later, I continue to support the NNSA and have held various roles within the Office of Infrastructure.

What is one of your favorite things about working at NNSA? 
Knowing that my work contributes to national security is important to me. The history of NNSA and the amazing people I have the pleasure of working with make my career a rewarding experience. The opportunity to combine my engineering and facilities background and interests with such an important and impactful national security mission, while working with some of the nation’s smartest and most dedicated people to solve long-standing challenges, is an immeasurable experience that inspires me to continue doing what I’m doing each day. 

What are the characteristics of the best teams you have been part of? 
I have worked in teams for as far back as I can remember and at the end of the day, a team is assembled to solve a problem and deliver a solution. The best teams have strong, supportive, and engaged leadership that foster a safe teaming environment which allows each team member to be authentically themselves and feel good about their contributions to the team. A great team can acknowledge and celebrate team members’ experiences, similarities, and differences, while staying grounded in the idea that most team members are part of a team to support the ultimate delivery and/or achievement of a common goal.  

What advice would you give to members of the Black community who want to do what you do for NNSA? 
I would advise people that a career in the federal government is one – first and foremost – of public service. Public service comes with an obligation and duty to serve in the best interests of the United States. If that interests you, then give NNSA a try. While many NNSA programs can satisfy a diverse set of technical fields and backgrounds, there are also analysts and many business support functions. There is no such thing as having too many proactive, dedicated, problem-solving employees, so take a look at the various career paths NNSA has to offer; network and get to know others in the field and/or program of your interest; and take the time to apply to careers that interests you.  

What do you like to do in your spare time? 
As a wife and mother to young, growing children, my spare time is usually filled with after-school, extra-curricular activities and family time. When I’m not engaged in family time or kids’ activities, you can find me outside on a trail getting sun and exercise, volunteering with and mentoring the youth in my community (I’ve been known to coach a couple of youth basketball teams), or pulling other parents together to share information and provide safe and fun activities for our youth. 

How will you celebrate Black History Month? 
While Black History Month is celebrated during the month of February, I make an effort to embrace and celebrate my culture and history throughout the entire year. The children are our future, so it is important to me that I am constantly giving back to them when I can and promoting their engagement and awareness of Black History Month. It is important to me that our youth know the significant contributions of pioneers in STEM fields and that names such as Guion Bluford, Mae Jemison, and my fellow NCA&T alum, Ronald McNair, become common names that mean something to them. 

What leader or cultural figure would you like to recognize this month? 
I have always been inspired by others who dare to be bold and take risks despite the odds and the naysayers. I particularly find myself intrigued by the many African-American and Black trailblazers and risk takers that have not allowed anyone else’s perception of their abilities be defined by their skin color. When I look at legacies left by young trailblazers such as Bessie Coleman, I am fascinated. Not only did Bessie persistently pursue a path she was told she couldn’t take, she knew the odds she was facing and still excelled. To the many “Bessie Colemans” in the world today, defying the odds and choosing paths not yet chartered, I am recognizing and thanking you for your continued hard work and dedication.