For most people, figuring out what you want to do with your life can take years to manifest. But for a few, signposts on the road of where life will take you appear at a very early age.
Take for instance Heather Wishart-Smith, Jacobs senior vice president of Technology and Innovation.
Heather’s mother knew her daughter was destined to be an engineer, when at the age of 3 she received a baby doll, a carriage and a set of building blocks one Christmas. The young Ms. Wishart quickly removed the doll from its spot in the carriage, loaded the blocks instead and pushed those around for months and months.
It was clear then that Heather’s love for building and understanding how things worked would inform her future vocation as an engineer and innovator.
Jacobs is known for combining leading edge technology with deep domain expertise and intimacy to help our clients make better decisions. But first and foremost, it is our people who make everything we do possible. Innovation at Jacobs is the result of 50,000 dedicated and impassioned subject matter experts who are driven to ask ‘What if?,’ then work across disciplines to go beyond and deliver new and innovative solutions for our clients.
President of the Society of American Military Engineers
Presidential administrations Heather supported while at Camp David
Year that Heather won the Gerald C. Brown Mentoring Award
Age when Heather became
a Fellow of SAME
During middle school and high school, Heather’s love of science and engineering was encouraged at a time, as she says, “Before STEM was even a ‘thing’.” In recalling her formulative years (which included a visit to the Princeton University Plasma Physics laboratory she received as a science fair winner, for the same project that was sponsored by a company to use as a demonstration), Heather says, “I don’t recall ever experiencing the discouragement or discrimination about women in STEM that so many girls before me did, and although I was in the minority I don’t recall it ever being a big deal. I was encouraged based on my abilities and aptitude, and for that I am very grateful.”
After obtaining her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia, Heather followed her father’s example by serving in the United States military.
Moving into civilian life, Heather started her career as a Project Manager then Deputy Managing Director with Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). She joined Jacobs through the acquisition of Carter & Burgess, where she was the Area Manager of the 70-person Washington, DC office. Prior to her current position at Jacobs, Heather led Innovation and Jacobs Connected Enterprise (JCE) for Buildings, Infrastructure and Advanced Facilities, and before that she led the Buildings & Infrastructure Mid-Atlantic region, with oversight including design, consulting, and program management/construction management projects in the rail, highway, transit, Federal, corporate/commercial, science & technology, and related markets.
In speaking to Heather about her experience in leading Jacobs’ innovation efforts, it’s clear that she gives back the same spirit of support and encouragement that she received along her own career trajectory. “As we continue to evolve into a company like no other, solving our clients’ most difficult challenges, we are strengthening our innovation culture. Innovation doesn’t happen by corporate mandate, it happens when people at every level have the courage and feel empowered to reframe the problem, challenge the status quo and try something new.”
Speaking of challenging the status quo, in May 2020 Heather was sworn in as the 101st and only the second female president of the Society of American Military Engineers. Among the notables from SAME’s storied 100-year history, General Douglas MacArthur was a charter member, and Charles Dawes was concurrently the 30th vice president of the United States at the time he was also the SAME President. Heather will serve as its National President as the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary and heads into the second century of its existence. The organization has nearly 28,000 members globally and exists to lead collaborative efforts to identify and resolve national security infrastructure-related challenges.
Some of Heather’s many accolades include the SAME Gerald C. Brown Mentoring Award (2018); the Eno Center for Transportation “Top 10 Women to Watch in Transportation” (2016); the Engineering News Record (ENR) Top 20 Under 40 (Mid-Atlantic Region, 2013) designation; and being named a University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate (2013).
Organizational Innovation: Crisis, Culture, Commitment and Change
Georgette Kiser, operating executive for the Carlyle Group and Jacobs board member, and Heather Wishart-Smith, Jacobs senior vice president of technology and innovation join the If/When podcast to discuss what organizations can do to fully leverage the power of innovation.
An integrator of digital disruption and innovation, Heather shares insights as a Forbes column contributor.
More from Heather
Heather Wishart-Smith Named a Finalist for Autodesk Innovator of the Year Award
Jacobs Wins Two 2020 Innovation Leader Impact Awards
Jacobs was named a winner of two 2020 Impact Awards from Innovation Leader, a media and events company that helps the world's largest companies build competitive advantage and foster new growth.
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The Military Engineer: Providing Value and Impact
Forbes: As You Succeed, Help Others Rise
WashingtonExec: Jacobs’ Heather Wishart-Smith Finds Innovation in Engineering, Purpose in Mentorship
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