Most Promising Engineer Award Winners – US Black Engineer


Daquan Styles has distinguished himself in his efforts to deliver capability and lethality to fighters. During the pandemic, it delivered US Navy software to four amphibious assault ships and three aircraft carriers. Styles is an electrical engineer for ship self-defense systems and a site installation coordinator at the Dahlgren Division, Dam Neck Activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Naval Surface Warfare Center.

“Legacy is a word that has always stuck with me,” he said in his acceptance speech. “I would ask ‘how do you want to be remembered?’ This question has stuck with me for years and given me the fuel to do whatever I can to help make this world a better place Whether it’s being the best son or brother at home or the hardest working engineer in my company.” Styles hopes to continue to inspire others so they too can see the importance of leaving a legacy.

For the first time in BEYA’s history, identical twin sisters and engineers received the most promising engineer award. Just three years into her career, Shalisha Witherspoon has made a name for herself in the field of artificial intelligence at IBM Research. Shalisha is a software engineer at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center. In addition to making technical advancements, she introduces coding to young people through conferences sponsored by various community organizations, including Black Girls Code, P-Tech, and IBM Tech Summer Camps.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” she said in her acceptance speech. “Being a woman in STEM can be tough. But being a black woman in STEM can also be lonely. The difficulty of finding a mentor who looks like you can be daunting. Luckily, I didn’t have to walk this path alone, because I had my identical twin Shonda. We encouraged each other to do our best and stood up for minorities in STEM.”

Shonda is also a software engineer at the TJ Watson Center. His passion for diversity and fostering a diverse technical community has resulted in various contributions to solving technical challenges.

“Thank you so much for this honor,” Shonda said. “During the pandemic, many parents have been tasked with homeschooling their children. It was a new experience for most. However, for me and my family, it was normal and shaped me to become the person I am today. Homeschooling my mom taught me and my siblings to be self-sufficient,” she added. “These are essential qualities for engineers striving to grow and make a positive impact.” Shonda hopes her success and recognition will continue to shine a light on what home schooling can offer.

Senior Systems Development Engineer Captain Deion Hardy supports the QF-16 air program. It is attached to the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center of the Air Dominance Division of the United States Air Force. He plans, monitors and controls engineering efforts by ensuring the resolution of technical problems, in accordance with program objectives. Previously, he was a materials engineer at Ford, where he produced scientific and technical intelligence for warfighters, the acquisition community and policy makers while at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

“At first, I showed a definite interest in understanding how things worked,” Hardy said at the gala. “It got me tinkering with electronics, breaking them down into components and putting them back together to see if they still worked. Even if I still didn’t make it, it’s probably my parents, so it’s something to encourage,” he said. Sanders participated in engineering-focused camps and programs, which gave him insight into various career paths in science, technology, engineering and math ( STEM). “A variety of opportunity and inspiration led me to this moment,” he said.

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