Victoria Stavridou-Coleman is an outlier.
The new director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has spent most of her career outside of the Pentagon, looking in. A native of Greece, she’s one of the few foreign-born people tapped to lead the military’s secretive band of futuristic scientists. She is clear-eyed about the need to bring military software into the 21st century. And she is the third woman to lead the agency since its inception in 1958.
Coleman’s perspective will further shape an agency that already prides itself on breaking the mold.
Unlike her immediate predecessors, director Steven H. Walker and acting director Peter Highnam, Coleman didn’t come to DARPA after a long career in civil service. She took over at the agency in September following decades in academia and business.
She’s held top positions at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, Silicon Valley startup Atlas AI, the Wikimedia Foundation, and household names from Yahoo to Samsung.
Yet she continued to look for opportunities as a military mentor: She is a former Defense Science Board member, a founding chair of DARPA’s Microsystems Exploratory Council, and an adviser to companies like Lockheed Martin and Airbus. She also co-chaired a review panel for the Air Force’s “Science and Technology 2030” strategy that was released last year.
“I don’t think I ever had a boss that I didn’t get into trouble with for doing all this work for the DOD,” Coleman said in a Nov. 18 interview with Air Force Magazine. “Then you wake up one day, and you think, ‘Oh, if I really enjoy doing this so much,’ which I did, and ‘if it’s so meaningful to me, why don’t I just do it for a living?’”
Read more: Air Force Magazine