The author's sister Stephanie Cole Hill is one of the few African-American leaders in her industry.
For example, years ago, during Desert Storm, when Stephanie was a software engineer, she and her team developed the software that made it possible for missiles to reach their exact target as they traveled over thousands of miles. Some years later, she casually mentioned that she knew computer companies could make laptops that don't break when they fall because her team had designed one that was built to sustain significant "trauma" during harsh military environments, including being dropped from very high altitudes.
Most of the projects Stephanie has worked on over the years are not things she discusses with us so much -- either because they are probably top secret or, more likely, because when we are talking, she isn't thinking about work. She's focused on whatever is at hand. Stephanie never brags about herself.
Unlike the stereotypical corporate female success story, Stephanie is also a devoted mother, wife, civic leader and friend. She is a fantastic cook, and she enjoys hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners each year. She represents that rare woman who actually does have it all. The smile that usually lights up her face is genuine. Somehow she has figured out how to have the "package" without the often accompanying arrogance.
If you talk to Stephanie, you would never know just how powerful she is. Since the beginning, she has been humble. People who know her describe her as kind first. That's noteworthy, considering that for all of her adult life, she has worked in some type of leadership capacity.
I think she inherited that heavy dose of loving kindness from our mother. Doris Cole is a retired kindergarten teacher who, at age 82, still remembers the faces and names of most of the students whom she randomly sees as she navigates her life in Baltimore. Our mother taught us that kindness, honesty and integrity were essential elements in living a good life. Stephanie surely embodies all of those qualities and more.
Motivated to Do Great Things
She also shares the drive for greatness that fueled our father's life and career. The late Honorable Harry A. Cole was a trailblazer in his day. Growing up poor during segregation, Daddy decided early on that he would use his smarts, stamina and sheer conviction to beat the odds that stood between him and success. He shined shoes in order to earn enough money to enroll in Morgan State University, where he later earned the honor of being class valedictorian. He became the first black state senator in Maryland and later the first black judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals.