The Manager Who Looks for Balance
By Tim Smart
Then Papillo, 35, heads out the door of her four-bedroom Gaithersburg home into her 1997 Ford Taurus. She drops her 2-year-old at day care and moments later begins the 42-mile commute to the Bowie office where she oversees Lockheed Martin Corp.'s contract to handle data processing for the 2000 census.
Her husband, meanwhile, heads down Interstate 270 in his Ford Explorer with the two older kids in tow, en route to their school and his job as a sales training manager at Bell Atlantic Mobile in Silver Spring.
"He gets the HOV lane, I don't," joked Papillo.
Once she gets to work, Papillo begins the daily task of managing a staff of 28, most of them computer professionals and engineers, who are designing and installing the system that will receive and capture an estimated 100 billion pages of census data during a 100-day period next spring. It's Papillo's job to make sure some 3,000-odd personal computers and ancillary technical equipment at four census sites around country operate in symphonic harmony with the census bureau's main database computers.
Papillo is part of a significant group of working Washingtonians. While many consider the region to be the lawyers' capital, there are 91,000 engineers or scientists in the region, almost double the number of lawyers.
But as a woman in the field, Papillo is in a distinct minority: Just 20 percent of Washington's engineers are women. She's also younger than the median age of 42 and makes more than the average salary of $72,100.
Her job entails a blend of computer networking skills and program management duties. One of Papillo's main tasks is reading through stacks of resumes from computer professionals looking to change jobs.
"Obviously, this is mission-critical to the customer," Papillo said. "You don't really get a chance to practice."
A 10-year veteran of Lockheed, she began with IBM Federal Systems Co. in Gaithersburg before that firm was acquired by Loral Corp. and Loral was bought by Lockheed. Papillo cherishes the challenge of working on state-of-the-art projects that involve matters of national importance. Although she is based in Gaithersburg, the census contract is managed from the Maryland Science & Technology Center in Bowie.
"From a technical standpoint, the work we get to do is very challenging, working on emerging networks," she said. "I like being in the role, which we typically have, of being the prime contractor."
Papillo said she tries to balance her career and family responsibilities by working fairly regular hours, typically arriving at work about 8:30 a.m. and leaving promptly at 5 p.m.
After the evening's chores are done and the kids are in bed, she turns to her laptop and dials up her e-mail to check messages, which average 200 hundred a day. She uses drive time to make calls on her cell phone or to listen to audio tapes on management topics.
"The availability of technology makes a big difference," she said. "It blurs the line between when you're at work and when you're home. Keeping the balancing act [between work and family life] is one of the most difficult challenges."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company