HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — “Strategic, Selfless and Spiritual,” that’s how one co-worker describes our first ‘Remarkable Women’ nominee that News 19 is showcasing throughout Women’s History Month.

Joan Smith was nominated by her co-worker and teammate Michael Thome. They work together at a defense contractor in Huntsville. Thome said it was a “no-brainer” when it came to nominating Joan as a Remarkable Woman.

Joan grew up in rural Alabama. Her parents, a firefighter and elementary school teacher instilled the importance of serving in her. Her love of STEM led to a husband, family and becoming the youngest vice president for a defense contractor.

“I call it the ‘three S’s’ Strategic, selfless, and spiritual.  Joan is remarkable in all those areas.  She’s strategically minded at work, for her customers, be it for her family,” Thome told News 19.

For Joan, the respect is mutual, “I’m honored to be nominated by Michael… A real American hero.”

Joan’s work consists of helping to build teams and hire people to provide services for the federal government.

Even though being in this role wasn’t her answer when asked as a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said that, “A gift to being a defense contractor is you have the opportunity to serve the Department of Defense.  You get to defend our nation.  That’s pretty inspirational.”

Joan said growing up she loved math and science. Little did she know, her love of math would one day introduce her to her husband.

They met when they were 11 years old trying out for the math team at their school. “If that’s not poetic for engineers then I don’t know what is,” Joan laughed telling News 19. “We both made the math team and that’s the first and last time he beat me in anything.”

The couple has two kids together, a son and a daughter.

When it comes to working in a male-dominated workforce, Joan tells her daughter that confidence is key, “if you’re not going to believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?”

Joan talked about how Huntsville and North Alabama have evolved over time and how the landscape has changed a lot for women in STEM. She said, “Just because you don’t see someone who looks like you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.”

That is what she hopes comes out of her feature in Remarkable Women. She hopes that her story encourages more children and especially young girls to think about the opportunities they can explore too.

Joan’s secret to success? She says is building successful teams and relationships.

“I think that surrounding yourself with people who are exceptional is the way to success and giving them credit for the exceptional work they do,” Joan told News 19. “The things I’m most proud of is the team we’ve built together and Michael being a part of that. I feel like the big winner.”

You can read Michael’s nomination essay below:

It is my honor and pleasure to nominate Mrs. Joan Reichwein Smith.  Self-achievement –   In January 2021, Joan was selected as the youngest Vice President in the 16-year history of the company she works for, a local Defense Contractor.  She was selected based on her strong engineering background and demonstrated ability to deliver value to stakeholders by cultivating and building relationships across large, complex organizations as well as with small companies. Joan has demonstrated experience in leading professional and volunteer teams to develop and achieve goals. She has a successful history of requirement development, product development, process improvement, and risk mitigation.  Joan epitomizes a people first and technology always focus on all her decisions and actions.  Community Contribution – Joan is volunteering her time in the community as well.  She is the current President of the Blossomwood Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) overseeing numerous programs such as:  Parent Outreach, Fund Raising, and Veteran Day Programs to name a few. She is also a member of and supports the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA), Women in Defense (WID), and two Political Action Committees.  Joan is a Fellow and board member of the University of Alabama Blackburn Institute, as well as a UA Capstone Engineering Society Board member.  Additionally, Joan volunteers with Youth Programs at the First United Methodist Church. Family Impact – Joan is married to her childhood sweetheart, Will, and they have two children Kayleigh and Wilson.  She places great importance on the family.  Joan embraces teaching her daughter that it is possible to be a female leader in a male dominated profession.  She encourages her children to stay active but also places extreme importance on their education and their ability to have intelligent conversations even at their young age. Joan epitomizes selfless service in all she does.

Michael Thome

News 19 received hundreds of nominations from across the Tennessee Valley for our annual Remarkable Women feature. Several judges narrowed it down to four finalists which will be showcased over the next few weeks.

On April 3, the winner of Tennessee Valley’s Remarkable Woman will be announced during News 19 This Morning. The winner receives a $1,000 donation to a charity of her choice. From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s 2022 Remarkable Woman!