This Black History Month, WAAY 31 is honoring some of the Black pioneers that have helped shape North Alabama, the state, and the country.
Dr. Juanita Christensen is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Facilities, and Environmental for the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
"If you look at me and all you see is that I'm Black and I'm a female, then you don't really know who I am," Christensen said.
But Christensen knows who she is. It is what has made her successful as a leader, mother, and wife.
But it took a lot of hard work and evolving.
She grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. She figured she would follow the traditional path for a woman.
"You could be a teacher, you could be a nurse, you could be a secretary, or you could be a stay at home mom," Christensen said.
Except a school counselor knew Christensen was destined to break the mold. She suggested she study engineering.
"My first response was, I don't want to drive a train because that's all I knew," she said.
Quickly, she realized the world of engineering was far more than just trains. Christensen was intrigued. She would go on to study at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
"So I sat in a lot of lecture halls with 300, 400 people," Christensen said. "In the engineering discipline, there might be 2 to 3 women in that room. I would usually be the only Black."
At times, it was evident some people did not think she belonged.
"In one of my engineering classes, I was struggling," Christensen said. "I went to the office hours of the professors and he looked straight into my face and basically said to me, I don't know what you're in my class."
But she took that moment and used it as motivation. She graduated in 1985 with a degree in computer engineering. She didn't stop there.
She eventually earned her master's, the doctorate, while juggling three children.
"One of the things my mother always taught me was to not let your environment define who you are, you have to know who you are," Christensen said.
She worked for several different industry companies, eventually relocating her to Huntsville. It would not be until 2007, she would start her career with the Army.
"To be their bottom line was the dollar, but to me, as an Army civilian, the bottom line is the solder in the field," she said.
Aside from holding several different roles, climbing up the latter, Christensen always made it a priority to mentor others.
Whether it is professionals in the industry or high school students interested in STEM.
"My measure of success is not how far I achieve but how much I can influence and allow someone else to achieve even beyond what I achieve," Christensen said.
Christensen is not slowing down anytime soon. She said she plans to work for another five to six years.
"I want to see more people that look like me on the board, not just look like me, but I want to see more diversity on the board," she said.