Woman in STEM: Sheila Fields

Nebraska Women in STEM talked to Sheila Fields about building a career in technology and leading a life of intention.

In 2024, Sheila Fields, president of BFields Solutions, Inc., decided her “word of the year” would be “intentional.” “I am intentional about everything,” Fields said, and this is reflected in the people she surrounds herself with, the projects she has undertaken, and the work she has done to better her community.

STEM has been one of Fields’ passions for as long as she can remember. She recalls math and science coming naturally to her as a young student in small-town Tennessee. When Fields discovered she could apply these gifts to technology, everything clicked. “I’m a lifelong learner, so I am intrigued by any way that technology can be used to create efficiencies in any processes or systems,” she said. “It’s my happy place, I guess is the best way to put it.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), Fields became an application developer, where she had to learn and adapt to different programming languages. Then, as an analyst, Fields had the opportunity to research technologies in various industries, including logistics and transportation, banking, and medicine. “That’s been fun to be able to use the technologies in various spaces,” Fields said. “And it all kind of works the same; to me, it comes down to just aptitude and a willingness to learn.”

These characteristics allowed Fields to begin taking on managerial positions. She has managed enterprise-wide and international rollouts, worked in contracting, and collaborated with leadership to develop capital products and drive stakeholder wealth for medical systems. Along the way, Fields earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Creighton University.

Fields intentionally places herself in visible leadership positions, such as adjunct professor, because she recognizes the lack of diversity in these roles. She also serves on boards such as the Metro Community College Foundation board, the Nebraska Ivy Foundation and others.  As a firm believer that “people believe what they see,” Fields is living proof that women of color belong in STEM and academia.

Unfortunately, Fields often felt alienated while pursuing her computer science degree. She saw a lack of women and Black students in UNO’s STEM spaces, and some faculty actively discouraged her from occupying them. “Maybe you’re not smart enough to be here,” a professor once told her.

“I’ve been told I make people uncomfortable, but I’ve also been told, ‘You’re the nicest person in the room,’” Fields said. “And it can be daunting, and it can be very stressful to be in those spaces, especially if you have not grown into a maturity where you really are sure of who you are.”

With her father’s guiding hand, Fields is sure of who she is. “I watched my dad start a construction company with a truck and a finishing machine, and he had seven kids and a wife,” she said. “And I really looked up to my father a lot, and I watched how he managed through being belittled and talked down to.”

“Even when I was in the corporate world, even though he didn’t have my background, he was someone I would call in those challenging times, and his wisdom just kind of carried me through,” she said. His resilience and work ethic continue to inspire her today.

After her father’s passing in 2010, Fields began the work to establish a nonprofit in his name, The Bobby Byars Foundation, Inc., which launched in 2019. The organization awards scholarships focused on workforce development, technology, and mentoring.  One of the organization’s signature events is called Community Safety Day which is designed to raise safety conscious behaviors. With the support of Metropolitan Community College who serves as the host, and approximately forty partners, the event uses fun and engagement to educate and empower families. The event provides 1500 safety kits to families.  “It’s about blessing the lower socioeconomic areas of the city with safety kits and fire blankets and preventing catastrophic loss,” Fields said. “Our partners provide demoes and displays in an effort to change paradigm and help communities be more safety conscious.”

Fields’ efforts with the foundation have not gone unnoticed. “The Bobby Byars Foundation received National Safety Council- Nebraska Chapter’s 2023 Community Service Award for Safety. That recognition has served as inspiration to my team. The challenge of starting a small business while serving in the community has been a fun journey,” she said.

The same year she launched the Bobby Byars Foundation, Fields’ other passion came to fruition: her small business, BFields Solutions, Inc. “After I left the corporate world, all those things that I dreamed of just started coming back to me, and I just started putting one foot in front of the other,” she said.

“My focus is on providing value to customers, and by that, I mean providing solutions for small businesses, individuals, or companies that either don’t have the resources to evaluate their projects and implement them, or don’t have the technical know-how,” Fields said.

But her work does not end there. This year, Fields is working with Opportunity Corps: Women in STEAM as a mentor. Additionally, she is an entrepreneur at UNeTech and is currently involved in the rollout of a new product. “So, I’m busier than I used to be,” she said. “But I love it.”

Fields, with all her experience in STEM and business, passed on some wisdom for women in all stages of their careers: “Always be receptive, and every interaction counts.”

“You can be in spaces where it’s just not a good fit, one way or another, and I think, whether it’s a relationship or with a colleague or being a part of an organization, I think you have to really get comfortable with that, and you have to get comfortable with knowing that sometimes there will be failures, but it’s important that you feel forward and never resting your laurels,” Fields said.

And finally, it all comes back to one word: intentional. “When you’re in a room and you’re not really sure why you’re there, I think it’s important to create the outlook and build relationships with diverse friends and companies and colleagues because you can always learn something new,” Fields said. “There’s always a different perspective from yours, and, to me, it’s all about building teams, and diverse teams can be very impactful. That’s my advice. And put yourself in those spaces, be very intentional.”