Sam Houston State Alumna Steeve Franks gets out of bed in the morning and prepares for the worst- It is how she makes her living. Franks serves as a Homeland Security Planner for Harris County where she works to develop, evaluate and maintain plans for disasters in the area.
Tuesday, Franks brought her expertise back to her alma mater to inform students of her field of work and how it connects to emergency management. In addition, Franks offered advice to students interested in Homeland Security based on her personal experiences.
“All incidents begin and end at a local level, so I expand[ed] upon that a bit from a planning perspective,” Franks said. “I [spoke] to the attendees about getting into the field and some ‘Tips for success a la Stevee.’ These are things that I have picked up along the way and helped me in my career.”
Harris County, where Franks plans for potential hazards, is the third largest county in the country, home to 4.4 million people. That immense population can occasionally be accompanied by some pressure.
“Anytime you work in emergency services or in a public servant position, there is going to [be] pressure,” Franks said. “The sheer size (population) of Harris County is daunting, so yes, I occasionally feel pressure, but I love my job and I hope that I am making a difference in the community, so it is not necessarily a bad thing.”
At only 25, Franks said she has faced the challenges, as well as rewards, of growing while in her career.
“The most challenging part of my career has probably been the learning curve,” Franks said. “I am young, and while I had some practical experience, coming into my current position after being heavily involved in academia was a big learning curve. I had to do a lot of maturing and growing as an individual, a researcher [and] a public servant.”
In addition to her young age, Franks is set apart by being a female in a male-dominated industry.
“In school, I was able to move at a relatively quick pace which [let me] graduate at a young age,” Franks said. “I have been in the field for a while now, but I am still a 25-year-old female working in a predominately male dominated field with the majority of other professionals [being] veterans in the field.”
Franks said that while she doesn’t feel any pressure in her mostly diverse office, when she works in the field, she has to kick it up a notch.
“Sometimes I feel like I have to work twice as hard to earn the respect of others,”Franks said. “On the upside, I have developed a tougher skin, and I have learned to let my voice be heard when it is necessary, which is important in this field. I would like to add that I have never been outwardly discriminated against due to my age or gender.”
Franks began her academic career wanting to work with crimes against women and children, but was always curious about homeland security.
“The events of September 11 had a huge effect on my formative years, like most of my generation, so my interests morphed into something a little different- transnational crimes I guess you would call it,” Franks said. “I decided to pursue a graduate degree in security studies and it was one of the best decisions of my life.”
For those interested in Franks’ field of work, she offers several pieces of advice. Absorb as much information as possible and gather experience in any way available, including internships, jobs and volunteer work.
“Learn as much as you can,” Franks said. “The world changes and develops at such a rapid pace today, so in effect so does homeland security. Get as much practical experience as possible. All those theories, ideas, and research are great, but they have to be applied somewhere or else they are relatively useless.”
Above all, though, Franks suggests staying informed of current events.
“Stay up to date on world events and relevant policy,” Franks said. “In my opinion, that is one of the most important aspects of emergency management and homeland security. What is going on in this ever-changing world is what shapes policy, research, preparedness, response, and so many other things.”