Sarah McPeak, Senior Technical Specialist on Maxar’s Global-Enhanced Geospatial-Intelligence Delivery (G-EGD) team, was honored February 16 by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) with its prestigious Edwin H. Land Industry Award, which celebrates an outstanding early-to-mid-career professional. INSA selected Sarah for her “exceptional technical proficiency, demonstrated leadership, and inspiring work ethic” supporting national security.

G-EGD, which Maxar runs for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), provides more than 400,000 U.S. government users with on-demand, browser-based access to unclassified imagery from multiple sources. In 2022 alone, Sarah deployed her expertise in geospatial products, services and technologies to single-handedly resolve approximately 5,000 technical support cases and deliver first-class training to thousands of users across 100 organizations, including the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, federal civil agencies and foreign mission partners.

Sarah McPeak, Senior Technical Specialist at Maxar, is pictured (center) with the Honorable Ron Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security, and Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg, President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), after receiving the Edwin H. Land Industry Award at the 2023 INSA Achievement Awards Ceremony.

INSA singled out Sarah’s educational efforts, noting that she “has connected with all military on basic to advanced leadership courses, developing geospatial-intelligence modules to support curriculum and doctrine. The NGA College has adopted these modules and used them to onboard 13 NGA directorates spanning 24 skill sets.”

“What excites me about my job is that I get to talk to people across the federal government and military services and help them do their job better,” said Sarah. “At a conference, I am not selling G-EGD, I am telling them how what they already have access to could save time and help them do better. In the battlespace, time is essential; our services help reduce the drag of time, and I want to help people find the tools and solution they need to succeed.”

A unique challenge of being on the mission support team is that Sarah and her Maxar colleagues must be subject matter experts on many different levels to help provide guidance and solutions to G-EGD users who have very different priorities. As she noted, “the interests and needs of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife user are so different than a military or Intelligence Community user.”

Sarah’s Journey

As a child, Sarah would stand on the beach in North Carolina working through practical physics problems with her father, estimating the size or distance of what they could see from the shore. That formative experience was part of what drew her to geology and wanting to understand how the earth works.

“I love looking at early maps and comparing the geology to the actual maps we have available today,” said Sarah, who has reproductions of centuries-old maps hanging in her home. “I also loved stories of the early Army Corps of Engineers pioneers who used hot air balloons to rise above and map terrain more effectively. I loved looking at the Appalachian Mountains as a child, and that terrain influenced my career interests.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in geology, Sarah joined the U.S. Army, where she worked as a geospatial engineer in a Geospatial Planning Cell based at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The cell, which was the holder of all the geospatial data for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR), would build maps with roads and other vector data for anyone operating in the CENTCOM AOR.

Sarah later had the opportunity to attend an NGA program in St. Louis, Missouri, that taught her in greater detail about maps, data, and other elements of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) and primed her to work in the private sector. After a stint working for a small government contractor, she was presented with an opportunity to make the jump to Maxar.

“I had already been a G-EGD user for five years and was passionate about its success,” said Sarah. “I knew Maxar was the right place because I liked the people I had previously met on the G-EGD team, which was full of former military veterans like me. I didn’t know half of what I would be doing, but with a strong team I was set up for success, and I’ve never had to look back or regret my decisions.”

Because of Sarah’s military and mission-focused background, she finds it easy to put herself in many of Maxar’s customers’ shoes to understand what they do, how they do it, and what their goal is, and then help create solutions for them.

Sarah credits much of her success to the people she has met along the way. For young professionals looking to grow in their careers, she recommends: “Keep up with your networks. There are people you meet at every aspect of your career who are important. Talk to people, see what they are doing, and maybe it will be something you want to do.”

When Sarah is not helping Maxar’s customers, you will find her alternatively burying her head in a book or staring up at the stars. “A lot of what I read is science fiction or fantasy. My favorite author is Robert Heinlein, who wrote extensively way back in the 1940s to 1960s about space exploration and people living on other planets. I always found space exploration and the concept of trying to get humanity off our rock very fascinating.”

One of Sarah’s favorite Heinlein quotes speaks to that fascination: “The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.” That has inspired her to look to the stars. She hopes to one day apply to NASA’s astronaut program.

Playing a Critical Role in Government Missions

Award-Winning Maxar GEOINT Specialist Follows Her Dreams

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