10 Qs with
Chief of Staff for Operation For IEM
1. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?
I completed my undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, majoring in English and Political Science. After I completed my Master’s in International Relations in Vienna, Austria where I worked with a non-governmental organization. I joined IEM in 2014 and worked in the business development division. I took a leave of absence and returned to IEM in 2018 with the Air Operations Division. In the Air Operations Division I was able to gain project experience for emergency management planning, preparedness, and response. During the peak of COVID response in January 2021, my professional experience shifted to COVID operations which has taken me across six states. In addition to working at IEM, I am a current national guardsman. The military gave me structure, regiment, and offered enormous leadership development. I pull in a lot of what I have learned in the military into my projects on the civilian side. Chain of command structure is extremely important while on projects and ensures proper accountability.
2. WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
6. HAVE YOU READ A RECENT ARTICLE OR BOOK THAT INSPIRED YOU?
Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West is something that I recently read that helped put a lot of things in perspective for me. It is also a good leadership book that I recommend. Even if you are not connected to the military, it has a lot of lessons to be learned from. It’s humbling from a leadership perspective and there’s a lot of things to implement across various sectors. When it comes to leadership, there’s a difference between a boss and a mentor/leader. I feel like a lot of times we lose sight of this differentiation when in certain positions. In my professional career, I never strive to be a boss, I want to constantly strive to do better and be a better leader for my team and those around me.
I always read a lot of leadership series books to adapt and develop personal growth. One of the most impressionable books that I have read was Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. This book and its lessons still stay with me, even eight years later. Even if you’re not in a leadership role, the way you speak and treat others matters and the way you envision yourself matters. “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own” (Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last, 2014).
3. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE A ROADBLOCK FOR WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?
7. HOW DO YOU STAY ENGAGED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time during response efforts to truly be engaged in my own local community. However, I ensure that I maintain heavy engagement within my military community and family. During long hours, it has taken a lot of self-discipline to ensure that I am not absorbed solely in work, and that I take time to check on those I consider my community and family. It is important to extend that empathy, compassion, and understanding no matter how busy our daily life becomes. We rely on each other to hold and build each other up, and I do not ever want to lose sight of that.
I like to scuba dive! My first time diving was off the coast of Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica in 2008. It was a fascinating experience, piqued my curiosity, and was very calming. I decided to take it up as a hobby, as there’s a whole different world to explore!
9. ANY TIPS FOR WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
Know your limitations, learn your mind and body as it relates to burnout. You have to become very self-aware and notice the signs that most would rather ignore. I had to start asking myself “Can this wait until tomorrow?” and “Is it mission critical that I do it now?” Asking myself these questions allowed me to give myself perspective and set apart time for myself. By doing this, I was able to go on hikes, go running and grab dinner with friends, without impacting my work throughput. If anything, I became more productive due to having set apart time for myself. Know how to prioritize, know what's immediate, know what’s next, and know what can wait until tomorrow. You’re not going to get everything completed all of the time. There will always be something else to do.
We all relieve stress and decompress in various ways, mine has always been hiking and running, or just being outside in nature. Know how to reset and practice self-care. One of the biggest lessons MAJ Otenti taught me from my military career is, if your team sees you running yourself into the ground, they are going to believe that you have the expectation for them to run themselves into the ground with you.
4. SHARE A HOT TOPIC OR TREND IN YOUR FIELD!
Internal threats to homeland security and how that affects our foreign policy has always peaked my interests due to my Master’s degree. Governmental and institutional instability and how that directly correlated into extremism and/or terrorism is always something I’ve monitored during my spare time. I’ll shift focus and look at certain areas of the world that the news won’t particularly cover. While the world often shifts their focus on what the news focuses on in that moment, there are still separatist movements happening in other parts of the world that are not covered by the media. When you look at world governance indicators and data published from the University of Maryland’s Start Program, which focuses on terrorist incidents, the quantity of them, the nature of them and the verification, it is really interesting. This is something that I have always ‘geeked’ out over, and I can quickly go into hours of reading over the geopolitics surrounding the data. While this is what I focused on for my Master’s thesis, it always wore on me that I only had enough data at the time to study correlations. It will be interesting when I have the time to sit down with the decades of data and see if we can finally get to a cause and effect.
10. SHARE YOUR BEST CAREER ADVICE.
Never lose your ambition, drive and willingness to learn. Caveat being, with ambition comes humbleness as a balancing factor. Don’t be timid in diversifying your work and experiences. Adopt the philosophy that learning is continuous and never ending. Respect younger and older generations, the knowledge they can impart, and the ideas they bring to the team. With that, make sure you have open mindedness and a willingness to adapt. Often our best ideas are a conglomeration of multiple brains and not just ourselves. This is where innovation and growth thrive. But most importantly, know your worth and believe in yourself.