How did you discover your passion for what you do?

My passion for what I do started at an early age when I saw my father and grandfather go to work every day and tell me (as much as they could) about what they did every day. Attending the Chicago Air and Water show nearly every year, and hearing my dad point to the sky and say, “Those are the airplanes I put equipment on” was simply amazing. I come from a long legacy of military personnel family that worked in the defense industry. It seemed like a natural fit to go into this field of work as well — every day I have a huge sense of gratification that I help bring soldiers home to their families, and the work I do protects the men and women that protect us every day. My passion grew as my career grew and it continues to grow.

 

Who is your mentor, and how did he/she shape your career?

My earliest mentor had to be my grandfather. He instilled his core values in me through his selflessness, work ethic and leadership. Unfortunately, he was not alive when I started my career, but when people saw me in the hallway they always said they saw him in me. Hearing those words motivated me to be the best I could be and learn as much as I could early in my career. My most recent mentor for more than ten years has been Carole Hutchins, a woman who started in a male dominant industry as a young engineer. She has worked hard, succeeded, failed, got up and has always come out stronger from any situation she has been in. She has been my biggest cheerleader and sometimes my toughest critic, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

What words of wisdom do you live by?

One piece of advice my mentor has given me is to never be the smartest person in the room. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter and think differently than you do because you will ultimately learn more from them in the long run. I have found that being a humble leader is not always easy but is by far the most effective way to grow and lead a team. Being open to failure and acknowledging when you are wrong not only helps you grow, but it encourages and fosters an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation.

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