FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Kathy Cutler, director of Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations and chief information officer, shared her 36-year career journey with DLA Energy employees during a brown bag mentoring luncheon in the Kunkel Conference Room, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, March 20.
Cutler began her DLA career in 1982 at the Defense General Supply Center, later renamed Defense Supply Center Richmond and now DLA Aviation, as a general student trainee under the Junior Fellowship Program. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, she became an inventory management specialist at DGSC. Later, she became a supply systems analyst and a supervisory budget analyst.
Throughout her career, Cutler found ways to open doors, diversify her professional growth and evolve in to a well-versed leader.
“I think it is very important to get a foundation of how the basics work and then find what interests you,” she said. “I was always looking for opportunities to see different projects.”
During her tenure, Cutler took advantage of long-term training opportunities as a LEGIS Fellow at the Brookings Institution, working on the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on investigations and on Sen. Susan Collins’ personal staff.
She encouraged the audience to research training or fellowship opportunities, develop a plan and let their leadership know about the plan.
“I think it’s always important to get outside of your organization,” she said.
Cutler – who says her specialty is adaptability – stressed the importance of having a vision of where you want to be and how to get there.
“You’ve gotten rich DLA experience,” said DLA Energy Deputy Commander Guy Beougher. “You’ve shown great functional diversity from budget to being the director of BSM [business systems modernization] and working in J3 [operations]… and you worked for Senator Collins for a time. I think DLA employees would be interested to learn how you negotiated all of that diversity.”
Cutler shared six things that she learned along her career journey.
First, she said people can stay in a job for too long.
“What that exact timeframe is, I don’t know. But it’s probably around that 5-year mark or so,” she said. “You kind of get stale … fresh eyes looking at a problem might see things differently.”
Second, she said to prioritize and delegate.
“There are always more things to do than time allows. You have to figure out what you are going to focus on, and how you are going to get help from the rest of the team.”
Third, she said to volunteer for new challenges.
“If something comes up, raise your hand. That sends a signal that you’re interested in learning new things and figuring out new challenges.”
Fourth, she told the audience to take advantage of training opportunities.
“Do long-term training. Going to a class is good, but do something that is a couple of months long or even a year … it refreshes you and gives you different perspectives.”
Fifth, she said to bring solutions sets.
“Problem identification is always easy. Problem resolution is much more difficult. If you have thoughts, don’t just sit there.”
Her last point of emphasis was on communication.
“It’s not so much the technical issues we work every day, because we will figure out the answers to that. It’s how we engage with people; how we communicate and act toward each other.”
Cutler used the word ‘empower’ as a mnemonic to improve employee communication skills.
E for embrace proactive honesty.
“Speak up. If you see something, say something.”
M for meet commitments.
If you are asked to do a task, do it. Don’t wait for a follow up, she said.
P for peer-to-peer or point-to-point communication.
“Talk directly to the person or organization about the problem, not everyone else.”
O for own the problem until it’s resolved.
We have worked hard in J6 to avoid handoffs, she said.
W for win or lose as a team.
“We all need to help each other, and make sure we are acting as a team,” she said.
E for effective and efficient.
“Focus on what you can do and what you can control, not what you can’t.”
R for respect and courtesy.
“Be polite and respectful when dealing with your teammates and your customers.”
The next DLA Energy brown bag luncheon is scheduled for April 17 with Air Force Brig. Gen. Martin Chapin, DLA Energy Commander.