Women in Leadership Spotlight: Linda Kelly

DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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Editor’s note: The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime recognizes Women’s Equality Day in August. In honor of women’s contributions to the agency’s global mission, DLA Land and Maritime is highlighting women in leadership who contribute to our mission of providing logistics support to America’s warfighters.

What is your job title and what do you do specifically? Deputy Director, Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate.  I lead and manage the Long Term Contracting strategy and execution for the Weapon Systems and NIINs within the DLA Land and Maritime Supply Chains.

How long have you worked for the federal government including military service? 32 years and 2 months

How long have you worked for L&M and how did you get your start here? 31.5 years.  (I had a brief stint with the Department of the Treasury.)  I started June 27, 1988 in the Procurement Intern Program.  My senior year in college I saw DLA listed in a Business Week Magazine as one of the companies / organizations that hired the most college graduates every year, so I mailed them my resume.  They sent me back one of those old blue SF171 forms to complete.  The rest is history.

What is your favorite thing about your line of work? 1. When we are able to execute a long term contract that is truly a solution to a supply chain problem. 2. When there is not a pandemic, the fitness center is free.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? When I was in college and having trouble picking a major, my track coach told me I couldn’t go wrong with a business degree.  Everything has a business element.

If you could learn to master one thing, what would it be? Umm, my life would be a lot easier if I was a better cook, so I’ll go with that. 

Who is the most influential person in your life…past or present? My older sister, Katy.  I come from a family of eight children.  She is the oldest and I am #7 in line.  She was and still is a great role model for all of us.

What do you think about when you hear Women’s Equality Month? This sounds trivial but when I was a kid I was always blistered that I couldn’t play football because I was a girl.  That was in the 70’s.  Things are a little different now but I no longer want to play football.  (Well, some days I do.)

Who are some women you admire? Anna Sofia Botha, a great grandmother, who has been coaching track and field in South Africa since 1968.  In the 2016 Rio Olympics, at the age of 74, she watched one of her athletes win the gold medal in the Men’s 400M.  Wayde Van Niekerk broke the 400M world record held by Michael Johnson, since 1999, on his way to the gold medal.  He had asked Botha in 2012 to be his coach and train him.  Everyone on the TV broadcast said she looked like Barbara Bush’s sister.  How many women have that kind of success coaching in a Men’s sport when they are in their mid-70’s?  Pretty inspiring.

In your opinion, what challenges remain for women today? Childcare and balancing work/career and family will probably always remain a big stress area.  Things have improved over the last 25 years, but it’s complicated.  There are still only 24 hours in a day.  Thinking you are going to do it all and do it all well, is a bit of a myth in my opinion.

How can understanding history help us to overcome them? Recent generations have really improved on equal parenting responsibilities with fathers and mothers.  When I was growing up, it was primarily moms doing the kid thing, so it was difficult to have a career and family.  American society is now focused more on equal parenting responsibility, which is a big help for women wanting a career and family.  You would not have heard of on-site daycare 50 years ago.

What is your best memory of working at L&M? Working the Up-Armored HMMWV and MRAP LTC efforts.  The contracts we put in place supporting those vehicles played a significant role in saving soldier lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An NFL Quarterback.  I was a lot like the daughter of the assistant coach in the movie, “Remember the Titans.”  (My siblings can confirm that.)

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I would go for a long run, followed by a cool down bicycle ride, and then a large amount of guilt-free pizza.

What’s the most thrilling/adventurous thing you have ever done? Hmm, once when I was TDY with Barb Robertson, we got caught on some train tracks with a train heading toward us.  That was pretty thrilling and I have to give Barb some big kudos for her defensive driving and maneuverability skills that day.  (Probably acquired from her LMS training).  I guess the most thrilling thing I did voluntarily is Zip Lining a few years ago with my husband.

If you could pick a personal motto, what would it be? Stay the course and bloom where you’re planted.

Any advice for those starting careers at L&M? Build some depth in your career field (contracting, supply, tech, finance, etc…) and become a subject matter expert before going into management or jumping into other areas for “broadening.”  Career broadening is important, but 20 years into your career, you don’t want to be a mile wide and an inch deep.