Susan Kennedy: Deputy Mission Area Executive for Precision Strike
B.A., Physics, College of the Holy Cross
M.S., Applied Physics, The Johns Hopkins University
What’s your current position? As Deputy Mission Area Executive for the Precision Strike Mission Area, I help lead an organization focused on meeting the needs of a variety of Navy, Air Force, and intelligence community sponsors. I’m responsible for the development and execution of the mission area vision, strategy, and internal investment portfolio. I work closely with senior-level government and industry executives responsible for precision engagement programs, influencing future Department of Defense strategy, policy, and investments. As Chief of Staff, I’m also responsible for the day-to-day working of the mission area.
How do you describe your primary area of expertise? I have more than 20 years of systems engineering, modeling and simulation, and program management experience at APL. That includes strike-warfare systems analysis with emphasis on the development of requirements and operational concepts for future systems. I’ve also served as Program Area Manager for Engagement Systems, which included the Tomahawk Weapon System and Tactical Aviation Weapon Systems Programs, among others.
How have your responsibilities evolved over the years? I started my career as a technical contributor, writing software and conducting analyses. Technical competence was the only requirement. As my career progressed, I became a Program Manager, responsible for interacting directly with our sponsors to understand their technical challenges, and identifying and articulating how APL might be able to help them with those challenges. At that stage, developing personal relationships and communicating clearly were the most critical skills. As a Deputy Mission Area Executive, vision and strategic planning are extremely important. I’ve enjoyed the progression and growth during every stage of my career.
What gives you the most satisfaction? Over the past 25 years, I have hired many young engineers. I think of them as my kids. I really enjoy working with them, watching them grow, and seeing their careers progress. My happiest moments are when these folks are reclassified, promoted, or otherwise recognized for their achievement.
What’s your biggest challenge? As Chief of Staff, much of my job involves helping other people get their job done. Using a metaphor, my job is to move the rocks out of the road so that other folks can travel down the road smoothly. Therefore, the results of my efforts are less tangible. At the end of the day, I can’t count the lines of software code I wrote or point to the specific analysis I performed. I still struggle with this.