Made It Possible: Veteran Kristin and Speaking the Same Language

By Kristin Southwell

I've always been the type of person that finds a way to get something done. Whether a small task or large one requiring ingenuity and initiative, I feel driven to break down barriers to success and I enjoy the challenge of making a difference. When I was deployed as a member of the National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom, successfully completing the task at hand wasn't just a personal calling — it was an essential part of the job description. As an intelligence analyst, I was constantly working high-pressure, high-stakes assignments and, when I wasn't putting in long shifts with my Guard assignment, I was taking online courses at Colorado State University to finish earning my psychology degree.

White woman stands outside smiling

I can't say I met too many other psychology majors while deployed, but I found that delving into the study of the mind and what drives behavior helped me better support my team. Of course, you never know where your road will lead you.

In 2007, I traded the Iraqi deserts for the Colorado mountains and found new mission partners in my team at Northrop Grumman. I finished my psychology studies with great support from leadership and, during my 13 years at Northrop Grumman, I've held roles where I can support others while getting the job done, everything from personnel security to intelligence analyst.

Today, I'm in a functional managerial role. If you asked me 10 years ago where I thought would be, I wouldn't have said functional manager. At face value, this role may appear to be out of my comfort zone, but really, I've found my sweet spot — it brings together my psychology background, my military service and my desire to accomplish the mission at hand.

As a manager, I get to learn what makes my team tick — their motivations and their aspirations — and to hear about all the amazing things they are doing. Working alongside them, I guide career development, deliver performance reviews and provide well-deserved promotions.

When there are struggles, people come to me, too. That's when I get to knock down walls and really get things done for my people. Most of my team is former military — including former intelligence analysts, like me — and many of the relationships I've built are strengthened by my service in the Guard. This shared experience and mission-driven outlook has helped me relate to the team and communicate more effectively — put simply, we speak the same language.

Sometimes, it takes a while to find your niche. It took me awhile. But, when you find your niche, you will definitely know.

Are you ready to define possible in Colorado like Kristin? Check out our career opportunities in Colorado.

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