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Leadership Connect held a webinar on reskilling the DOD workforce to keep up with new technologies with two expert panelists:

Katharine Kelley: Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Human Capital, U.S. Space Force

Tammy Krum: Cyber Testing Branch Head, U.S. Navy

The panelists, moderated by Leadership Connect’s very own Alan Thomas, discussed how their organizations strategize and implement policies to ensure that their personnel keep up to date on new technologies, while also taking us through how they seek out very niche types of employees to promote innovation and expansion within the DOD.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion regarding what is important when it comes to making lasting progress in the DOD:

  1. People: Put in the work to attract people with an aptitude to learn and actively fight “skill atrophy.”
  2. Advancements: Never shy away from being the new thing in a stagnant ecosystem.
  3. Academia: Invest in relationships that bring young people with cyber and technology skills into your organization.
  4. Collaboration and communication: Work with your people to figure out the best strategies for upskilling and reskilling new technology to promote retention and comradery.

Let’s take a closer look into each of these topics:


Both Tammy and Kate heavily emphasized the importance of finding the right people to bring into cyber and technology roles. Since these roles are extremely niche, the women explained that finding the proper personality type can be just as valuable as finding someone with the right skillset. Tammy said that many of her peers are the type of people who go home after the workday and never stop learning. Kate reiterated this notion by explaining that through her experience with the Army, she learned that having a staff who is ready to jump into a startup with trust, excitement, and a strong desire to learn is the key to making new spaces in the DOD. Given that a lot of these new technologies take time and effort to master, having employees who are never done learning is the way to ensure that your team won’t fall behind.


Utilizing new technology inherently breeds change. With that change comes new insights and new opportunities to create organizations and capabilities within the DOD that didn’t exist previously. As a member of the Space Force, Kate knows this all too well. She said that there is a lot of pressure when standing up a new organization in DOD – people can be intimidated by the change, which can create complex organizational dynamics and sometimes hinder the development of interpersonal relationships.

She and Tammy both agreed that when starting a new endeavor that capitalizes on changes in technology, it’s of utmost importance that you can prove your value as quickly as possible to solidify your staying power. This led them to circle back to their previous point about hiring the right people because only those with an accelerated drive for change and hunger for new knowledge are up for the challenge. It is those people who will influence what Kate called “the fence riders” – the people who are somewhat interested in this change but are going to watch from the sidelines for a while before diving in headfirst, following the lead of the changemakers before them.


What better way to ensure you’re getting the right employees than by training and investing in young people? Both Kate and Tammy stressed the importance of investing in young college students with an interest and aptitude in cyber and technology. By guaranteeing them a landing place post-grad, the DOD can work with these young minds throughout their college years through internships and apprenticeships, expanding their skillsets and proving their loyalty to them. The idea of investing in your people is what promotes retention in the DOD and makes employees feel trusted and valued.

Collaboration and communication:

Kate and Tammy both explained how their teams are very open with each other when it comes to upskilling and reskilling. They said that they all understand that the goal is to keep ahead of the curve and never fall behind on new tech, and that common value is what drives them forward.

In fact, Kate went so far as to say that promoting teamed solutions and innovation at the lowest level is now a core value at the Space Force. This means that when the need for new certifications and trainings come up, each employee is given the guidance, space, and opportunity to learn these new skills and dedicate time to brainstorming individually or in a group setting to see where that new tech can take them.

Tammy walked us through her team’s process when it comes to reskilling. Her overall goal is to make sure her team is well-versed in the proper technology to not lose out to private sector competitors. Her team sets a curriculum of assessments, trainings, and educational demonstrations for each employee to progress through to ensure that their qualifications and skills are up to par. Once they move through that process, they begin an apprenticeship where they implement their new skills daily and practice with supervision before diving into new tech on their own.

Miss out on the conversation and want to learn more? Click here to watch the full discussion.

Annie Farrell

Digital Content Writer