Name: Leedjia Svec
Job: Director of Military Programs
Industry: Science and Technology with a focus on international relations, STEM, and diversity.
Q: From your perspective in Military Programs, what important trends have you seen in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee in the next 5 – 10 years?
Leedjia: Infusion of smart and social technology. Big data, social media, and smart devices are being embraced by a wide spectrum of participants and for a wide variety of reasons. They will get more refined as computers and phones have done, to the point that it will be hard to imagine our life without them, personally and professionally.
Additionally, diversity and inclusion are crucial to a successful workplace. The demographics of the workplace are changing and it is important to be inclusive so that all may benefit!
Q: If you can share advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?
Leedjia: My favorites:
“The mountain is always steepest just before you reach the top”. I never understood how people could quit at the last stage before an accomplishment until I was there myself – it feels like an infinite amount of time and challenge before you reach the summit, but having a good support network to believe in you when you have forgotten how (both personally and professionally, such as The Club!) will keep you from quitting.
“A spectacular failure sets the stage for a spectacular comeback.” I gave a talk to several hundred students and it did Not go well. I had awful reviews and I really didn’t want to face them again but I had just seen a movie where they were playing a game and the coach said, “go out there like the score is zero zero” and I thought, what if I never messed up? What if I approached them like they were a new crowd? So I went back out for a second talk and it went Great! They all applauded.
“Ask! And offer!” It is amazing what you can obtain when you ask or offer your skills. Opportunities, internships, talks, nominations etc. I was given the advice to start speaking once, which I didn’t know I could even do, but I started asking people if I could give lectures (for free) and that led to a speaking engagement at West Point (paid) and the publishing of a text book chapter. I also asked/offered to research the effectiveness of training programs and that led to politicians and leaders using my work to influence social policy.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” (Yet don’t be shy in sharing your contributions!)
“Being in the right doesn’t give you the right.” Someone may have been utterly wrong in behavior however, that does not give me the right to treat him or her that way in return. I have found it helpful to learn new skills in dealing with difficult people when my current skills do not allow me to be my best.
Q: If you had it to do all over again is there one thing you would have changed?
Leedjia: For me- organizational skills, communication, speaking, technology fluency, and confidence in areas I’m less sure in. As a STEM advocate and mentor, I encourage others to utilize free resources and focus on these skills as early as possible. I learned in my international relations studies about the collective power of women, we have brought countries up from the ashes and so much more, I wish I had learned that earlier to know my own individual power.
Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?
Leedjia: Mentors and mentorship can take many forms- people of all backgrounds and professions have the capacity to be a positive influence. This influence may take the form of a single interaction to a lifelong connection, and it may be the spark to an achievement you never imagined.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
Leedjia: Leadership is a vision that you inspire others to achieve; those who are led feel fulfilled achieving their goals and your goals at the same time. My favorite leaders did not have to yell, get angry, or be manipulative. They were caring, firm, passionate, and willing to give opportunities to all; they pushed the limits, positively.
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Leedjia: I blend my personal and professional interests – for example, STEM. I have started STEM programs at work and enjoy blogging at home (please check out stylishSTEM.blogspot.com and StylishSTEM on FB), meeting Bill Nye the Science guy, Nobel prize winners, receiving a White House invitation, things I never expected but fully appreciate personally and professionally!
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
Leedjia: I lived on a sailboat and in a campground as a result of my parent’s professions. I think this gave me a sense of adventure and desire for change that the military affords.
Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?
Leedjia: Happy to share my experience and expertise on the following:
- Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) advocacy/education
- Diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity advocacy/education, mediation
- International relations- conflict transformation