Catherine Kuenzel of Northrop Grumman: Mentoring Answer for ‘Well-Rounded Career’

ckExecutiveBiz:  Can you tell me a little about your background and maybe some lessons you learned on your way to your current position?

Catherine Kuenzel:  I feel fortunate to have had a diverse 20-year career in a range of functions including account management and business development, to running a large services solutions organization at Northrop Grumman.  My experience has provided a solid foundation for the job that I am in today because as a systems integrator you strive to present the solution that is going to best meet your customer’s requirements, execute their mission and help make them successful.  What my 20 years of experience brings to the table is knowledge of cutting-edge technology, experienced execution of transparent processes and a passion for people – all into one package.

ExecutiveBiz:  What are some lessons that you think you’ve picked up along the way?

Catherine Kuenzel:  I have learned to listen to the customer to fully understand their needs and goals, and effectively translate that back to the organization to tailor a solution to meet the customer’s requirements.  Are they trying to solve a technology issue, a process problem or overcome budget constraints? It’s important to clearly communicate how your product or solution will benefit the customer. This applies to not only hardware and software providers, but to systems integrators as well.

ExecutiveBiz:  What are some unique abilities or aspects that NGC brings to the IT market?

Catherine Kuenzel:  Northrop Grumman Information Systems, one of five sectors of Northrop Grumman, is a leading global provider of advanced solutions that deliver timely, enabling information where it’s needed most for its military, intelligence, civilian, state and local, and commercial customers. We are an $8.5 billion business employing more than 24,000 employees with offices in 50 states and 18 countries.

Our customers look to us for large-scale enterprise solutions. We support commanders who manage far-flung forces via global command, control and communications systems; police and firefighters who will access high-speed data and video over a new broadband wireless network; battlefield commanders who use a tactical Internet to lead their troops; Department of Homeland Security staffers who rely on their classified network infrastructure; intelligence analysts who rely on their systems to get actionable information into the right hands at the right time; missile defense analysts who model and simulate scenarios at the Joint National Integration Center; states, counties and cities who rely on the management of their information infrastructures to deliver responsive services to their citizens; and businesses that adopt new software solutions to make their enterprise processes run more smoothly and efficiently.

One of our core competencies is in the area of cybersecurity, where our decades-long expertise cuts across every sector: intelligence, defense, civil, commercial and state and local.    As a large scale integrator, we believe you don’t just secure a network; you secure the whole enterprise: its data, information, communications channels, and mission.  My focus is on the federal side, where we’re currently applying our expertise to agencies that include Departments of Justice, State, Treasury and Homeland Security.  This experience, plus our internal research and university research approach is accelerating the rate at which we apply solutions to defend our customers’ enterprises.

Talent is at the heart of our success and we are also passionate about grooming the next generation of cyber professionals.  One example is our role as top sponsor for CyberPatriot, a program that prepares high-school kids to pursue a career in this field.  From high-school through the university-level to training our own employees, we take this challenge very seriously and are committed to building the pipeline of trained cyber pro’s.

ExecutiveBiz:  Do you have any advice for other IT professionals who are out there in the market currently?

Catherine Kuenzel:  I am an advocate of mentoring. For a well-rounded career, you should be a mentor and have a mentor.  Mentoring affords you a wealth of experience and perspective from someone that you respect and admire.  We also have a responsibility to mentor the next generation of engineers and scientists. Through my mentoring relationships I have learned effective work/life balance, which is important at any stage of your career.  Also, be actively engaged in your organization. Don’t just sit on the sidelines and watch your business evolve. Be an active participant and become part of your company’s culture. I’m very fortunate to work for an organization that supports mentoring, encourages professional development and also embraces diversity – which contributes to a very positive working environment.

ExecutiveBiz:  What’s a hobby that you really enjoy?

Catherine Kuenzel:  I am avid reader and gain a lot of good insight from reading business books, but also enjoy being absorbed in a good novel. I also cherish the time I spend with my husband and daughters.

ExecutiveBiz:  What was the last book you read?

Catherine Kuenzel:  The last book I read was My Sister’s Keeper on recommendation from my daughters.  I’m currently reading the Blind Side.

ExecutiveBiz:  What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

Catherine Kuenzel:  I find the time to disconnect and be a mom, a wife, a sister and a friend.

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