Powered by Talent: Kim Guedry

August 14, 2022

CAPT Kim Guedry is the Director of the Joint Reserve Detachment (JRD) at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). In this role, she brings more than 23 years of military experience across a wide spectrum of capacities.

While on active duty, Kim’s roles ranged from Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard cutter (ship) to Command Duty Officer in the Service’s busiest command center. Following her transition to the reserves, Kim held various liaison positions in the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including her role as a Coast Guard Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer to FEMA. In her role as Director of JRD, she provides specialty reserve personnel from across the Services in direct support of DIU’s six portfolios, while dual-hatting as the Service lead for the U.S. Coast Guard’s reserve efforts at DIU.

As a civilian, Kim co-founded two startups, one in the AgTech industry and one in business continuity consulting. Kim is currently the Director of Business Operations at Lumen Technologies, a Fortune 200 tech company, where she also serves as Chief of Staff in the North America Field Operations organization. 

Kim is a proud U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate, a George W. Bush Institute and National Defense University scholar, and she earned her MBA with a specialty in Human Resources Management while on active duty.

Why were you interested in working at DIU?

Throughout my professional career, both in and out of the military, I have been attracted to new or slightly ambiguous roles. I learned of DIU in its infancy through a start-up I co-founded, and an opportunity to be a part of the DIU team came in 2020 when the Coast Guard created a number of positions at DIU. It seemed to be the perfect fit given my previous DoD and DHS liaison roles, my strong interest in the diversity of the six technology portfolios, my start-up background, as well as my leadership roles in the tech industry. Moreover, the opportunity to work in an innovative environment drew me in.

What is your favorite DIU experience thus far?

That’s easy—the people. DIU has the most incredible team of people I have ever worked with. From humility to humor, intelligence to insightfulness, and passion to purpose; I am in awe of the capabilities of each and every one of the DIU team members. Regardless of their roots in industry, technology, government, or academia, this team shares, learns, and does as one. It is both a joy and inspiration to be a part of such a grounded and driven team, working together for a purpose greater than their own.

If you could solve any DoD problem tomorrow, no matter how big, what would you tackle and why? 

Steve Blank recently shared with our DIU team the following, “The DoD (I would fold DHS in here) is a world-class organization, filled with world-class people but built for a world that no longer exists.” If I could solve anything with the wave of a magic wand, it would be the shift to a fully-innovative culture.

What does that mean? First, the good news. I have little doubt that when it comes to the “want to” of having an innovative culture, most are all-in; however, implementation gets sticky. Second, in order for that implementation to happen, the end-to-end process requires both extensive journey-mapping at all levels and policy rewrites to ensure items like the budget process help, not hinder, an innovative environment. Finally, like any culture shift, it will take time. However, in my opinion, the phrase “well, that’s how we’ve always done it” needs to be extracted from DoD and the U.S. Government vocabulary. From the newest member on a team to the most seasoned, healthy curiosity into doing something safer, cheaper, smarter, or faster should be a table stakes question.

Those close to me know that I cannot stand the often-used phrase, “It is what it is.” No! Regardless of what “it” is, if you don’t like it, it’s no longer working, either change it or change your view of it, but don’t just accept it. Both our personal and professional lives are filled with hundreds of choices, big and small, each day—we allocate our finite resources (time, people, funding) to our priorities and what is most important. I would make an innovative culture one of those choices.

What emerging commercial technologies are you most excited about?

I feel like this is a trick question—that’s the glory of DIU! The opportunities are near endless. What’s emerging right now and what is a mere thought, has the potential to land in the hands of our military members and make their lives and our nation safer, stronger, or more efficient and effective. I used to describe DIU as the place where the question “Wouldn’t it be cool if ABC could do XYZ?” is being worked on every single day.   

What are you reading right now?

I am a self-proclaimed leadership and management book junkie. No one book is the “silver bullet” and I rarely re-read books. However, there are two “oldies but goodies” that I am currently re-reading, Ben and Kelly Decker’s Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action and Milo O. Frank’s How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less. Effective communication is key - it’s something I don’t think I will ever be settled with.

 What defense challenge/commercial solution are you working on right now?

Since joining DIU, my efforts have primarily been from a Service lead perspective. While we’ve explored initiatives in each portfolio (yes, even the Space portfolio), two that are furthest developed from a Coast Guard perspective are housed in the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) portfolio, namely Wireless Crew and xView3.

 Supporting our active duty DIU Coast Guardsman (CDR Mike “Nordy” Nordhausen), Wireless Crew goes after an age-old problem with respect to fleet—wide Boat Crew Communications Systems (BCSS). We believe that using a commercial market solution and our DIU process will buy down risk and find a communication solution for our boats that is reliable, strong, useful, and comfortable for our crews. Furthermore, this solution is exciting in that it marks the first use of Other Transaction (OTs) funding by the Coast Guard. This  will enable the Coast Guard to set a precedent and be flexible enough to find the right solutions to solve compelling and long-standing challenges like those with our current communications platforms.

Also, while there is still some work to be done from a training perspective, our xView3 project adds capability to our Service’s counter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing challenge. As I step into the Director of the JRD role, I am excited to continue learning and gaining additional insight into more of the amazing projects that the collective DIU is working on all the while enabling reservists to play an active role in that development and progress.

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