We sat down with Renee Strickland, Quality & Improvement Manager to learn more about her experience in the Army and how that translates to the role she currently fulfills at Cognosante.
My father and many of my uncles were World War II veterans, so I grew up with great respect for our men and women in uniform. I enlisted as part of the delayed entry program, after completing my bachelor’s degree. I wanted a real-world opportunity to grow, travel, and actively utilize my foreign language skills. Joining the Army felt like the perfect fit, allowing me to serve my country and put my learning into practice. My active army enlistment was for four years, followed by four years in the Army Reserves.
Like many dual military married couples, my husband and I were both deployed to support Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. We saw families with children scramble to make use of childcare arrangements, and it was tough for them. When the end of my enlistment came up the following year, we wanted to start a family—influencing my choice to transition into the civilian work force. I wanted to make sure one of us would be able to stay with our children when/ if another deployment came up.
My time in the military gave me confidence in my skills as a leader, as a communicator, and in my ability to manage time, identify and prioritize tasks, and rely on my self-discipline to get them done. I also came to fully realize how much I enjoy learning and mentoring others.
I Joined Cognosante in March of 2019 as a member of the Performance Center. My priority in joining Cognosante was to support the successful re-assessment of CMMI for Services at Maturity Level 3—a clear delineator between us and other companies when we pursue new business. I tend to look at everything through the lens of how we can work smarter. Are there small improvements or investments that might garner significant returns in increased productivity, decreased costs, or higher quality of products and services? Are we collecting and analyzing the right data to support those decisions? I suppose this way of thinking is partially attributable to my background in intel—knowledge is power.
I feel pride in knowing that I don’t just help identify issues or risks. As a member of the Performance Center, I contribute to analysis and implementation of process improvements and changes that will positively impact our employees and by extension, our clients. I take pride in knowing who our clients are, and how I can help them.
At my previous company, one of my state health quality teams worked directly with Cognosante. That team was very complimentary of their Cognosante counterparts, and their positive feedback sparked my interest. Ensuing conversations made it clear that Cognosante appreciates diversity and unique skillsets—something I also value.
Don’t let others tell you what you are or are not qualified for, and don’t be afraid to try something new. When I was transitioning, I made the most of available trainings, specifically computer-related trainings, as my background was in linguistics. After my transition, I was assigned to a placement lead who worked specifically with veterans. He reviewed my resume, and noticed I had a degree in international business, spoke Mandarin Chinese and Russian fluently, and had served as a successful team leader. Despite my education and experience, I was told I was ‘Technically unemployable’. It took me a day to process that and later realized he had probably never placed a college-educated female. I found a different agency and had a job within the week. Since then, I have been working in technology/ government contracting. It’s important to never let someone else’s limitations limit you.
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