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Managing sailors on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier isn’t quite the same as helping a group of people in a restaurant achieve a common goal. Renee Reynolds, Ph.D., currently an executive fellow at the Naval Sea Systems Command, shared her insights on leadership and management during a recent BEYA STEM Conference. Learn how she became a proactive manager, mentor, and advisor.

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“I got thrown into leadership at a very young age from being a Naval Officer into things like relationships, commitment, empathy, confidence, and self-awareness, which for me is the biggest one,” she said. “After I got off active duty, I probably had a false sense of confidence. I thought to myself, I’ve run a nuclear reactor, I can run a restaurant. So I bought a restaurant.

“What I realized when I had that venture was that dealing with the civilian retail staff was very different from dealing with military staff,” Reynolds continued. “Out of all my experiences, I feel that was the most humbling because I had to learn a lot about myself.  From that point, I had to work on learning different types of situational leadership. When to be transformational, and when to not be diplomatic. It’s taken a very long time. Now, serving at the Naval Sea Systems for eight years, and even though that community is somewhat an extension of the military because you work with a lot of veterans and still the Department of Defense, it is still a civilian organization.”

Twenty years ago, Reynolds was commissioned as an ensign in the U. S. Navy, entering the Surface Warfare community. She completed her initial sea tour on the USS Nashville. Then commenced training in the nuclear power program focused on the operation of the navy’s nuclear power reactors at sea. Upon completion of this pipeline, she reported to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, serving a tour as a reactor electrical division officer where she supervised staff operating the nuclear propulsion systems.

In 2005, she left active duty and transferred to the Naval Reserve, where for the next two years she implemented the Navy Knowledge Online. She also worked for various government contractors developing technical and engineering solutions for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Navy.

Reynolds earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Hampton University, a master’s degree in engineering management from Old Dominion, and a Ph.D. in business management, specializing in strategy and innovation, from Capella University. She’s now doing a master’s degree in digital media and design at Harvard University.

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