By Mr. Johnathon Orrell (SDDC)April 25, 2019
Following the recent addition of Soldiers to its line-up, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) has established another first in its Surface Warrior Spotlight program by shining on a civilian supervisor, Jessica Snyder from SDDC's G3 Operations Directorate.
Snyder, who has been with SDDC since 2006, is the chief of domestic movement support. Day-to-day, she works domestic transportation issues--specifically the business-end of the command's shipper and carrier support.
She was nominated by Jeffery Olenick, the G3 Directorate's chief of movement support, because of her exceptional efforts behind the scenes to keep SDDC running.
"Jessica's worked so many different aspects of the business lane - she's versatile in hazardous materials, ammo transportation, carrier performance and much, much more. You name it, she knows more about it than most in the command," he said.
Olenick also said he nominated Snyder because of the attributes she brings to his team.
"Her ability to assimilate and sift information is amazing. Whether it's a task from above or a question from below, she's able to quickly parse facts from assumptions and make informed recommendations and decisions. She's also very dialed-in to her subordinates and their needs, making sure her team has all the tools they need to be successful in their missions."
Snyder, who directly supervises two branch chiefs and is the second-line supervisor for a staff of 20, says she became a supervisor because she wanted a new challenge and was enticed by the opportunity to make positive changes throughout SDDC.
Her leadership style is simple; she just wants her employees to do the right thing.
"Sometimes that means that they need to take a stand or make a hard decision, but sometimes it's much simpler than that, like coming in and doing the job you're supposed to do while you're here," she said.
"It also really gets my attention when someone challenges norms and comes up with a new and innovative idea, or when they go above and beyond to support their teammates or the mission," Snyder said.
Her husband Brandon also works for SDDC in the International Movement Operations section of the G3 Directorate. They met in the Department of the Army Transportation Intern Program and have been married for eight years. They have four daughters and a dog named Cooper. "You'll often find him covered with stickers and being smothered with love," she said.
Now it's time to bring Jessica into the Surface Warrior Spotlight.
About her time with SDDC:
Q: How do you balance your career at SDDC and your family?
A: We're still learning to balance career and family. Every time we think we have it down we throw another kid into the mix and have to figure it all out again. I make a lot of lists and do a lot of planning. I appreciate that I've always had wonderful supervisors who recognize that I have responsibilities, commitments, and interests outside of work and have given me the flexibility to take part in my kids' activities and be engaged in my family life.
Q: How has SDDC helped you in your career development?
A: The majority of my professional career has been with SDDC, so I can pretty much credit the organization with getting me to where I am now. I've had great mentors who have taken an interest in me and my personal development. I've also been lucky enough to have the stars align a couple of times and have had a series of jobs I was well qualified for come open at the right time for me.
Q: What do you find the most challenging at SDDC?
A: We have a somewhat limited span of control over other stakeholders and systems. When those things directly impact our ability to do our best work, it can be very frustrating.
Q: What drew you to SDDC originally?
A: I was placed with SDDC straight out of the intern program. Rather than do the 18-month developmental assignment at one of our ports, I was sent straight to SDDC Headquarters at Fort Eustis, Va. and started working in negotiations. In some ways, we've really changed as an organization, but in a lot of others, we've stayed the same. Speaking as someone who has spent their career in domestic support, our efforts to operationalize have really changed the focus and the staff's outlook.
Q: What has been your favorite project at SDDC?
A: I really enjoyed my time as the Defense Transportation Tracking System (DTTS) Program Manager. There wasn't one specific thing from that time that really stands out, but rather a whole series of projects and initiatives that I hope helped to streamline some processes and make some improvements.
Q: What is your favorite part about working for SDDC?
A: The people are awesome. They make coming to work enjoyable and they push me to make sure that I'm always improving.
Q: What is your proudest moment at SDDC?
A: Getting approval to realign the DTTS staff in a way that benefitted the organization and my employees. I was able to make a tangible difference for many of the folks who worked for me.
About being a supervisor:
Q: From your past work experience, who's leadership methods do you most mirror?
A: I've had several really good supervisors that taught me the importance of a lot of different traits and skills, like empathy and active listening, and who employed a variety of leadership styles. The best ones empowered their employees and provided them with the support they needed to excel. They gave me guidance when I needed it and space when I didn't. I've also had some supervisors that taught me what not to do. When I make decisions and interact with my employees, I try to remember what it's like to be on the receiving end and I keep the actions of those not-so-good supervisors in mind. Making tough and unpopular decisions comes with the territory, but the way you handle and implement those decisions really makes a difference. I try to always keep that in mind.
Q: What is the coolest project you are working on right now?
A: There isn't just one! Domestic Movement Support has several initiatives in the works that have the potential to make a big impact. We have great people with great ideas working every day to improve things for the headquarters staff, the shippers, and the carriers. It's exciting to me that there are so many opportunities for improvement out there and we have the talent to make things happen.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
A: For me, leadership is a combination of responsibility and opportunity. I feel very strongly that I have a responsibility to do the right thing for the organization, for the mission, and most importantly to me, for the people. I've been given the opportunity to do those things, and to support, enable and empower those around me so they can do it too. If I fail to act responsibly or to seize or generate opportunities, I won't be in a position of leadership for very long.
Q: What is your leadership style?
A: I'd like to think that I use a variety of leadership styles. I don't believe there is any one approach that works best for all situations. You can learn all about the pros and cons of the various styles, but you have to actually get out there and try them out to see what best suits you, and also what best suits the situation. You develop your style with experience. It evolves as you evolve.
Q: What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
A: I really enjoy the people part of my job. The people are a big part of what makes the organization great. I find it very rewarding to see my employees excel or meet a goal or solve a particularly difficult issue. My favorite projects and initiatives have been aimed at making things better for the staff.
Q: Before working at SDDC, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
A: While I was in college, I was a summer hire with the FBI.
Q: What is coming up in 2019 that you are most excited for? Why are you excited about it?
A: It's hard for me to pick only one thing that I'm really excited for this year. We really try to focus on all of the little things that add together to make up our messy, wonderful life. I'm excited to take my kids to the Saint Louis Zoo once the weather finally gets (and stays) nice. They've been dying to go. I'm looking forward to (and a little sad about) all those baby milestones we'll reach with our littlest one. I'm excited about watching the Women's National Soccer Team play in May with my husband and some of our friends. I guess if I absolutely had to pick one single thing that I cannot wait for this year, it would be getting a full night of sleep. I don't think I've had one in six years. You'll know when it finally happens because you won't recognize me--I'll be a new woman!
Q: If you could win an Olympic medal for any sport, what would it be?
A: If I could win an Olympic medal for any sport, it would be soccer. I've played since I was a little kid and I love the game. And our U.S. women's team is just so darn good. If it couldn't be soccer, than maybe it would be ski jumping? Seems like that's the closest I'd ever get to being able to fly, except that I don't know how to ski and I'm afraid of heights.
Q: What are you currently watching on Netflix?
A: I'm currently making my way back through all the seasons of "The Great British Baking Show." I could watch it on an endless loop forever. If you don't happen to enjoy boundless positivity, tasty confections and the good, old fashioned drama that results from accidently knocking all the air out of your egg whites, this isn't the show for you. I'd also question whether or not we can be friends.
Q: If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Why did you pick that color?
A: If you've ever read the book "The Day the Crayons Quit" you would know this is a loaded question. I understand the downfalls of being blue (color one picture of a blue whale swimming in the ocean under a sunny sky and you're done for) or beige (always second fiddle to brown). But, if I had to pick, I'd be the metallic silver crayon. Kind of nestled comfortably between the primary colors and the neon ones with glitter. Not used up in one picture, but still practical enough to be the go-to color for all sorts of cool things like rocket ships and tiaras.
Q: What is your favorite family tradition?
A: When I was a kid, my mom had "happy birthday" window stickers that she always put up when it was someone's birthday. Now that I have my own family, we hang up a happy birthday banner over the kitchen table. Our girls get so excited when they come downstairs and the banner is up.
Q: Who is your favorite superhero? Why are they your favorite?
A: I don't know much about superheroes--I'm not a nerd! (And I am very much kidding…) This is a hard question for me. What about Hermione Granger? Can I swap out superhero for witch? That's way less nerdy! I think Hermione is awesome! I can't wait to read the Harry Potter books with my girls so they can read about a character who is smart and capable and compassionate.
Q: What job would you be terrible at?
A: Fashion blogger (no explanation required), dentist (could never put my fingers into other peoples' mouths) and professional baker (lack the self-control needed to not lick the spoon).
Q: What is the best vacation you've been on?
A: My honeymoon! It was our one and only true vacation. We don't have any family in the area and have had a lot of kids in a short period of time, so most of my leave is spent visiting family or bonding with a newborn on maternity leave. I wouldn't trade the baby time or family time for anything, but I wouldn't say no to sitting on the beach with a book for a couple of hours!
Q: How would you describe your personality?
A: I'm definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert, and sometimes I have a little more of that Type-A in me than I would like, particularly now that we have lots of little people who are great agents of chaos. I'd also like to think that I'm compassionate and clever and resourceful.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: "Be present." It's so easy to get caught up in life. I feel like I spend a lot of time multitasking, but if I stop and really focus on what's going on right there in front of me, I get to experience so much more. Now that I have kids, I find this especially true.
Q: What is your least favorite food?
A: Avocados. I know I should like them. In fact, I WANT to like them. But I just can't. The texture grosses me out.
Q: What is one thing about you that we would be surprised to know?
A: In addition to soccer, I was also on my university's tennis team. You would be especially surprised to know this if you ever actually saw me play tennis. I'm not very good (and neither was our tennis program).
Q: What are three career lessons you've learned thus far?
A: Everyone has something to contribute.
A: Stand up for yourself.
A: Don't email in anger.
All of these were learned on the fly through experience, and some took more than one time to stick.
Q: What did you want to be when growing up?
A: I always wanted to be a mom. Other than that I was clueless.
Q: What do you like to do on your days off?
A: I think my days off are busier than the days I work. I always fit in a work out and then try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. We do a lot of playing outside and dancing--they love to dance! On the weekends we spend a lot of time recovering from the previous week and preparing for the next. That means lots of cleaning and laundry and meal prep. It isn't always fun, but it's what we need to do go get through things without a lot of stress. One of my kids loves to do laundry and another likes to cook, so I almost always have a little helper to keep me company while I'm working on stuff.
Q: What has been the most important innovation you have witnessed in your lifetime?
A: I think it's probably a pretty typical answer, but I'd have to say the smart phone is the most important innovation. It's amazing to have access to information at your fingertips, any time of day, virtually no matter where you are. I think it's also a bit terrifying.
Q: What three things are on your bucket list?
A: Go to the Olympics (summer or winter, doesn't matter which).
A: Learn how to bake bread. Really good bread. And all different types.
A: Go on a European river cruise.
Q: What is the one thing that you can't live without?
A: My family.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the wonderful city of St. Louis?
A: I love to take my family to the zoo. We have a zoo pass, so we go pretty often when the weather is nice. It's one of the great perks of living in St. Louis. The grounds are beautiful and I love watching my girls get excited about the animals.
Q: What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?
A: As a mother of four young children, my hobbies include laundry. That's it. If/when I get a break from the endless laundry, I also enjoy playing soccer, working out, cooking, and spending time with my family.
Q: What TV show or movie are you ashamed to admit you love?
A: World of Dance. I can't believe I put that in writing. I love it because I could never do it. I'm so impressed by the dancers' strength and athleticism…and bendiness.
Q: What is one things people would never guess you do in your role?
A: Proof read. That in and of itself isn't all that surprising, but the sheer amount of time I spend on it might be. There are days when I feel like I spend HOURS doing it and sometimes I still miss stuff. I'm acutely aware that words have meaning and sometimes the reader infers a tone that isn't there, so I try to be diligent about any written product that I produce.
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat?
A: I like eating at home where I can control the ingredients in my food (and my children can run wild with no judgment), but when we do happen to go out, I'm always down for Mexican food or sushi.
The Surface Warrior Spotlight is a program that highlights different members of the SDDC workforce every few weeks through a series of interview-style questions that focus on his or her unique background, personal stories and experiences.