Season 6: Can You Hear Me Now • May 30, 2023

Information, Transformation, and Mission.

Shana Cosgrove talks to Lauren Knausenberger, Chief Information Officer at the Department of the Air Force.

In this episode of The Outspoken Podcast, host Shana Cosgrove talks to Lauren Knausenberger, Chief Information Officer at the Department of the Air Force, about guiding the Air Force and Space Force in the rapidly expanding endeavors of enterprise IT, cybersecurity, data and AI. Lauren talks about how “missing the mission” pulled her into the Air Force in 2017 after a successful stint as an entrepreneur. She describes the big-picture challenge of encouraging innovation in the DoD and the everyday challenges of balancing intensive job demands with family life. Lauren expresses her conviction that “the family is a team”—whatever form that family takes—and she admires the Air Force tradition where families make career decisions together. Lauren shares how her martial arts training taught her the importance of getting back up and reveals her occasional joy in dressing down (though always sporting a blazer) amidst the formal work environment of the Pentagon’s E-ring.

  • “I also had a rule as an entrepreneur that if I didn’t want to drink a beer with you, I wasn’t doing business with you […] You have to be able to look someone in the eye and know that a handshake means something even before a contract would.” – Lauren Knausenberger [14:09]
  • “If you asked every stakeholder in your life, ‘What is the most important thing that I can do for you, and what are the things that you don’t care about?’ and if you could get an honest answer, and if you could prioritize such that you only do those things that are the most important to each stakeholder, how much time do you get back? How often do you knock yourself out trying to meet an expectation that maybe someone doesn’t even have of you?” – Lauren Knausenberger [19:49]
  • “I’ve never not felt empowered anywhere, even when I probably wasn’t. No matter what the job was, I was going to crush that job. I was going to do the best that I could possibly do at that job, and I was going to help the guy next to me and then I was going to help the other guy […] and I really didn’t care who got credit for it, I was going to make a difference.” – Lauren Knausenberger  [48:39]
  • [00:04] Intro
  • [01:34] Meet Lauren Knausenberger
  • [06:06] Running Hard: Working as a Civilian at the Pentagon 
  • [09:32] Post-Pentagon Plans
  • [13:28] Adding Value While Raising Young Children
  • [14:38] Falling into the Air Force by Accident
  • [17:39] The Career and Family Arc: Beautiful Time and Prioritizing Ruthlessly
  • [22:12] Keeping Yourself in Balance
  • [27:32] Intelligence Community at 17, then Decision and Information Sciences
  • [33:??] Defense Contractor Jobs and Wharton Business School
  • [40:45] An Innovation Ecosystem: Just What Did Lauren Sketch on That Napkin?
  • [44:36] Seeing Your Career as a Series of Doors
  • [48:12] Turnarounds: Fixing and Growing Programs
  • [53:40] Collaboration in the Era of Zero Trust
  • [57:34] Measuring Product Success and User Experience in the DoD
  • [1:02:44] Supporting the Mission
  • [1:05:13] Books to Read
  • [1:08:14] Making Missteps, Remembering Recovery, and Building Empathy
  • [1:15:01] Outro

I’d love to hear from you — your feedback is important to me and I read all of it. If you enjoyed the podcast, I hope you’ll give us 5 stars. I’ll be sure to thank you via email. If not, let me know what you think we should do differently. Don’t forget to hit “subscribe” so you’ll receive notifications about guest interviews and other topics that drop every Tuesday.

Live well, Shana

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