Noblis Former VP for Business Development Reflects on Her Military Experience

Diana “Di” Fossett, former vice president for business development, reflects on her military experience and shares why military veterans seeking employment should consider a company like Noblis.

Di is a Retired Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve (USAFR), having served for 21 years. The following interview took place during the time she was serving as a Noblis VP. Di brought over 20 years of science and technology and business development and marketing expertise to her work at Noblis along with significant experience working with defense, civil and intelligence agencies. Di retired from Noblis in October 2020.

Can you discuss your military experience and how your career path developed?

My first assignment was working with fighter pilots.  I was the intelligence officer for the Flying Tigers, located at England Air Force Base in Louisiana and was there during the Gulf War. We faced significant challenges during this war time environment.  Our pilots were in grave danger during deployment to the sandbox and from the enemy weapon systems. Management skills early on were essential. When I was in my early twenties, I oversaw over 90 airmen depending on the circumstance. Since we were frequently deployed, agility and adaptability were required and we had to prepare to fly in various environments in unpredictable weather conditions.

After the tour with A-10 aircraft in England Air Force Base, I was in intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for four years, first as an air analyst, and then as a daily intelligence briefer. From there, I went to Fort Meade, Md., to support the National Security Agency (NSA). My transition to NSA came at the recommendation of one of my mentors who supported my career path in the intelligence community (IC). While there, I served on a cybersecurity task force that provided recommendations to leadership.  During that assignment, stakeholder and other agency relationships were built to bring cyber communities of interest together.

I was also involved in business process reengineering.  My role was to provide guidance on the evolution of networking infrastructure, which included evaluating databases, information flows, task assignments, developing concepts of operations and to offer improvements.  This assignment allowed me to help them adjust operations for additional efficiencies, not only from a technology perspective, but how the staff functioned and delivered impactful executive briefings. During my 13 years at Fort Meade, I served as chief of staff, handling resourcing and skill assessment.

Based on the experiences you talked about, it sounds like you held a lot of leadership roles in the military. How did that prepare you for the civilian workforce or Noblis in particular with your leadership position now?

The military helped me figure out how to get the best out of people.  The reason we create teams, is because each person brings a new perspective to that challenge. It’s critical that we have employees flex their muscles in areas where they shine or bring that skillset that nobody else brings to the table.

What leaders and managers do, is ensure we tap that unique skillset that each person can deliver and incorporate that flavor into our solutioning and problem solving.

What are some of the similar values that you held in the military versus now in your job?

The ethics portion throughout my career, whether it be military or Noblis, has been a critical part of the way that I live my life.  It’s the way that others in the military and Noblis demonstrate a value system that our customers appreciate.

When I look at the effort that’s gone into cascading the ethical culture throughout our company, and the awards that Noblis receives, it’s because of those stand-up values. It makes me very proud. So, we get to live life in a continuum, from the military to companies like Noblis that provide that same kind of environment for doing what’s right and doing what works.

What advice would you give to a transitioning military member?

Take a good look at your military performance reports and begin translating those skills for the civilian work force.  Review your primary and additional duties and get help from other military members that have successfully transitioned and then translate your military accomplishments into civilian speak. Begin thinking about your next career step. Do you want to continue some of the tasking, the work, the focus you had in your military job and pull that through to the civilian career? The other thought is, maybe you are ready to move your journey in a different direction? Either way, it’s a crossroad to experience the pause and pivot and to evaluate what you want to do. This is a really important time to ask yourself what you want to do.

On the other side, what advice would you give employers who are interested in hiring military veterans?

Employers should understand that most veterans welcome challenges. I guarantee that our service men and women are used to stepping up, managing people and making informed but quick decisions. The military mindset is to accomplish the mission and that serves any company well.

Prior military folks will take ownership and accountability of an issue.  I think employers can find those skillsets and that culture extremely appealing. Leverage those managerial skills and personal ownership.  It’s ok to give them stretch assignments.

Could you talk to the strengths Noblis’ culture has that might be beneficial to a transitioning military member?

We emphasize the importance of professional development at Noblis. That’s a terrific match for military personnel who want to keep pace with the rigorous training expectations in the military.  Noblis supports a culture of investing in your growth, education, additional certifications and opportunities to show your best self.

Another strength is interest in the mission. Military members are focused on moving the mission forward and generating impact, Noblis also encourages dedication to the mission and the customer.

What are some of the qualities that military members should look for when they are seeking a good company to align themselves to?

Benefits. Because your educational needs, medical, dental, etc. is covered by the military, you’ll want at least the same level of coverage in civilian employment. You’ll want to work with a company that has a ladder of progression similar to the military. You’ll also want to receive the same level of encouragement and training to obtain your certifications and continue professional development.

Other qualities to look for include the stability of the company.  You don’t want to change jobs numerous times because contracts were lost or layoffs occur.  You may be a risk taker and want to flex your entrepreneurial spirit.  In which case, you’ll want to know that you can grow your business area and demonstrate success.  You’ll want to want to be in an environment that you get compensated competitively for your skillset and your talent.