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I entered the Navy at age 18 as a cryptologic technician. I was often one of a few women among hundreds of men—but I didn’t let that impact my outlook and focus.
It helped me to be confident in who and what I am. There’s a lot in life that you can’t control, but the two things you can control are your effort and your attitude.
Now a Booz Allen vice president, I use my decades of intelligence, defense and combatant command experience to help the Department of Homeland Security tackle its most complex issues. I work to lift others up, as well. As part of the firm’s Veterans’ Agenda and Executive Sponsor of the Military Spouses’ Forum, I help promote the hiring and support of veterans and military spouses.
Our ability to connect with others is what sustains us. It’s great to be able to give back.
Cathy Breeze co-leads the firm’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), civil justice sector, and transportation businesses. At DHS, she focuses primarily on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, science & technology, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Undersecretary for Management, and our geospatial business lines.
Prior to this role, Cathy was responsible for the combatant command business at U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Strategic Command, and U.S. Northern Command. With more than 33 years of intelligence and Combatant Command experience, Cathy provides deep expertise and insights to our engagements that involve Integrated Air and Missile Defense, space operations, counter-narcotics terrorism, and homeland security/defense.
Before joining the firm, Cathy spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy working signals intelligent activities. She is currently a member of the National Defense Industry Association and Women in Defense.
She received a B.A. from Golden Gate University.
What excites you most about supporting DHS? What excites me most about that, as well as about working at Booz Allen, is being able to connect the dots for our staff and clients and to enable and encourage successes. Listening to what the challenges are and reaching out across our widely skilled institution to bring clients, insights and capabilities to fruition whether it’s in a mission, client, capability or professional space is truly gratifying.
What are a few highlights of your career? After 9/11 occurred, being part of the standup of a brand-new joint military command, called Northern Command, was truly challenging and satisfying. Helping the existing command that was in place transform into the Homeland Defense mission, to protect our nation, helped me feel I was making a difference after that horrific day. I’m currently working on an effort that helps me continue to give back which I am truly passionate about which is to create a focus on hiring military spouses as part of our overall Veterans’ Agenda. I’m both a military spouse and a veteran. I understand the career challenges that can occur while your spouse serves and continually moves. We’re getting ready to reinvigorate our focus on hiring military which now includes an emphasis on military spouses.
Are there any lessons you learned in the Navy that you still apply today? During my time in the military and when I first started at Booz Allen, I was always part of a male-dominated workforce. Being at times the only female in an environment of all males encouraged me to stand up, be confident in who I am and strive to be successful in every endeavor. I’ve been able to leverage this work ethic throughout my career. These experiences have helped me to be confident with who I am and what I do, and that’s something that I continue today.
Why is Booz Allen an ideal place for your skill set and expertise? For me, I experienced the “glass ceiling” in the Navy career field I was in which prevented me from the opportunities to grow and expand my career path the way I envisioned. I wanted to be in institution where I could make an impactful difference, be encouraged, and be recognized for my work. My time with Booz Allen has clearly been that experience. I’ve never been held back and have been supported and encouraged to take on new challenges and opporunities.
What are some of the most pressing needs facing DHS or in the defense space broadly? The threats to our nation and our way of life are growing every day. The diversity of the threats and the need to protect the homeland is going to continue to evolve and continue to be incredibly complex. Our nation and DHS need our utmost support.
What are your top tips for managing and motivating people? I think it’s about being authentic and connecting with our staff and clients. Its about showing up, being present and making the time. Go to them. Hear what they’re saying and doing. It’s important to listen to their needs and help them meet their objectives. By participating and helping them be successful, I’m helping them to connect the dots.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten in your career? Build and sustain a network. Nurture that network, because that is what sustains us—your ability to connect and network with others is the primary key to success. Networks are needed for both your professional and personal lives.
What is one thing you always have with you? Energy. I bring a lot of energy, no matter what I’m involved in.
What has been your life’s biggest challenge? Making sure that each day you have enough time to spend with the people who mean the most to you. For me, it’s making sure I spend time with my family. Work/life balance is a blending of both. Make the effort to have both in sync.
Do you have any advice for younger professionals? You have to figure out how to make time for yourself, personally and professionally, because time goes by so fast. Work at both parts of your life. If you don’t organize your time now, you’ll absolutely miss out and you can’t get it back. Careers evolve, and can come and go. Create and nurture both your professional and your personal life with family and friends.