When they said “shoot for the stars,” Susan Kilrain took it literally. As one of only three women to pilot a space shuttle, she has broken barriers and opened doors in countless ways. In this Logistics with Purpose crossover episode, and in honor of the recent historical events in India, Kristi and Maureen sit down with Susan to learn about her professional trajectory from the Navy to space and on into motivational speaking, advisory boards, motherhood and more. Find out what it’s like to stare down at Earth for the first time, plus get Susan’s advice for young dreamers and their parents.
Welcome to Logistics with Purpose presented by Vector Global Logistics in partnership with Supply chain. Now we spotlight and celebrate organizations who are dedicated to creating a positive impact. Join us for this behind the scenes glimpse of the origin stories change, making progress and future plans of organizations who are actively making a difference. Our goal isn’t just to entertain you, but to inspire you to go out and change the world. And now here’s today’s episode of Logistics With Purpose.
Kristi Porter (00:34):
Hi, and welcome to another episode of Logistics with Purpose. Um, I’m your host today, Christie Porter of Vector Global Logistics Chief Marketing Officer, and I am delighted to have our director of special projects with us today. Also, Maureen wla. How are you, Maureen?
Maureen Woolshlager (00:49):
I’m doing great. Thanks Christy. How are you?
Kristi Porter (00:51):
I am good. It’s exciting to be here with you today. We are thrilled for this interview ahead. I know it’s gonna be a great one for everybody. So, um, since you are friends with our guests today, I will let you do the introductions.
Maureen Woolshlager (01:03):
Ooh, well everyone, I am introducing Susan Kill rain, da da da <laugh> astronaut Navy vet pilot extraordinaire. Um, I’ll let her talk a little bit about her background, given that I would not do it justice to, um, try and recite all of the accomplishments out of her resume. <laugh>, welcome Susan.
Kristi Porter (01:22):
Susan Kilrain (01:23):
Thank you ladies. It’s great to be here.
Kristi Porter (01:25):
Fantastic to have you. So Susan, first of all tell you, uh, tell us a little bit about where you grew up in your childhood and just the background before we get into your amazing career.
Susan Kilrain (01:36):
So, I grew up in Augusta, Georgia. Oh,
Kristi Porter (01:39):
Susan Kilrain (01:39):
In the city,
Kristi Porter (01:40):
Some of the masters. Yes, Yes. I love the one thing I know about Augusta <laugh>,
Susan Kilrain (01:44):
If you’re a golf fan, you know, Augusta. Um, I had three brothers. Uh, we didn’t have a lot of, you know, money or anything growing up. And so my dad used to take us to the airport to watch the airplanes take off and land. And that’s where I fell in love with aviation. And, uh, people ask all the time, you know, have you always wanted to be an astronaut? But I really first wanted to be a pilot watching the airplanes and then being an astronaut developed more in my high school years.
Kristi Porter (02:17):
Maureen Woolshlager (02:18):
Wow. Well, it’s another, and have you here today, and I see that you do a lot with stem science, technology, engineering, and math. Um, and it’s played a huge role, like in your success and you’re also involved with some programs with that. Uh, right now, did you always have an interest in that or was that something that just came with the more things that you were exposed to as you were growing up and taking different classes or having different experiences?
Susan Kilrain (02:44):
I fell in love with math. Um, in middle school. We called it junior high back then, but yes, middle school because the math teacher that I had, Sarah Brown, she, she taught algebra to me in a way that made sense and, and I understood it and hardly anybody in the class understood it, but I did. So she sort of nurtured this, this love of math that I carried throughout all of my education. And, um, I, I studied engineering in college, but I always took a math class for an elective so I could, uh, balance the GPA out a little bit. I was better at math than I was in engineering.
Kristi Porter (03:30):
My elective was bowling. So you were Yeah, math was not high on my list. So I was gonna ask you, how does one develop a love of math? So that sounds like a good teacher was the one who stewarded you into that. That’s incredible.
Susan Kilrain (03:42):
Definitely a good teacher and I had her for both algebra and geometry. So, you know, it just really set the ba you know, because with what happens with our kids so much these days is they don’t learn it every year. And, and if you have a bad year or a bad teacher, it’s hard to overcome it because it builds, Math is one of the few subjects, math and foreign languages they build on themselves year after year. And so if you, if you miss out, um, one year it can really set you back and then you get discouraged because you think that you’re not good at it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, when in fact it might just be you had a, a, um, a not as good teacher that year or whatever.
Kristi Porter (04:28):
Yeah. Wow. That’s a lesson to learn during the pandemic as well with, um, both of you guys having kids that are going through school and had to do homeschool and all of that. Yeah.
Maureen Woolshlager (04:37):
Well, my kids are a little bit younger, but I was curious, Susan, if you had any challenges teaching your kids some of that new math that the kids have now because, um, I’ve seen some of the things that some of the older kids have done and I’m like, I don’t know how to do that <laugh>. And it’s just, they’re teaching things differently now that the way that I, the acronyms that I remembered for algebra and geometry and things like that are very different now. And there’s this blocking and drawing and, um, and it’s not even like high level math. And so I was wondering if that stumped you at all, uh, when some of the kids came home with some work.
Susan Kilrain (05:11):
Yeah. You’ll first notice it in, uh, multiplication, <laugh> start multiplying two digit and three digit numbers. And, and fortunately the teachers that my kids had for the most part, accepted whichever way they did it, as long as what they did made sense and it came to the correct answer. So I tried to teach my kids several different ways and let them pick the one that sunk into their head the best. Um, you know, cuz kids don’t all think in one way. Right. And I saw, uh, I think it might have been a YouTube video years back where, uh, uh, maybe a Japanese teacher got up and she did the same problem on the board, like five different ways and the kids could just pick whichever way made sense. And I thought that’s really smart. Yeah. Cause not everybody gets it the way that it’s taught and who cares. Right. Which way makes sense to them as long as they understand what they’re doing and how they’re coming to the answer, you know,
Kristi Porter (06:17):
Which is a better life lesson as well, <laugh>.
Susan Kilrain (06:19):
Yes, I agree. Exactly. There’s so many different brains out there and people don’t all think the same, nor should they think the same. Right.
Kristi Porter (06:28):
I’m curious to talking about your, your kids, your childhood. You’ve had an extraordinary career, which we’re about to jump into, but now that you’re kind of looking back on, on the other side of, of those growing up years and raising kids through all of this, what would you, what advice would you look back and give yourself as you’re just starting off in your career or just graduating college and, you know, what do you wish you knew, um, then that, you know now?
Susan Kilrain (06:53):
I think that for me, um, I would’ve encouraged myself to, even if I didn’t have a lot of confidence or self-esteem in an area to fake it. Mm. You know, cause it, it comes across if you’re not sure of yourself, people recognize that right away and see it as a weakness. Um, fortunately my kids all seem to have oodles of self esteem.
Kristi Porter (07:23):
Maureen Woolshlager (07:24):
I sometimes feel like that with my kids. I’m like, Well, you don’t have humility. We gotta work on that.
Susan Kilrain (07:29):
Maureen Woolshlager (07:31):
Teach that. But
Susan Kilrain (07:32):
I you the self-esteem part. Now let’s work on the humility part a little bit. But I like to think that that is only what we see of them in our family union and that they’re totally different people out in the real world. You know, it’s like picking up their dishes. They don’t necessarily do it in my house, but other parents say that you in their house. Right.
Maureen Woolshlager (07:53):
I, I do remember growing up in my parents would say, everybody, all the other places you go, the parents say that you do all these things but you don’t do them here. And I would always roll my eyes, you know, as all girls do at a certain age. Right. And then I’m getting that with my kids now and I’m like, Wait, you do this when you go to somebody else’s house? Like why don’t you do it here? And they’re like, Cause we, you’ll probably just do it for us. And I’m like drawing answer. Okay, we’re gonna go back to the drawing board here with some of these lessons. But, but for sure that, that’s good advice for sure. Mm-hmm.
Kristi Porter (08:23):
<affirmative>, well let’s jump into your career. Speaking of, um, yeah, we have a lot to cover here. Um, can’t wait to hear more about it. Maureen and I have been so looking forward to this interview, but let’s talk about the, your professional journey. It began in the Navy. Um, tell us more about your military career, which has earned you over 3000 flight hours in more, in more than 30 different aircraft, which is remarkable. So tell us more about your service record.
Susan Kilrain (08:49):
Well, I came outta, um, college and got a job with Lockheed know Lockheed Martin, but it was Lockheed, just Lockheed at the time in Georgia. And I was a wind tunnel project officer. And within, I don’t know, a few months, I already realized that I was bored as an engineer. Um, I was getting my master’s degree at the time at Georgia Tech, so I didn’t like
Kristi Porter (09:14):
What was your master’s in?
Susan Kilrain (09:16):
Aerospace engineering. Oh, okay. So I was, that kind of kept me motivated and going cuz I was getting that at the same time I was working for Lockheed. And uh, I got my master’s degree after a few years at, at Lockheed. And, and I was just looking around the room and I saw these men that were my age now that had been doing the job I was doing at 20 the whole time. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I can’t possibly stay at this job for the next 40 years. It was, you know, it wasn’t very exciting for me and I knew I wanted to be an astronaut at the time and so did it. And how
Kristi Porter (09:57):
Did, so how did that come about as well? You said, you said earlier you, that really just pilot was the goal. So when did that change
Susan Kilrain (10:04):
In high school, I just, we started the, the space program. Well I didn’t have a TV growing up, so I didn’t, didn’t know about some of the moonwalk, but then they would take them into the classroom during the school year and you would see them and um, and so I, I love the idea of space flight, but it wasn’t until just gazing up at the stars and I thought, Wow, I would wanna do that someday. And by the time I was in college, we were launching space shuttles and I went to school in, in Florida and I could watch the, um, the rockets go. Oh wow. You know, and so that was kind of exciting. And I knew by then I knew I wanted to be an astronaut even before college. I knew I wanted to be an astronaut, but it just never wavered at all.
Susan Kilrain (10:51):
And a lot of people would ask, well, you know, there weren’t any women astronauts back then. And I’m like, I know, but I didn’t really even think about it. It didn’t occur to me. And the best thing ever happened to me when I was younger is that my dad never said, You can’t do that. You can’t be an astronaut. You’re a girl or you’re not smart enough or, you know, nobody said that to me. Um, which I took that as the biggest lesson I got growing up was not to discourage your kids, let them try to be whatever. I mean, maybe your four foot 11 girl will go on to be a pro basketball player. Not likely. But it’s not my job to say, you know, basketball players have to be tall. Right. So anyways, so I fell in love with space as a, when I was in high school, knew I wanted to be an astronaut.
Susan Kilrain (11:45):
Went on to study aerospace engineering and then my boss at Lhe put me in touch with an astronaut and he said, join the military and become a test pilot. And that just sounded like the best idea ever because I could fly. Yeah. Which I loved flying. Um, I wouldn’t be sitting at a desk anymore. Of course I did take a 50% cut and pay that kind of hurt a little bit <laugh>. But I was young and single and that’s the best time. If you’re gonna make a huge career move and take a big cut and pay, that’s a great time to do it. So, uh, I did, I joined the Navy, I tried to join the Air Force, but they wouldn’t take any more women that year. That was the first time somebody told me a woman couldn’t do something was when the Air Force said, we’ve had our quota of women pilots for the year.
Susan Kilrain (12:36):
I’m like, what even is that what does mean? Yeah. And then I went and researched it, um, and saw that not only could you not be, you know, that they had limited women, but the reason they had limited women is because women couldn’t fly in combat. So they, they had limited jobs for women as pilots in the Navy and in Air Force. And so I started reading into it and I thought, Wow, I can fly for the Navy and the Air Force, but I can’t fly everything the guys can fly. But anyways, I wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t really wanna be in combat. So I just kept, I got into the Navy and I started flying for them. And um, as soon as I had my thousand hours, which is the minimum you needed to get into test pilot school, I started applying to test pilot school and I took three times before I got in. And then by the time I got done with test pod school, that combat exclusion law had gone away. And um, I got assigned F 14 Tom Cats, uh, on the East Coast as the first woman on the East Coast. There were two women on the West Coast. And so that’s where I was headed. I was headed to fly, I did all the training in the Tomcat and I was headed, I was soon to go out to see when I got the call from NASA that I had been selected. Wow.
Maureen Woolshlager (13:59):
I, wow. I didn’t know any of this cuz I was curious how the overlap with the army and then going into NASA was working and I guess you kind of answered some of the questions that I was gonna ask you just about, you know, given that, you know, I didn’t know that you didn’t have a TV really, but, you know, there weren’t any female astronauts during those formative years. So without kind of that exposure, did you have any role models that you had looked at where you just like, I’m looking, I wanna go up there and that’s where I’m gonna go. And you know, how did you really focus on that given that there weren’t, you were really breaking all the boundaries right there.
Susan Kilrain (14:36):
I didn’t really have, obviously I didn’t have a woman astronaut role model or anything. I just knew that people were flying in space and, and so why, why couldn’t I fly in space? And I knew it was gonna be, you know, hard, you know, But I, but I also knew that that the journey to getting there, I wanted to be fun and rewarding. And that’s why becoming a pilot was so important. Hadn’t I never been selected by nasa, It would’ve been okay. I was having a great career and you know, 99% of people that apply to NASA don’t get accepted. And so that’s, that’s, that’s the real, the realistic side of things. And I was just very fortunate that I did. But I was loving my job in the Navy anyway, so it didn’t, didn’t really matter so much if I never got there. Right,
Kristi Porter (15:34):
Right. And so this may be a really ignorant question or I may answer myself, but what is a, is a test pilot exactly what it sounds like it’s
Susan Kilrain (15:42):
Kristi Porter (15:43):
That too. Oh yeah. All of my experience with this comes from Top Gun and other movies. So you’re gonna have to fill in some blanks. Yeah.
Susan Kilrain (15:50):
So test pilot is someone who flies an aircraft, either a brand new aircraft to test out all of its limits and and capabilities, but more often it’s testing a new system or maybe they’ve done tweak the airplane in some way and they have to go out and test it. Um, so the test bot at school involves teaching us how to test, how to fly an aircraft to its limits and how to take data on the airplane as you’re doing it and how to keep, you know, self safe at the same time. And then how to analyze the data that you’ve taken and um, and writing reports and whatever. So that’s with the whole school. So a lot of the aircraft that I flew, of the 30, many of them were at test pilot school because they put us in lots of different airplanes. Um, especially airplanes we’ve never been in so that we can experience them for the first time. So test pilots will come out of there and then usually go to a test ate to test whatever their airplane is or whatever systems. But I ended up getting pulled out to go to the team.
Kristi Porter (17:09):
You said you loved your job and now having you describe it, it sounds like you really thrive on being the first or testing things out or really like figuring out the newness and pushing boundaries and limits. Is that what you loved about it or was it something different?
Susan Kilrain (17:25):
Um, it definitely didn’t have anything with being the first okay of the only, it just so happened I was one of the only women at any given stage in my life. Um, but it was more about the excitement and probably the adrenaline, you know, um, you got, if you look at my kids, they’re all adrenaline junkies and, and so I’m sure they come by it honestly. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but it’s like, you know, for me I enjoy going fast. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> pulling a lot of G’s. Um, I’ve gone parachuting, skydiving and, and bungee cord jumping and all of those things that bring adrenaline,
Maureen Woolshlager (18:10):
My blood pressure’s rising. <laugh>
Susan Kilrain (18:13):
Kristi Porter (18:14):
Susan Kilrain (18:15):
You know, as much as my blood pressure or my heartbeat would rise when I was doing it, it’s like 10 times worse when your kids do it.
Kristi Porter (18:22):
Oh, I’m sure.
Susan Kilrain (18:23):
You know, and watching your kids do these same things, it’s pretty scary.
Maureen Woolshlager (18:27):
I saw this one video once that you had had of one of your kids, like doing a back flip off one of these rock things in into a river or lake and I’m like, my, you know, my heart, my heart races and I’m like this to me, I’m the one that’s like, Nope guys, we’ll just watch from the background,
Kristi Porter (18:48):
Just watch Susan’s kids. Yeah. Watch
Maureen Woolshlager (18:50):
Susan’s kids do. I showed it to them, they’re like, Can we do that? I’m like, Absolutely not <laugh>. So she has different boundaries with her kids I think.
Kristi Porter (18:58):
Susan Kilrain (18:59):
And it’s not easy, trust me. But I read an article a long time ago that I tick to heart and it was basically if your kids are driven to do dangerous sports like that, the best thing that you can do is support them and make sure they’re prepared and have the right equipment and know all the safety things and all of that. Cuz they’re gonna do it anyway. You know, as soon as you’re no longer watching them every step of the way, they’re going to do it anyway. And so if they’ve learned all the risks and the safety aspects of it all, then at least you’ve done the best you can for ’em.
Kristi Porter (19:40):
So, okay. Let’s get into the big topic of the vast topic of space. So you went on back to back space missions that totaled 472 hours in space. So tell us about the first time you left the atmosphere, What was that like? And then just, Yeah, I guess just to, for those of us who will never be able to understand, and I know words and pictures will never do it justice either. Tell us a little bit about that experience
Maureen Woolshlager (20:03):
And how do you prepare for that <laugh>? Would you actually like leave the atmosphere and look back at earth? You know, does NASA help you prepare for that moment where you get to see earth for the first time?
Kristi Porter (20:15):
And the question everybody always wants to know, how do you go to the bathroom
Susan Kilrain (20:19):
<laugh>? Well, as far as leaving the earth for the first time, as you might imagine, NASA trains you really, really well. You know, everything to expect, you know, like what it’s gonna feel like, what the GForce will be like, um, what the vibration will be like. You’ve been in simulators, you’ve, you know, talked to people, you know what to expect and you’ve had every emergency thrown at you in the simulators that could possibly happen during the launch phase and you’ve trained, trained to them. So when you finally get to go up, it’s actually a pretty quiet ride because typically there aren’t emergencies on the way up and, and things go pretty well. Now, of course you are sitting on the rockets for real. So there is that, but you’re so busy, especially as a pilot, um, doing all the procedures you have to do and, and monitoring all the systems and making sure everything’s working right, that you don’t, it’s only eight and a half minutes, so you don’t have time to, to really sit there and think, Oh my gosh, this is dangerous.
Susan Kilrain (21:29):
Or you know, people ask, Are you scared? I don’t have time to be scared. I’m busy, really busy and it’s only eight and a half minutes. It’s a, it happens really quickly now as far as, you know, looking down at earth the first time, there’s no way to be prepared for that. Uh, pictures don’t do it justice. People’s descriptions can’t really explain it. Um, there’s a overwhelming feeling not only of the beauty of what you’re seeing, but also of the, you’ve been working for a gazillion years to get here and now here you are. So there’s that feeling that you’re, you’re dealing with as well. And then it’s not too long after that that weightlessness starts to make you feel a little queasy to your stomach <laugh>. And um, within hours that your head is full of fluid because gravity isn’t getting it outta your head. And so you have like a big sinus headache and so it’s kind of uncomfortable. Um, especially on your first flight for two or three days. And, um, people get the queasiness to different degrees, some requiring actual medication, some actually getting sick. For me it was just like, um, morning sickness. I just didn’t feel well, you know, for a few days and then that goes away.
Kristi Porter (22:48):
Wow. Wow. Um, and then, so yes, how do you go to the bathroom in space?
Susan Kilrain (22:54):
Oh yeah, that question <laugh>, I asked
Maureen Woolshlager (22:56):
You that like a couple years ago too. My kids were like, we need to know.
Kristi Porter (22:59):
Everybody wants to know. Yeah.
Susan Kilrain (23:02):
You know, first people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that all body functions, um, eating, digestion, everything except for your vestibular system, which completely goes out to lunch. Everything else doesn’t need, nothing needs gravity. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, nothing needs to feel gravity on it to work perfectly. I mean, you can eat your food, it will still go to your stomach even if your stomach is up or down or every, which ray. And, and so going to the bathroom happens pretty much the same. It’s just our toilet is different. Yeah. <laugh>, you know, and all of our liquid waste or urine goes into a funnel. Men and women, all, everybody has their own attachment that you attach to the funnel and you pee into it and that just goes overboard right away. Um, on the space shuttle, on the space station, they actually recycle it and um, filter it and make it into water, believe it or not.
Maureen Woolshlager (24:03):
Susan Kilrain (24:03):
Drinking water though, <laugh>. And then, um, as for solid waste, it’s um, you know, just a, a toilet that you sit on but there’s no water in your toilet. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it’s more of a, um, a vacuum thing so that everything goes in, stays in there. And um, and then for the space shuttle, we would just bring it all back down to Earth. It would just stay in the tank. Um, up in the space station, they uh, put it in soy use capsules that return and sometimes they put it in with the trash that burns up on reentry huh. And stuff. So you can’t release that overboard cuz you’d run into it again 90 minutes later and every 90 minutes after that. So <laugh>
Kristi Porter (24:50):
Okay. There’s an image. Yeah.
Maureen Woolshlager (24:51):
<laugh>. Something along those lines though real quick Christy. Yeah, go for it. You know, so most of us earthlings let’s say, right? You know, we only know what we see in space from movies and things like that. And so one of the things along with how do you go to the bathroom in space everybody wants to know or makes assumption on is how dark is it up there? Because, because you know, I’m looking even at the picture as your background and say, you know, is it really dark or does the sun reflect off things? And does that kind of create an, a feeling of, wow, I am really far away from home and land? Or is it more of a comforting feeling given how the atmosphere is?
Susan Kilrain (25:33):
Yeah, well when you’re, when the sun is in view, it’s very bright and hot and warm, you know. Um, and then when the sun is not in view, like when the earth is blocking the sun, then it’s dark, really dark and we turn the lights on or we, or maybe I wouldn’t turn the lights on and I would look at the stars. Mm. Um, it’s really, really dark. Kind of like being in the middle of the ocean, you know, with no lights. Um, and because we’re going around the world every 90 minutes you have 45 minutes of daytime and 45 minutes of nighttime so that it’s, it’s it’s light and you turn the lights off and it’s dark and it’s light and it’s dark and your body, your circadian rhythms go out to lunch because of like, hello, goodbye. You know, it’s like wake it up and going back to sleep and you can feel it in your body. Um, the kind of waking up and the getting tired every 45 minutes. Wow.
Maureen Woolshlager (26:36):
Yeah. How does that work with kind your circadian rhythms if you’re only up there for a short period of time? Is that just something that your body adapts to, to and then you try and return to a more normal schedule when you return back to earth? Or is that something that you have to plan time in a certain area of the shuttle to get some quality sleep? Cause you are operating, you know, pretty expensive, uh, equipment that
Susan Kilrain (27:01):
Maureen Woolshlager (27:02):
Can’t be doing it on a short, short no sleep.
Susan Kilrain (27:04):
Yeah. Well where we sleep is you make it dark, completely dark so you can sleep and, um, you’re dealing with not just the the 45 minute thing, which is fine, you’re, you kind of adjust to that. You turn the lights on bright when, when, when it’s dark out. But also some, like in the shuttle we would, we would sleep shift because landing may not be at a normal time for your, for the day you launch. So like you may be making your body move an hour east every day, which is painful if anybody that’s flown overseas and gone to Europe that’s like five or six hours east and it’s hard to get up the next morning. Um, so there’s a little bit of that. There’s a little bit of jet lag that goes on sometimes. Not so much in the International Space Station cuz the missions are really long. So they, you know, they, they just pretty much stick to a schedule.
Kristi Porter (28:03):
And how, how long were you up there the first time?
Susan Kilrain (28:05):
The first time was only three and a half days because we had an emergency and had to come home.
Kristi Porter (28:10):
Susan Kilrain (28:11):
Um, and then the second time was 16 days.
Kristi Porter (28:14):
Okay. Wow. That, that’s a lot of 45 minute intervals. <laugh>
Susan Kilrain (28:17):
16 of them
Kristi Porter (28:19):
Susan Kilrain (28:20):
Sunrises and set 16 times in a day.
Kristi Porter (28:24):
Oh wow. Wow. And how, how, okay, so you got to go on back to back missions, I assume it possibly incorrectly. How many people get to go on multiple missions like that or back to back missions?
Susan Kilrain (28:37):
Ours was only back to back because of the failure of the Okay. So they thought that the science was too important not to do and so they turned us around and the, and the space shuttle and everything and we flew again 90 days later. Wow. Um, that doesn’t, I don’t know that that’s ever happened ever. But except for, for our crew, however astronauts fly, you know, some flew only once, some flew seven times. It just depends. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and there’s no, there’s no magic. Typically an astronaut leaves when they feel like they’ve done what they came to do or they wanna go on and do other things. Um, but sometimes they’ve exceeded their radiation exposure limit and they’ve then they’re told they’re not gonna fly in space again. And, and then there’s all kinds of other reasons. Wow. Okay.
Kristi Porter (29:31):
Okay. So after, it’s hard to move on from that topic, but we’ll keep going cuz you still have a lot of, a lot of, a lot of career and lot of experience ahead. Um, so after you left, left NASA in the military, what came next?
Susan Kilrain (29:44):
Um, I started my family soon after that. I got married. Um, and we had four kids and after the third was born, I, I, um, had 20 years in the Navy at that point and it was getting really hard to juggle my husband’s deployments, my Navy job and my three kids <laugh>. So I retired, um, from the Navy. I had left NASA a couple years earlier cuz we got, my husband got stationed in Puerto Rico and I didn’t want to be that far away from, I didn’t want him to be that far away from the kids and the kids to be that far away from him. So I moved to Puerto Rico with him and then finished up my 20 and then I stayed home with my kids for the most part for a while, um, doing speaking engagements and that sort of thing, but not any kind of traditional work. In fact, I still don’t do traditional work. I do a lot of this and a lot of that and sit on boards or advi do advisory work for a, um, venture capital group or whatever. Yeah. I can pick and choose what I wanna do. My husband has 39 years in the Navy and so he’s still traveling and doing all of that. Wow. And we have now four kids, <laugh>.
Maureen Woolshlager (31:04):
So Susan, you said that right after what you had your third and, and you retired from the Navy and then you, you didn’t work for a while in the traditional sense. I think there’s a lot of people in our audience that are always looking to see how do other mothers who have a career and profession kind of cope with that adjustment? I mean, you were in space in the Navy doing things and then I I do think there is a humbling aspect of being surrounded by diapers or PS fires or toddlers or things. And I mean, I wasn’t in space, but I stopped working when I had, um, my kids for a bit. And, and it was tough for me to really kind of come full circle and say, Okay, how do I keep a certain aspect of myself? And, um, some things are stimulating my brain, um, differently. And I think as you know, as a military spouse too, we, we are home alone a lot and, uh, we, we have a lot of things to juggle and it would be worth kinda hearing your perspective on how did you go from being active duty astronaut, you know, mentally, how did you cope with that?
Susan Kilrain (32:15):
Um, you know, probably not all that easily to be honest. It was, uh, definitely like Groundhog Day, you know, and, and kids, you know, they wanna eat three times a day every single day and snacks, you know,
Maureen Woolshlager (32:31):
And never at the same time,
Susan Kilrain (32:33):
No. And it, or with the same food if you, if you’re careful. And, um, I just, uh, it was important with my husband deploying all the time, but you do tend to lose yourself in your kids’ lives. And when women, young women ask my recommendations, I don’t necessarily recommend the way I did it <laugh> because it is hard. And I think that for a professional woman, it’s important to keep your, your name in the game in some way. Be it just professional organizations or, um, part-time work if you can, you know, there, the military made it difficult for me, my husband being military and you know, you’re moving every year or two years, you can’t really have a traditional career if you’re moving every one to two years. I mean, maybe if you’re a nurse or a teacher, um, it certainly can’t be an astronaut and live with your husband <laugh>.
Susan Kilrain (33:34):
And, um, and its, and overseas a lot of times the spouses aren’t even allowed to work. And so everybody is different and everybody has to look at the whole picture. For me, it was important that I made it to retirement because at least I had that retirement income and I wasn’t wholly dependent financially on my husband. And, and that meant a lot to me mentally, you know, that I was still contributing in that regard. But I took a long, a long time out and it’s hard to reinvent yourself. Um, afterwards, I have that astronaut card that helps me, but, you know, very few people have an astronaut. So no, it’s, um, my,
Kristi Porter (34:21):
Well, and I would also assume it’s just hard to not even just not having the astronaut card, but from your perspective, like what <laugh> what do you do that compares to, you know, what job do you go out and find that think, well, I was in space and I used to test fighter planes, so what do I do now now,
Maureen Woolshlager (34:38):
Now I’m at the zoo with the kids and we’re getting in the bathroom for the fourth time today. And you’re like, what changed so quickly? Right? Yeah.
Susan Kilrain (34:46):
Yeah. And it is, it’s, you’re looking for something that’s stimulating and that you are, that you feel qualified for. And that qualification thing is, is serious because I mean, especially women, we often have that, um, doubt that, self doubt that we aren’t qualified for whatever it is. And, um, but I have enjoyed doing things that I would’ve never thought I would do, mainly because I’m learning new stuff. So I’m learning stuff with the venture capital group and I sat on a couple of boards, which, you know, that’s totally out of my comfort zone. And, and, and so I’m learning stuff there and, and I just think that if you’re going to stay home with your kids, try to stay professionally in the game in some way because it’s really hard to write that resume with a 15 year gap in, in what you’ve done, you know?
Susan Kilrain (35:46):
Um, and only very few people understand that, yeah, you may not have been working outside the home during that time, but it’s not like you weren’t doing anything, you know, you were still probably organizing class parties or, you know, whatever, you’re still doing stuff. And for me, I capitalized a little bit on, on the spouse, senior spouse, um, role that I played in so many of the last assignments he’s had. Um, but it’s hard. I, you know, I just, I don’t, I don’t, looking back on it now, what I’ve done, done things differently. It wasn’t possible with his job. I still think I made the right decision to stay home for a while. Um, but because of his job and because we were at war all the time and, you know, I didn’t think it was fair to be training for dangerous space flight while he was down range in some desert getting shot at. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Kristi Porter (36:56):
Makes sense. Well, speaking of what you learned, we definitely wanna continue while we have you to continue to glean from your experience. So, you know, you mentioned a little bit about your training for the space program. What was that, what was it like and what did you learn from it? Because I, you know, it’s again, another one of those things that most of us will never have any sort of comprehension of. So tell us a little bit more about that process and now I guess how you’ve continued to put those listens into action, what you learned there.
Susan Kilrain (37:24):
I think that, um, for me personally, training to fly this space shuttle, no different than learning to fly any other airplane. You know, it, it was, it’s an airplane, it’s an airplane. And, and test pilot school trained me very well for long days, lots of work, um, learn, you know. And so I found astronaut training to be actually easier and more fun. Um, especially when you start working as a crew together, you know, you’ve got that camaraderie and, um, and so I didn’t find it particularly stressful, although the days were still very long. I mean, you talked 16 hour days a lot of times and, and, um, and so I enjoy astronaut training.
Kristi Porter (38:13):
How long was it?
Susan Kilrain (38:15):
Um, our initial training from the time we arrived at the space center until we were qualified to be assigned to a space flight for us was only a year.
Kristi Porter (38:26):
Susan Kilrain (38:26):
I, I think that’s increased somewhat. And then I was very fortunate I got assigned to a mission right away and trained for another year for the mission.
Maureen Woolshlager (38:35):
So is that normal where you do the, the NASA training and then once you get assigned a mission, there’s another buildup of a year or two years of training specific for that? Or is
Susan Kilrain (38:45):
That Yes. Okay. Definitely because you’ve learned the basics of whatever the systems and emergencies and all of that and your initial training, but then your mission has a whole set of requirements and what you’re going to do on your mission. And, um, we were a science mission, so, you know, there’s all of that. But, um, but other missions would involve, uh, rondi vain or deploying a satellite or whatever. So you have to train for what you’re going to specifically do in space. And that could take, you know, a year or longer. And sometimes it only takes longer because the mission itself slides to the right for whatever reason. Maybe whatever you’re doing isn’t fully developed yet or whatever.
Maureen Woolshlager (39:29):
Is that like a mutual process with missions that, you know, you see like a dashboard of what is coming up in the next couple years and you kind of put your name in for it? Or, or is it kind of the powers that be at NASA see your experience for qualifications, your interests and they match you up with, Is it two ways or is it just a one way process?
Susan Kilrain (39:51):
It’s definitely only one way. Okay.
Maureen Woolshlager (39:55):
I guess I know which way
Susan Kilrain (39:56):
Definitely, but nobody really knows exactly how they pick crews. One would think that they don’t just throw a bunch of names in the hat and draw <laugh>,
Susan Kilrain (40:07):
But it’s a combination. You know, they, they take what the requirements of the mission are. They would, for space shuttle, they would pick the senior pilot who would be the commander, and then the newer pilot, sometimes a a rookie like myself for my first flight. And then, then they build the crew around that. Sometimes they build the other crew members first. Like if there’s a specific space walk that’s high visibility that’s risky or more dangerous, then they’ll pick the space walk first perhaps. And maybe that person needs to have super long arms or whatever to do the task. And, and so they’ll pick that person and then they’ll build the crew from there. And then they wanna have a combination of, um, experience astronauts and rookies and, and so, yeah, I mean I think they, and I do think that they also take into account personalities. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and personalities get along with others better <laugh>, you know, than others do. So, yeah,
Maureen Woolshlager (41:05):
I was wondering if you got put on a crew and there were some personality conflicts, how you guys actually worked that out before you went off in the atmosphere. There’s
Susan Kilrain (41:13):
No ability to storm off into a new room. <laugh> very important. And one thing that I always talk to, um, students about is that time, you know, when your teacher gives you that group project with somebody you don’t like in the class and you’re like, Oh God, I don’t wanna do a group project with him. It’s like, you’re preparing for flying in space because you’ve got to learn that teamwork rises above your personal opinion of someone.
Kristi Porter (41:41):
How many people were on your crew?
Susan Kilrain (41:43):
Seven on my crew.
Kristi Porter (41:45):
Okay. And did they take similar paths to get there that like you did or did you all have very different experiences?
Susan Kilrain (41:51):
Well, there were two pilots on board. The other pilot was from the Air Force, and then we had two scientists who weren’t actual astronauts per se. They came from the science community and they were selected just for that mission. And then the others were mission specialists that you, I think all of them had at least one PhD. Um, and, um, you know, they came, there were civilians came from a different walk of life.
Kristi Porter (42:22):
Oh, wow. And what was your mission? You said scientific?
Susan Kilrain (42:24):
Yeah, we did science experiments, um, taking advantage of the wait list environment. You can do really cool science experiments that you can’t do here on earth and you can learn, um, things. And we specifically, all of our science was dedicated to life here on earth making it better. So we were making new metal alloys and here on earth the heavy metal sinks to the bottom. That doesn’t happen in space. So you can make hundreds of these metal rod alloys that you can now bring back to space and they can test them. So if you are a golf fan, you would know that your golf clubs are built with metal alloys that we found and build in space. Once you find a good one that they really like, then they can mass produce it here on earth. But, um, but it’s really quick to experiment with a whole lot of ’em when you’re in weightlessness.
Susan Kilrain (43:18):
Wow. And so that was one another was we were looking for fuels that don’t pollute our air as much as some of the fuels we use now. And, and so that science that I don’t think people understand that a lot of what we’re doing in space is about making life here on earth better, or studying earth and, and how earth is changing or, you know, identifying issues like they’re, they can from space you can look down and say, Oh, there is a toxic algae bloom in this, in this drinking water source. And they can, you know, treat it and shut it down for a while and then treat it so that people, you know, stay healthy. And, you know, there’s, there’s countless ways that space flight is benefiting us here. Wow.
Maureen Woolshlager (44:06):
Well, you’ve had no shortage of opportunities that you’ve, you’ve taken advantage of to kind of break barriers and do challenging things. You know, you have four kids. Um, what sort of advice have you given them have as they have brought ideas or opportunities to the table and in terms of, you know, what they wanna be when they grow up or what they wanna do after high school or things like that? I know one of them likes to jump off, you know, cliffs and into deep water, but you know, as a parent, you know, I’m sure that your decision criteria for advice might be a little bit different. So I would love some advice on that.
Susan Kilrain (44:43):
Well, correction, all four of mine like to jump off cliffs
Susan Kilrain (44:49):
And I’ve sort of taken the lesson I learned from my father and my job isn’t to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. My job is to support them and encourage them in whichever direction that they wanna go. So if they come to me and say they wanna be that pro basketball player, I’ll get them basketball play in lessons or whatever and provide them the opportunity it’s up for to somebody else to, um, show them that, yeah, this is a great thing or not, or for them to decide. Yeah, I’m not very good at basketball, you know, and, and so I’ve not, I’ve tried to stay out of the direction my kids are heading and just support them to the extent that I can. Um, my oldest daughter, my oldest is a girl and she’s 23 and she’s decided she wants to fly jets in the Navy <laugh>, or she wants to fly for the Navy. I don’t know if she wants to fly jets, but you know, like, okay. So she starts at OCS in January. Wow.
Maureen Woolshlager (45:54):
I was actually gonna ask if any of the kids wanted to follow in your husband’s footsteps. So I was, I was curious.
Susan Kilrain (46:00):
Yeah, I think that both, both of the boys still have in their head that they might wanna be seals like my husband. Um, and you know, who, what mother wants their kid to grow up to be a seal, but that’s also not my job. You know, my job is to support and encourage them and then be scared to death, you know,
Kristi Porter (46:21):
Kristi Porter (46:23):
Well, you also have the distinguishment of being, um, one of only three women to pilot a space shuttle, which is remarkable as well, just getting smaller and smaller in that microcosm. Um, so what advice that you said, you obviously get asked, um, advice from women and girls whenever you do speaking engagements and the boards you’re on and things like that. So what advice do you give to other women and, and girls or maybe even your daughter who is, it’s still not a crowded field for her either, so you know, what a and when they wanna be a pioneer in their career too, what advice are you giving them?
Susan Kilrain (46:57):
You know, mostly I would say just, you know, jump in with both feet and, um, have thick skin on their way in because even though things have gotten considerably better and women are generally accepted and most walks of life now, you’re still gonna come across, um, adversity mm-hmm. <affirmative> as a woman. And the best way to overcome that is to be absolutely as smart as you can be on whatever it is you’re doing and train and be the best that you can be. Because once somebody sees that you’re capable, then they pretty much accept you. Um, you know, and my, even being the only woman in the F 14 squadrant, once they saw that I was capable of flying the airplane, I generally got treated as a little sister or, you know, I mean, pretty much I was accepted. Maybe they weren’t ready to accept women in general, but they accepted me, which is the first step. Right. You know, and, um, I, younger kids, I just tell them, dare to dream, you know, And don’t be afraid to change your dream. Right. You know, just because you’ve sat down this path of, of I’m gonna gonna be a whatever. It’s okay to say, You know what, I really like this better and, and, and take a detour. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
Maureen Woolshlager (48:19):
It’s not a surprise in USA Today named you a woman over the century, <laugh>. Um, there’s a ton of incredible women in, in that list, but growing up or, or even now, do you have any mentors or people that you look up to? Not it could be man, woman, but people that you use maybe as a benchmark for how you wanna live or someone that you wanna look up to?
Susan Kilrain (48:41):
I can’t say that I had the traditional sort of hero, like one person. Obviously there weren’t women flying in space way back when or, but for me, a hero is someone that does something completely against the accepted norm for the right reasons. Like, I mean, I think of Rosa Parks type people, people that stood up for what was right, even though they were gonna get in trouble for it or, you know, but, but it was because it was the right thing to do. I think of teachers who, um, get, you know, that die in a school shooting because they were protecting their students, even though their self preservation system in their body says no, they know that they have to do that. And um, you know, the kid who stands up for the other little kid who’s getting bullied, you know, I, those are, to me, that’s what a hero is. Um, it, I I do get sometimes bothered by we’ve become, you know, as a society in this country, we put people like sports figures and, and and movie stars on these pedestals and yeah, some of them belong there because some of them are doing all the things that they can to kind of pay back and, and encourage young people or whatever. But I think that many of them don’t deserve that hero worship that they get. Yeah,
Kristi Porter (50:12):
I agree. Yeah,
Maureen Woolshlager (50:13):
I agree with you for sure.
Kristi Porter (50:15):
Um, well as we start to wrap up here, which is a hard thing to do, but we know you’ve got a lot of incredible things, um, out in the world that you’re doing as well. Want, want you to keep going too, but how can listeners connect with you? And, um, you said you’re on a couple of boards, so I dunno if you wanna mention those organizations and how to support those. And I understand too that, um, so I guess it’s a three part question, but how can we connect with you, how do we support what you’re doing? And I, you have a book coming out, we didn’t even get to that. Tell us about
Susan Kilrain (50:43):
Book. As far as, um, reaching out to me, I have a website, susan kra.com, so anybody can reach out to me through that, um, and learn more about me and see pictures and video and whatnot if they’re interested in, in seeing what I’ve done. Um, the book, I actually have a publisher for my children’s book, which, so it should be out next week, I mean, next, next year, next fall. They, they release in the fall this one publisher. And, um, and that’s the unlikely astronaut. It’s, um, kind of a motivational story for your four to eight year old kids about how, you know, this barefoot girl in Georgia grew up to become an astronaut. And then the other book that I am still in the process of writing and hoping to get a publisher is, um, more towards young professional women in working in traditional male fields.
Susan Kilrain (51:43):
And, and it’s combined stories of how I navigated those crazy waters to, um, interviews from folks that are more current than I am because I, you know, I am old <laugh>. Um, but uh, the same issues still exist and sometimes it’s even harder now because people don’t wanna hear about it anymore. You know, people have, you know, when I came through it was like one or two and, and people were like, Yeah, go, go, go. And now it’s like, yeah, that again, can we stop talking about women? And then when you look at your other, um, minorities, like women of color, they’re underrepresented everywhere. And, and so it’s, the book is geared towards young women.
Kristi Porter (52:27):
Terrific. Wow. And is there anything that you’re working on that people can support as far as, um, nonprofits or causes or anything like that?
Susan Kilrain (52:35):
I don’t have a nonprofit that, um,
Kristi Porter (52:37):
I, No, just you said you were on board, so that’s why
Susan Kilrain (52:39):
Yeah. The boards that I’m on are, are for profit.
Kristi Porter (52:41):
Susan Kilrain (52:42):
It. And, um, you know, for me personally, I am near and dear to the Navy Seal Foundation husbands Seal, and they do wonderful, wonderful things and are, are highly rated. But, um, as far as my own personal causes, I, I, I don’t have any.
Kristi Porter (52:58):
Yeah, well you named a good one, so we’ll keep that.
Maureen Woolshlager (53:02):
You could ask our audience to do one thing other than support the Navy Seal Foundation, <laugh>, what would it be?
Susan Kilrain (53:08):
Good question. I would say, uh, encourage your kids or other kids to, um, to dream, to dare that, you know, live their dream, whatever it may be. You know, yes, you can do that. You can be anything you wanna be. I I hold very dearly mentorship, sponsorship, you know, I had mentors along the way. Uh, that, that is an invaluable resource. Uh, so if, if you’re, if you’re reaching a, you know, if you’re in a successful career, reach back and start mentoring those that are trying to follow in your footsteps. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
Kristi Porter (53:48):
Great advice. Well, thank you so much for your time. This was fantastic, insightful, enlightening, um, the whole thing. So it was, uh, definitely worth our time and I hope it was worth your time as well. And can’t wait for, uh, everyone else listening to be able to learn more about you in your amazing career as well, and hopefully have you speak. We, you know, we’ll definitely get her out there and get more speaking engagements. And if anybody knows a book publisher, pass that along as well, <laugh>. Yeah. But thank you so much for your time, We really appreciate it.
Susan Kilrain (54:22):
Yeah, that’s wonderful talking with both of you.
Kristi Porter (54:25):
Have a good day, everyone.
Susan Kilrain is a veteran of two space shuttle flights. She is one of only three women to ever pilot the shuttle. Her first mission to space was cut short due to a life-threatening systems failure. Her second mission lasted 16 days. Susan is a graduate of the Naval Test Pilot School. She has flown over 30 different types of aircraft for more than 3000 hours. Most of her flight time was in the F-14 Tomcat, EA-6A Electric Intruder, and the TA-4J Skyhawk. Susan Kilrain is from Augusta, GA. She holds a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech. She is married to VADM Colin Kilrain, USN, of Braintree, MA. They currently live in Washington, DC and have four children. Connect with Susan on LinkedIn.
Maureen Woolshlager started her career at McMaster-Carr’s Management Development Program working in sales, marketing, distribution operations, finance and accounting. After McMaster-Carr, she spent a year managing operations in one of Target Corporation’s warehouses before finding a role within a small management consulting company in Denver, Colorado. She worked on large projects for international food and restaurant companies and advised on account management, business development, operations management, warehouse operations, continuous improvement and distribution center operations, and procurement/supplier/inventory optimization. She has spent the last 9 years living in Belgium & Germany where her husband has been stationed as a US Army officer. Maureen has her B.A. from Emory University. She earned a certificate in Management & Marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania & her M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. Learn more about Vector Global Logistics here: https://vectorgl.com/
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.
Sales Support Intern
Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.
Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more. In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.
Director of Communications and Executive Producer
Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys. She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.
Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.
Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
Host, The Freight Insider
Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.
Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.
Host, Supply Chain Now
The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.
He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.
A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics. He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.
She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.
An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.
A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.
A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning. He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.
Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.
Social Media Manager
My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.
Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.
Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.
Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.
Business Development Manager
Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.
Vice President, Production
Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.
Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research. Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.
Host, Veteran Voices
Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.
Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español
Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.
Host of Digital Transformers
Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community. Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix and IBM. Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane University, O’Reilly Media, LinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight. Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Carrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.
Director of Sales
Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.
With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.
When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring
Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.
Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.
Principal & CMO, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise
When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.
Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.
Founder, CEO, & Host
As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.
From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.