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NPS Hall of Famer, Distinguished Alumna Returns to Campus for SGL
U.S. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya

NPS Hall of Famer, Distinguished Alumna Returns to Campus for SGL

By Javier Chagoya

Retired Vice Adm. Patricia Ann Tracey, an NPS Distinguished Alumna and Hall of Fame member, returned to her alma mater, Feb. 14, to offer unique perspectives on her own experience at the university, and her distinguished career following, during the latest Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture in King Auditorium, Feb. 14.

Tracey was the first American woman to be promoted to the rank of vice admiral, and was the highest-ranking female officer in the U.S. military in 2004. With a distinguished 34-year career in the Navy, and a dozen more years in a Fortune 500 company behind her, Tracey shared views on her time as a naval officer, in industry and on becoming part of change.

"I look back at my time at NPS as the best tour I ever had, mainly because I was able to pause and reflect here, and to enjoy learning new things that would eventually help to shape the way I think in a strategic way. It also took courage to go back to school after being out in the fleet for a while.

"It takes courage to go back to school, especially after a fleet assignment," she continued. "The family might have thought you were going to have more time to spend with them, if not for all of the homework and the demands of writing a thesis. And all the while, you're worrying if you had made the right choice of being away from the profession of the operational fleet or squadron."

Tracey suggested that her return to academia was not unlike other risks one must take in life, to step out of a comfort zone and test one's resolve. And of relevance to her audience at NPS, to change how the mind is shaped to become a better officer and leader.

"What matters when you graduate from NPS is that you perform in your job with a different point of view of understanding problems. It's about the coalescing of what you've learned," she added.

With Tracey's departure from the Navy in 2004, she was recruited by Electronic Data Systems (EDS), now HP Enterprise Services.

"I was fortunate enough to be recruited by EDS, the company that brought the Navy Marine Corps Intranet to our Sailors and Marines. They were committed to bringing magnificent technical support to our services, and it was the magnificent people that I was working side by side with that I regarded," noted Tracey proudly. "They shared the same values I had found in the Navy. And in my position, I sought to get the upscaling capability we were working on out to the fleet."

HP acquired EDS in 2008, a learning experience for Tracey in the competitive and high-stakes realm of technology. She remained with HP serving as an executive, developing enterprise strategies for the Departments of Justice, State, DOD and Homeland Security. This she suggested to the officers in the audience was a point where "you have to plot your own course as an employee."

"HP was a demanding place to work. There is no crew rest in this fast-pace environment," she said. "You must consider fear and risk in being the first to do something new in industry and it's just as risky as doing it first in DOD.

"Learn to think differently and consider other alternatives in evaluating the return on risks to success. Money is the most readily recognized way to incentivize anything. And many companies struggle to understand that doing something that matters is what really motivates people," concluded Tracey.

Tracey possesses two distinctions with NPS. She is recognized as an NPS Distinguished Alumna and holds the highest honor awarded to alum, the recipient of the NPS Hall of Fame Award.

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Today@NPS showcases some of the speakers, conferences, experiments, lectures, and other events that take place at the Naval Postgraduate School on a daily basis. If you would like more information about any of the highlighted activities please contact the public affairs office at pao@nps.edu.

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February 2017