Homeland Security expert Juliette Kayyem to receive Pinnacle Award
CAMBRIDGE - With a flip of her slippers, Juliette Kayyem puts on pumps and goes to work. Somehow, the world-renowned expert on homeland security juggles the lives of three kids and analyzing worldwide disasters, mostly from her Cambridge home.
"I'll teach one day. I'll help companies or get on a phone call with a mayor or a governor to help them through something. I'll get a call to go on air on CNN and leave the family in the kitchen and do that," Kayyem said.
It is a whirlwind that Kayyem has performed for years, under Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and President Obama, as a Harvard Professor and a CNN Analyst. The key is that she does not expect any of it to go perfectly.
"Perfection just leads to paralysis because you're thinking through 'oh my God, this happened and that happened.' Just think through the basics. I'll get you 80% of the way there," she said.
In that way, learning from life informs her job. Kayyem has learned from some of the world's worst events like Hurricane Katrina.
"And I remember sitting and watching TV, thinking, my God, we are a country that has spent all this money and resources on essentially trying to stop terrorists on airplanes and here we couldn't stop an American city from drowning because we weren't ready," she said. "I feel like my contribution is, can things be less bad because of the investment."
She has invested in making things less bad and now her investment is being rewarded. Kayyem will receive a Lifetime Achievement Pinnacle Award from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce celebrating women in business.
"A good day is when nothing bad happens for me often and so, it's nice to have a good day every once in a while," she joked.
Kayyem also has a piece of advice for women in the workforce: don't stew.
"Working mothers or for parents, we have a tendency to think too much," she said. "The stewing is not providing any value to anyone. Just make decisions and as we often say in disaster management, be ready to course correct."
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