Cherokee Federal employee and veteran

Meet Susan Riordan: Air Force Veteran Turns Military Experience into Direct Client Support

April 20, 2021

After a twenty-five-year career as a civil engineer in the United States Air Force, Susan Riordan joined Cherokee Nation Management & Consulting (CNMC), a Cherokee Federal company, where she has been a project manager for more than two years.

Susan served as a civil engineer at all levels in the Air Force and commanded a civil engineer squadron and a mission support group. Her military career included four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and 13 assignments that took place in the U.S. and overseas.  

“My parents raised me to appreciate the value of service to a higher purpose and always encouraged me to take on a challenge,” Susan says. “Military service challenged me every day and allowed me to help protect the values and freedoms I believe in.”

Serving in the military is a long-standing tradition in Susan’s family, dating back to the American Revolution. More recently, her father and brother both served and retired from the U.S. Marine Corps; her uncle was in the Navy and died while in service during the Vietnam War.

For Susan, transitioning to a civilian career was like another military assignment. There were many unknowns, but that was no different from what she had faced throughout her time in the Air Force. She encourages other service members who are making a similar change to build relationships with mentors who can help with the transition process.

“I had several mentors in my career,” Susan adds. “Some were engineers and some were from other career fields in the Air Force. Leaving the military should be exciting. There are so many opportunities to explore.”

She also advises service women and men to take advantage of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), a prominent professional engineering organization.

“I have been a member since joining the military,” Susan says.“They still provide me with many professional development opportunities.”

Susan gained valuable skills during active duty that she still uses today as a project manager with CNMC — problem solving, critical thinking and the ability to stay flexible and adapt to unfamiliar environments.

“I am very comfortable in new situations,” she says. “I have enjoyed being able to turn my military experience into direct client support.”

On Susan’s first project with CNMC, she led a team of engineers to complete facility design reviews on 28 facilities in just two weeks. She skillfully coordinated activities between CNMC and two sub-contractors to generate more than 1,500 comments for submittal to the government and architect and engineering  firm of record; they accepted all comments.

“Design reviews of this complexity and depth would normally take two months,” says Daniel Guinan, operations general manager at CNMC. “Susan’s team was able to recover weeks lost to delays and put the overall design program back on schedule.”

Cherokee Federal customers that support foreign military sales, Air Force organizational policy and U.S. Space Force mission planning have all requested to work with Susan specifically.

“Our customers love Susan,” Guinan remarks. “They appreciate her dedication, communication and ability to advise on complex issues. She continues to play a significant role in future Space Force planning.”

According to Susan, her experience with Cherokee Federal has been exceptional and she feels the company is dedicated to making a difference.

“Cherokee does meaningful work that I am interested in supporting and shares a commitment to services that resonates with me,” she says. “Their response to the pandemic demonstrated their commitment to problem-solving and serving, both to clients and employees. The communication was excellent and enabled me to provide continuous support to my clients.”

Susan’s 25 years of leadership, program management, environmental and facility engineering experience in the Air Force have given her a wealth of knowledge that she regularly shares with her team.

“Susan brings a logical and methodical problem-solving approach to the team,” Guinan says. “She is able to identify key issues, develop solutions, gain customer buy-in and drive successful implementation. Her positive attitude and engagement keep our entire team motivated.”

Cherokee Federal’s technically skilled and driven team of more than 3,300 employees are focused on building next-generation technologies, solving complex challenges and serving more than 60 federal agencies globally. Join our team and make an immediate impact.

Cherokee Nation Management & Consulting provides consulting and professional services support to its civilian and defense agency partners. CNMC provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including mission support, facility and infrastructure engineering, facilities management and planning, construction support, logistics management and more

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