Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Emily Kies

In the Hagerty Advantage, Disaster Discourse blog staff seek to showcase Hagerty professionals and the unique qualities and backgrounds they bring to our company. Read along as we introduce, Emily Kies, a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division.

When did you first become interested in the field of emergency management?

I was taking a CPR/AED class at the local Red Cross, and there was an advertisement for the local Disaster Action Team, which was called to respond to local disasters and provide immediate assistance. I thought it looked interesting; up until that point, I thought the only people who responded to emergencies were police and fire departments. From there, I never looked back. I was introduced to Incident Command Systems (ICS), and it was love at first sight – I even used it to plan my wedding!

I am so passionate about emergency management. I think the part that I love the most is the planning aspect. I love working with local communities to develop their Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs). I think people inherently want to help in a crisis, but without some pre-planning the best intentions can quickly go awry. To watch individuals understand where they fit into the bigger picture and how they can be of meaningful assistance during a disaster is rewarding. It demystifies the process. For most people outside of emergency management, the concepts are vague, but as a mentor once told me – proper prior planning prevents poor performance.

How did that interest evolve?

I was with the Red Cross, and I knew this was my career track. I wanted to learn everything I could about the field, so I enrolled in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Independent Study Courses. Many of the concepts are visual, and they made a lot of sense to me. It was (and still is) a newer field, and I started to see programs that were separate career tracks in local and state government. I had many amazing mentors who encouraged me, so it was a natural choice to complete my degree in emergency management.

How has your experience working with Hagerty been so far?

I am thrilled to be a part of this team. The best aspect of being here is the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. I can say with certainty that I stand on the shoulders of giants. To top it off, everyone is incredibly kind, supportive, and professional. I respect and align with Hagerty’s values. I will be challenged and guided, stretched and encouraged. There is such an incredible sense of teamwork, if I had to be in the trenches with anyone, it would be with these guys.

Could you tell us about your time working with the Red Cross?

I have a deep love for the Red Cross. I still refer to “we” when asked about my time there. The most rewarding part of working for the Red Cross is the people, hands down. There is a saying, “You come for the mission, and stay for the people.” I’d like to think that I brought something to the organization, but the truth is they brought so much to me. Working for the Red Cross made me a better version of myself. I was stretched, I was uncomfortable at times, it was hard, I cried. I was also encouraged, cheered on, supported, and coached. It molded my core and shaped the person I am today. One of my favorite quotes by President Theodore Roosevelt sums up the heart of the Red Cross:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

You wrote a paper on “Imposter Syndrome.” Could you elaborate on that?

I stumbled upon an article several years ago about the Imposter Syndrome (when someone feels undeserving of their accomplishments), but at that point in my life, it did not have much impact on me.  This past year I was honored to be selected to attend the National Emergency Management Association’s (NEMA’s) Advanced Academy at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), and part of the program is a capstone paper on any topic in emergency management. I struggled to find a topic because I didn’t have anything that I was really drawn to. However, due to a recent career change and further exposure in the field, I realized that I was struggling with feeling inadequate, and the article about the Imposter Syndrome kept coming to mind. It was deeply cathartic for me to research and write on the topic for the Institute, and it has opened the door for very meaningful conversations with other professionals.”

Do you have any advice for those suffering from Imposter Syndrome?

It’s important to realize you’re not alone. It may seem cliché, but reach out and speak up. Vulnerability can be scary, but it can foster deep and meaningful connections. I also love an exercise called “Just the Facts;” it’s a recommendation from the author Valerie Young. List out your accomplishments, and write them down without qualifiers. Either you got the degree, or you didn’t. You got the job/promotion, or you didn’t. Don’t add what you think are qualifiers (i.e. connections, sympathy, looks, etc.) or other unique factors that you think got you the accomplishment.

Emily Kies is a Senior Managing Associate for Hagerty. She joined Hagerty in Chicago in April 2018. Emily works to improve the resiliency of critical infrastructure, enhance sustainability, and develop plans for evacuations, active threats, and terrorist attacks. Before joining Hagerty, she trained and managed a team of volunteers for the American Red Cross to help clients recover immediately after a disaster. She studied emergency management and homeland security at Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. Hagerty is always looking for talented and passionate professionals to join our team. Learn more here.