KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 25, 2020
Lauren Reed has spent most of her career working in forensics and biometrics technology to identify national security threats, but the knowledge she recently gained in strategic leadership and teamwork as a Kennesaw State graduate student added a new layer to her robust career.
A May 2020 Executive MBA graduate in Kennesaw State’s Michael J. Coles College of Business, Reed currently serves as senior program director for biometric forensics at IDEMIA National Security Solutions.
Last month, she was named a winner of the 2020 Women in Biometrics Award by the Security Industry Association (SIA), the world’s largest security trade group. She is one of five women selected this year for the award, which recognizes women leaders driving biometric identity and security industries.
“Winning this award is an incredible honor,” she said. “The women recognized before me are phenomenal people. Having the opportunity to stand beside them is truly humbling.”
Reed’s 20-year career in biometrics and forensics includes being the first woman to serve as director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at the Defense Forensic Science Center as well as the first chief of the U.S. Army Biometrics Examination Services Branch.
Working with the U.S. Army, Reed used biometrics and forensic technology – such as facial, iris and fingerprint recognition – to enhance the organization’s ability to identify potential threats to soldiers overseas.
“The Army was starting to use forensics on the battlefield and on bases to prevent attacks,” Reed said. “When the military is operating in a warzone, you don’t have the ability to get driver’s licenses and validate the IDs of everyone you interact with. It was our job to identify known or suspected terrorists on the battlefield.”
In 2012, Reed received the FBI Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service for her work facilitating a system for sharing fingerprints between the Department of Defense, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, which led to identifying more than 500 potential national security threats.
As Reed progressed through her career, she realized that being successful in her field means more than having a robust understanding of forensics and biometrics. She must also be skilled at working with people, and she credits the Kennesaw State EMBA program with helping her reach this conclusion.
“I gained so much more than I expected from the program,” Reed said. “I initially wanted to better understand things like accounting and economics. But because of the EMBA program’s coaching and teaming aspects, I really enhanced my ability to accomplish things as a team. The program pushes you to work with diverse groups of people and listen to others’ opinions.”
Students in KSU’s EMBA program advance through the 19-month curriculum in teams of five or six, collaborating on assignments and conducting research along the way. The goal is to simulate the experience of working in a strategic alliance.
Prior to enrolling in the EMBA program, Reed had never taken a business course. Her undergraduate degree is in psychology from Washington State University, and she has a master’s degree in forensic science from National University.
“Frankly, I was scared at first and didn’t think I was going to be able to do it,” she said. “But, the KSU faculty and staff were so invested in us and available. As someone who doesn’t have a business background, that stood out to me.”
In the academic environment, Reed excelled. She was named the EMBA program’s outstanding student for the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Lauren is an exceptional woman,” said Alison Keefe, executive director of the Coles College EMBA program. “She is hard working and diligent but also kind and compassionate. Her zest for continuous learning, her ability to absorb and apply those learnings, and her leadership style inside and outside the classroom helped propel her to the top of the list.”
Reed accepted the prestigious Women in Biometrics Award during a virtual ceremony hosted by SIA and SecureIDNews and sponsored by IDEMIA, Biometric Update and the SIA Women Security Forum.
Reflecting on her varied career, which also includes doing forensics for the King County, Washington Sheriff’s Office, working as a research scientist for Lockheed Martin, teaching forensic fingerprint science at National University, and designing training programs for forensic and biometric examiners with private firm Ideal Innovations, Reed said most of her job satisfaction comes from mentoring.
“I’m most proud of training, teaching, and mentoring to help others on this career path be successful,” she said. “My love is in helping others who are excited by biometrics, forensics and leadership to accomplish their goals.”
She added that she hopes the prominence of honors like the Women in Biometrics Award helps encourage more women to follow in her footsteps.
“I understand the important need to recognize women working in STEM,” she said. “For me, it’s about showing young girls that they too can have a rewarding career in this industry.”
– Patrick Harbin
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