2 years ago

Cindy Griner is a 2019 Woman of Impact

Huntsville’s high-tech explosion has done wonders for the state of Alabama.

While this continuing economic boon gets much fanfare when new project announcements, groundbreakings and ribbon ceremonies happen, the many individuals who serve as the backbone of north Alabama’s technology sector often get overlooked.

Cindy Griner, vice president of the Engineering Services and Solutions Division at Dynetics, is one of these people that garners little outside attention but is, in fact, a giant of the industry.

A 36-year veteran of Dynetics, Griner also serves as the president of Dynetics’ wholly owned subsidiary, Aviation and Missile Solutions. Her division is responsible for electro-optical/infrared and acoustic sensor systems; lethal mechanisms; platform integration; Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) ground programming and trainers; and CMMI Level 3 computer applications.

She oversees major contract activities, with a primary focus on engineering services and development activities for the U.S. military and defense community. This is a big money business, where the stakes of getting it wrong are the highest – we are, after all, talking about modern, highly complicated national defense mechanisms here.

While Griner is now one of the most powerful and influential members of Huntsville’s high-tech industry, her journey to get there was not easy. As she explained, this was not an industry when she got started that was particularly friendly to women.

“In the 80’s when I began work, there were only two women on the technical staff of my company,” Griner told Yellowhammer News. “I was very young and admittedly ‘green.’ There was largely the perception that women are not technical, are too emotional, and don’t think strategically.”

“Women were sometimes overtly harassed,” she said, adding that sexual harassment training was not yet a norm.

However, joining Dynetics in 1982, she found a culture where she could strive on her merit – and a mentor that supported her along the way.

“I had the tremendous benefit of working for Tom Baumbach in an ethical company founded on excellence,” Griner explained. “Tom was very open-minded and encouraging. He never looked at my limitations, he looked at my potential. He mentored and believed in me and helped me to believe in myself.”

This is not to say there were not unique challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male field.

Griner outlined, “The ‘challenges’ of questioned credibility, men assuming I was hired because I was female, and the occasional overt harassment sparked a defiance and strength that fueled my desire to achieve. I worked harder, double checked my work, went above and beyond in my preparation largely to prove to both myself and those who would believe otherwise that I brought real value to my employer and my customers.”

She advised that with every challenge came an opportunity to overcome that obstacle.

Griner mentioned her educational attainment as a way to address some doubts, both internal and external. She earned her master’s in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

“At the urging of my mentor, I became a life-long learner. I continued my technical education, obtaining my MSEE, which added to both my credibility and my confidence,” Griner said.

She also offered some wisdom, gleaned from personal experience, on being able to take a step back and gain perspective.

“Over time I learned self-awareness,” Griner noted. “I learned to use my strengths, but just as importantly, to rely on others for their strengths.”

She added, “I occasionally experienced setbacks, but over time I learned perspective and I learned perseverance. Better days will come. No one stays on the peak. We all experience peaks and valleys; the valleys give you the perspective to recognize the sweetness of the peaks. For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

And for Griner, the peaks have indeed been sweet. She has supported a number of huge customers and programs during her tenure with Dynetics, including most recently the U.S. Army Futures Command; Aviation and Missile Center in UAS interoperability; architectures; MBSE, prototyping and integration of emerging technologies; and AO/PO trainer development for Army Air Force programs such as Shadow, Gray Eagle, Hunter, Reaper and Global Hawk.

She named the the Javelin missile system and Army UAS program development as perhaps her crowning jewel, the projects she is most proud of.

In a true sign of leadership, Griner also explained how what makes her proud has evolved over time.

“Early in my career it was about what ‘I’ did… in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom… systems that I personally supported in development and training have been used to make our soldiers and airmen safer and more effective. In fact I have a GI Joe in my office that was one of the first 50 produced in honor of one of those programs,” she advised.

More recently, Griner’s duties and responsibilities have grown to become more about her Dynetics family.

This included her leading the 2011 Dynetics ESOP Transaction.

“I worked with a small employee committee to transition Dynetics to 100% Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) ensuring our employees reap the benefits of their dedication and excellence,” Griner highlighted.

“This was a huge undertaking that gave me the rare opportunity to work closely with outstanding female professionals from nationally recognized law and retirement firms on something that would make a huge impact on our company and our employees,” she added. “A few years later, I led the design and implementation of an internal market for our ESOP, creating increased investment opportunity for employees and underpinning the health of the ESOP.”

Just as she had the support of a key mentor, Griner now takes tremendous pride in being a mentor to others. That is one of the defining aspects of leadership, she said, as well as the most rewarding part of her career journey.

Griner shared, “On 1 January of 2017, I was named the president of a Dynetics wholly owned subsidiary and later that same year, I was named a Dynetics vice president. While the titles are very nice and sometimes help open doors for strategic conversations, at this point, my proudest and most humbling moments are witnessing the accomplishments of others, especially those I’ve mentored – in FY18, five employees in my organization won annual corporate awards for engineering and business excellence, product innovation, customer service, ethics or safety which are typically only given to one employee each year.”

A mentor through-and-through, Griner also offered some inspirational words of advice to all the girls who want to be a leader in their own right one day.

“Work hard on yourself FIRST; become credible, and always keep learning. Don’t be afraid. ASK QUESTIONS,” Griner emphasized.

She named finding “good mentors and role models” as a key to success.

“Great leaders are generally good communicators,” Griner said. “Girls have a natural advantage here. From birth, girl babies spend more time studying the people that are holding them, looking into their eyes and learning their emotions. Girls see things that boys don’t see.”

She named four core components of being a strong communicator.

I. Listen, not just for a pause to talk, but for true understanding (If you are “writing your speech” while someone else talks, you are not truly listening).

II. Realize when you’re talking to others, especially leaders, that they are listening for the point, not the experience.

III. Ask questions, don’t be afraid of looking uninformed/uneducated, sometimes asking questions shows what you really do know.

IV. Breathe….. Try to think about everything from an objective perspective, not from your emotional side. Give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s NOT PERSONAL when they disagree with your view. Perhaps they know things you don’t.

Even though she works in a sector focused on cutting-edge technology (literally robots), Griner concluded her thoughts by stressing how crucial it is to see and understand others as the individual human beings they all are.

“Look outside yourself, if you are going to LEAD, someone has to follow. If you want people to follow you, you have to care about them and appreciate them,” Griner said. “Not just whether they do something that serves you and your bottom line, but are they fulfilled, are they healthy, do they have obstacles that you can remove to help them succeed, how can you help them grow in their career and life.”

“Say THANK YOU to your subordinates, co-workers, bosses, customers and creator. None of us do this alone. If you think you do, you are delusional,” she continued.

And, through it all, “BE OPTIMISTIC,” she concluded.

That she has certainly been, and the results are there for all to see.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Cindy Griner a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

12 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

15 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

20 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

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The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

21 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.