You are currently viewing Beyond the Résumé: Kirsten Renner’s Approach Mastery in the Art and Science of Talent Engagement
Kirsten Renner, Talent Engagement Lead Accenture Federal Services

Beyond the Résumé: Kirsten Renner’s Approach Mastery in the Art and Science of Talent Engagement

Venturing into the dynamic realm of talent engagement and leadership, Kirsten Renner emerges as a formidable presence. As a dedicated mother and a fervent supporter of the Armed Forces, her journey has been marked by commitment and selfless volunteerism. With an impressive roster of speaking engagements spanning renowned conferences, she has emerged as a prominent figure in the cybersecurity and technology landscape.

Kirsten’s role as a Talent Engagement Lead at Accenture Federal Services exemplifies her strategic prowess. In this newly formed position, she orchestrates innovative strategies and thought leadership, elevating the collective voice and influence of talent. Her deep understanding of the workforce combined with data analytics and subject-matter expertise positions her as a trailblazer in shaping the workforce agenda.

Collaborating with C-suite executives, policymakers and industry experts, Kirsten’s initiatives respond to the shifting labor market and future talent trends. She is renowned for her thought leadership and talent-oriented solutions that prioritize the candidate experience.

Kirsten’s role extends beyond the organization as she actively engages in regional workforce-related events, bridging the gap between talent and mission, one meaningful connection at a time. Her accomplishments, including accolades such as ‘Top Talent Team Lead’ and ‘America’s Best Corporate Recruiter,’ underscore her exceptional contributions to the field.

Let’s explore Kirsten’s journey which reflects the dedication and passion defining her professional endeavors and personal values!

Pioneering Pathways

Kirsten was the former Director of Recruiting at Novetta which played a pivotal role in transforming the organization, “more than doubling the size” in just five years in anticipation of acquisition. Following this, she embarked on a new journey with Accenture Federal Services (AFS), “integrating my team into the newly formed National Security Portfolio.” Kirsten’s expertise was instrumental in “improving and re-designing AFS recruiting processes,” even introducing a modern applicant tracking system.

As Kirsten ventured further into her career, she took on a fresh challenge by creating and leading a role that resonated with her passion. Her new focus was on “engaging talent across the community through events, initiatives, volunteering, and workforce development.” Kirsten’s zest for connecting people shone through as she defined herself in a single word: “Connector.”

Kirsten’s journey is marked by growth, innovation and her commitment to bringing people together which also serves as an inspiring example. Her experience underscores the importance of adaptability and a relentless drive for progress in terms of professional development not just as an individual but also as a leader.

Inspiring Brilliance

With a diverse background spanning information technology, software development and helpdesk services in both commercial and government sectors, Kirsten’s journey took a transformative turn when she pursued HR Management at the University of Maryland Global Campus. Combining her passion for technology and HR, she delved into technical recruiting for over two decades. Kirsten’s unique approach lies in her community involvement: “being a genuine contributor in many ways,” from content creation, speaking engagements, event management as well as founding and running nonprofit organizations to help build up the workforce. Thus, naturally falling into talent engagement.

Throughout her career, she embraced talent engagement naturally, becoming deeply embedded in the communities she sought to hire from. Leading teams of up to 30 people, Kirsten found her true fulfillment in coaching and nurturing future leaders. For her, the most rewarding aspect was “building the leaders of the future, within my own teams and organization, as well as within the workforce at large.”

Forging Leadership in the Fires of Experience

In the early days of Kirsten’s career, she was driven by a perception of success that equated being the best with outperforming her peers: “I thought doing measurably ‘better’ than those around me was indicative of success.” However, a defining moment reshaped her perspective and paved the way for her journey as a leader.

This transformational moment occurred when she approached her new boss, excited about completing a task her team couldn’t manage. His response, “That is not your job,” marked a turning point. Her boss explained that it was her responsibility to not only excel individually but also to empower her team. This eye-opening revelation propelled Kirsten into a leadership role where she was determined to nurture her team’s unique talents and provide them with the tools to grow and shine: “From that moment forward, I did everything I could to not just recognize each of their unique gifts but to afford them opportunities to shine and give them every resource to grow.”

Leading with Purpose

In Kirsten’s eyes, true leadership embodies vulnerability, humility and honesty, “Be brave enough to be vulnerable, humble, honest, and a great example of ethics and hard work.” She emphasizes that authenticity and openness are paramount. People in leadership roles who pretend to know something they don’t (or not asking for help when they need it) are seen unfavorably by their subordinates in a short matter of time and it’s hard to follow someone like that. Acknowledging mistakes openly and its part of shared humanity which fosters genuine connections: “When folks see you do the right things for the right reasons, they will naturally stand by your side.”

For Kirsten, leadership is about action, not just words, “It matters when you see your leadership doing the work too, not just barking orders. That is my style, I’m a doer.” She advocates for leaders who lead by example, engaging in every task, no matter how small. She warns against toxic competitiveness, promoting an environment where the team thrives collectively: “Great leaders give credit away and take ownership for missed shots, rather than blaming.”

Talent as Treasure

Kirsten is a dynamic force within her organization. She thrives on connecting diverse interests: “I find myself liaising between mutually interested parties on multiple meaningful endeavors across the organization.” Her focus spans vital areas such as recruiting, diversity, workforce development, and cyber initiatives. Through strategic partnerships, she amplifies the impact of their collective efforts: “Partnering and joining forces strengthen the power of our reach and impact in each specialty area.”

Kirsten’s ultimate goal is to empower the larger workforce, fostering growth and unity, “I hope to continue to empower the workforce at large, both within the community and inside my organization.”

Championing Change

Kirsten’s wisdom shines through as she emphasizes the power of humility and seeking help when necessary: “Change ‘I don’t know’ to ‘Here’s what I do know.’“ True leadership, she believes, lies in the ability to acknowledge limitations while being a dependable figure: “Be brave enough to get help when needed while remaining a leader that can be depended on.”

For Kirsten, the key to effective leadership is harnessing the collective strength of the team: “A leader’s arsenal is the people around them.” She advocates for a harmonious blend of strengths, ensuring each accomplishment is recognized: “Sort and combine strengths in a complimentary way that serves each mission, then be sure to compliment each accomplishment.” This approach, she asserts, naturally motivates the team making them stronger and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Mirror, Mirror

Kirsten while reflecting on her leadership journey enthusiastically shares numerous instances where she empowered her team: “Absolutely! It’s hard to pick just one because there have been so many examples in recent years.” From entrusting her second in command with critical process improvements to supporting team members in speaking engagements, she recognized potential and seized every opportunity, “I could see which of my people were eager to jump in and contribute.”

As the workload multiplied, Kirsten navigated the challenges by delegating tasks strategically and nurturing future leaders, “There was no other way to get through it than to start handing out the opportunities.” From managing referrals to troubleshooting, she honed the valuable skill of task delegation, fostering trust and enabling her team to learn and grow.

Mentoring Matters

Kirsten’s journey as a Mentor traces back to a legendary figure who instilled in her the ethos of spreading skills and knowledge. For over a decade, she dedicated more than 20 weekends annually, personally mentoring and orchestrating teams of volunteers and she shares “but building teams of volunteers to review resumes, conduct mock interviews and do career coaching.”

Kirsten’s impact extended beyond individual mentorship. She played a pivotal role in founding diverse communities, including career villages and technical domains like Car Hacking and Industrial Control Systems: “The villages I have helped found and run, provide training and mentorship for elite technical skills to assist in building the cyber workforce.”

Talent Metamorphosis

In Kirsten’s career at AFS, she feels profoundly fortunate: “I feel very fortunate that AFS has seen the value in the work I do across the community and provides me with support to do more.” Her role is dedicated to leading the talent engagement initiative where she is pioneering and evolving, “Exclusively creating and leading the talent engagement initiative is new and still developing, but I’m already taking the charge.”

In her innovative position, Kirsten sponsors pivotal events like technical and diversity-focused conferences and plays a key role in initiatives like the Hiring Village for BSides Charm and ICS Village Workforce Development Initiatives. Her involvement in organizations like Abilities Unleashed showcases her dedication to bridging gaps and enhancing workforce strength, “This very role is an innovation in itself as it bridges gaps between mutually interested parties to increase the power of meaningful initiatives and help build a stronger workforce and engage talent to join our critical missions.”

AFS’s recognition of the importance of talent engagement speaks volumes, “it recognizes the importance of giving TE its own space and letting me spearhead it.”

Future Vistas

While acknowledging the commonality, Kirsten finds herself captivated by Generative AI, “It seems almost cliché to say it but could we get through a conversation like this without mentioning Generative AI? I’ve been experimenting with it and it’s terrifyingly brilliant.” Feeling the urgency, she contemplates running her responses through ChatGPT, underlining the technology’s compelling impact on the conversations.

The Balancing Act

In Kirsten’s view, striking a balance between work and personal life is fundamental, “It is important to show your team how to balance their own lives and know when to put the phone down.” Her advice to her team has always been clear—no work emails or chats on personal devices, encouraging them to prioritize personal moments over work interruptions.

Reflecting on her own journey, Kirsten emphasizes the rarity of work emergencies that truly require immediate attention: “I can look over three decades and hardly think of a work emergency that couldn’t have waited.” Recognizing the importance of family time, she regrets not emphasizing relaxation during her children’s younger years, “My kids are grown now, but if I could do it again, I would want them to see me relaxing on vacation, not answering emails. That’s important.”

Adapting her approach, Kirsten now adheres to a structured schedule, carving out time for herself amid work commitments, “Now I stick to a pretty strict schedule, with time for myself baked into those early and late hours.” She values dedicated hours for workouts and healthy meals, acknowledging the challenges she faced during her children’s early years.

Dreams and Blueprints

Kirsten has her eyes set on a personal milestone as she emphasizes “As an ultra runner, I still haven’t hit the 100-mile mark (only 100k) so personally, I’d like to get that belt buckle and am training for it now.” In her professional life at AFS, she is satisfied as she shares, “I feel very settled into my new role here at AFS where there seems to be no limit on the ways I can contribute.”

Embracing the culture that encourages exploration, she envisions her future with excitement, “The culture here allows people to pivot into new roles where their interests lead them.” Looking ahead, Kirsten envisions retirement as a phase of advisory consulting, with the delightful prospect of travel, “When this part of my journey closes, I see retirement in the form of advisory consulting, with sprinkles of travel and more puppies (and maybe a goat).”

Beyond the Résumé

Kirsten, brimming with excitement, shares a tantalizing glimpse of her latest endeavor, “I’m working on a very fun project right now working with a couple of brilliant people to create 3D digital and physical assets with an associated CTF for upcoming events.” While she keeps the details under wraps, she hints at the project’s innovative aspects, “It includes a smart building and augmented reality and is very exciting!”

Bequeathing Wisdom

Kirsten, reflecting on her own journey, understands the struggles many women face, “I hear women talk about fighting to get the proverbial seat at the table, or be heard and belong. I know what that feels like.” She offers a powerful insight—if you’re not valued where you are, consider your surroundings. Networking with fellow women leaders becomes crucial: “Networking with other women leaders will help you find your way.”

Kirsten advocates self-advocacy and resilience, “Always be your own best advocate. Build your own table if you need to and stand on said table when necessary.” She shares wisdom from a woman CEO, reminding others that leadership can be isolating, “It’s lonely at the top.” Yet, she emphasizes the importance of mission-driven actions, “Fixing broken things can require behaviors that can be polarizing. Do what you need to do for the mission you value and the people who matter will see what you’ve done.”

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