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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 28, 2020

CG Learning the Ropes: Finding your Big Why

By Christie St. Clair, MyCG Writer

In the latest podcast episode of “CG Learning the Ropes,” Cmdr. Kate Higgins-Bloom talks about what she calls “The Big Why.” She uses the phrase to describe a team’s vision about where they are going, and why they’re going there.
These lofty concepts are what you might expect from a senior officer working on the Coast Guard’s strategic foresight initiative, Project Evergreen. But she found her own “Big Why” almost by accident.
“I was a civil engineer, and a cutterman, and a responder. So the thought that I would go to Harvard to study public policy was actually very intimidating to me,” she tells show host Cmdr. Lushan Hannah. “I had no idea what was out there – Coast Guard Academy prepared me to go to a 270, and then a 110, and then another one. It was excellent, and I loved it.”
As Higgins-Bloom progressed in her career, mentors encouraged her to consider public policy. She remembered an experience during her first-class summer when she unexpectedly had to live with her parents for a few weeks and wound up interning with congressional affairs. “If I had not known that [opportunity] existed, I would never have put in for it as a [junior officer].”
Keep exploring, she urges junior officers. Apply to a fellowship, or build your own by reading and finding mentors. Take full advantage of the Coast Guard’s staff/operational rotations to get lots of different experiences.
And most importantly, have fun. “If you had told Ensign Higgins she would have been doing any of this, she wouldn’t have believed you. But if I’d known what I was working toward, I probably wouldn’t have wound up here,” said Higgins-Bloom.  “Being the [executive officer]  of a 110[-foot cutter], or the division chief in a sector – those are really important jobs, and they’re the building blocks for the future strategy jobs. So enjoy them. There are so many fun jobs as a lieutenant – now’s the time to just learn and enjoy, and do the things you can only do in the Coast Guard.”
Along the way, you might just find your own “Big Why.”
CG Learning the Ropes Episode 5, "Perspectives of a Coast Guard Strategist" is available for free on Apple Podcasts.