LCDR Kris Tester
Lieutenant Commander Tester is a native of Toledo, Ohio. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2006, earning his commission and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
His at-sea tours included Division Officer assignments as the Communications and Combat Information Center Officer on USS UNDERWOOD (FFG 36) and as Fire Control Officer aboard USS FARRAGUT (DDG 99). As a Department Head he served as Operations Officer on USS THE SULLIVANS (DDG 68) and USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70).
Ashore LCDR Tester served as Flag Aide to the Commander, Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Currently, he serves as the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Lead at the Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center Headquarters in San Diego.
LCDR Tester and his wife are the proud parents of three children.
How has failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
When I reflect on my adult life - career, family, and life in general, I trace everything that has happened back to a single day in Annapolis. I failed my nuke interview during my Firstie year at the Academy. At the time, I was all-in to go subs - I had done summer training on subs and I was majoring in Electrical Engineering. In my preparations for the nuke interview, I took for granted some of the basic math skills that we always used calculators for in class. During the interview, I was able to set up every problem presented, but I could not sufficiently arrive to a numerical answer without my calculator. At the time, I thought my world was falling apart, and with service assignment occurring before my next scheduled interview, I was assigned to Surface Warfare. After a few study sessions with other nuclear officers on the yard, and the option of going back to interview and shifting to subs, I opted to stop my pursuit of joining the submarine community. Looking back, it may have been one of the best decisions, rooted in failure, in my life, because I have been lucky to find pretty great success in my SWO career, and I love what I do.
Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
It is not a famous quote, but my first CO was fond of saying 'relentless pursuit of resolution'. It was his catchphrase to drive the wardroom into not giving up and to press for a way forward on any given task or problem set. I heard him say it so many times during his 18 months in command that it stuck with me, and is a bit of an internal mantra that I use to stay motivated and press for solutions in my daily professional interactions.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Do you have a morning routine?
Drink coffee and read the news. My morning routine shifts with my current career and life tasking. In general, it has been the same for several years. I drink coffee and read the news, workout, and get ready for work. I usually arrive to work earlier than most and find it the most productive portion of my day. On shore duty, I have become lucky enough to delay my arrival to work in order to take my kids to school a few days a week, which is certainly an addition to the routine that I could get used to.
What career advice would you give a smart and driven young SWO?
Have fun - you are in a position to interact with Sailors that your peers in most other communities are not. Take advantage of it and be a sponge - both up and down the chain of command. You will learn as much or more from your Sailors, as you will learn from more experienced Division Officers and Department Heads. Put effort into developing a relationship with your Chief, otherwise you are missing a great deal of experience and insight as you begin your leadership journey. Lastly, too many young aspiring SWOs are too timid and afraid to make mistakes in their first months or even years onboard ship. Put yourself out there and volunteer to drive the man overboard drill or next RAS approach. Learn to be comfortable briefing leadership and in front of audiences by seeking opportunities to do so. Be eager to learn and never pass up an opportunity to do so while underway or inport. Qualifications come easiest to those who seek opportunity.
What is the book you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Recently, Fleet Tactics by CAPT Wayne Hughes. My last afloat CO introduced me to it when he used it regularly during war councils to lay the framework for our purpose. As a WTI and lead instructor of SMWDC's Warfighter Ethos lesson, I rely on CAPT Hughes' perspective to help align our incoming WTIs' mindsets toward warfighting and tactical excellence. It is an excellent read for those interested in warfighting.
How do you set priorities and manage your time?
I seek to understand what priorities exist up the chain of command and do my best to ensure my efforts complement. Time management starts with understanding priority, and having open communication with my chain of command and subordinates about tasking ensures everyone is making the most of their time. Specifically, I enjoy getting to work early and formulating my to-do list for the day. I find it helps me focus my approach and those who count on my direction to get the job done.
What is your most effective daily habit?
Taking time to go for a run. Clearing my mind and listening to music while running helps keep me level-headed and is either a great way to start the day, or a great way to break the monotony of the workday.
How do you define success?
Success is measured in many ways, depending on which aspect of life we are talking about. Professionally, I define success as ensuring my contributions, however small they may be, result in improvements to the organization - in all facets (mission success, efficiency, communication, etc). That, combined with truly being happy and enjoying work every single day, is how I define my professional success.