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  • Elana Duffy

Lana's Story


A story is personal; you don’t want to tell it to a stranger. This post is to provide perspective and information, and ultimately to be a little less of a stranger. This is Lana: Founding Partner, Writer, Editor, Engineer

The best stories are ones to which the receiver can connect. Be it that they are told with passion, that they create a vivid picture, and in such a way that the storyteller’s voice can be heard. I am going to tell you a bit about me, and hope that through this tale the reader can understand that any story worth telling is worth telling well, and in so doing also provide a little more information so you know what exactly it is I do here, why I chose to help build Present Tense, and where we go from here.

I grew up in a suburb of New York City as the child of a librarian and a writer. Children’s books existed in our home only for my sister and I to read on our own during playtime; evening reading with our parents started with chapter books at such a young age I can hardly remember hearing my father tell me to say Goodnight, Moon. I remember Tolkien, Milne, and Lewis, sometimes for a short story Doyle or around Halloween a little bit of Poe. We wrote our own stories, too, as early adopters of home computers and strongly encouraged to put thoughts on paper both at home and at school, and my storytelling skills developed and expanded.

But by age five, I wanted to be an astronaut. I was a black sheep in my literary home and followed the path of astronomy, physics, and engineering. I went to Cornell University's College of Engineering with a major of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Then I found out that my eyesight was too poor for NASA and switched majors to Industrial Engineering, which in hindsight was a great move. My head sits in a practical space: I like logic, efficiency, and the ability to see a path to a solution and move on to the next problem. Industrial and logic engineering, with a masters focus in engineering management, was the perfect fit. It got me out of the lab and onto projects that dealt with people, movement, and improving whatever the situation demanded.

I graduated, got a job in civil engineering as a project manager, and about a year later found staring at blueprints became old and I enlisted in the US Army. Logic and efficiency became hit and miss, but one thing my soldiers learned was to never approach me with a problem unless they had a suggested solution, because they weren’t going to leave my presence until we had a solution and a path in place. I did well in the service and was promoted quickly. However, after nearly a decade it was time to move on as opportunities to progress became limited, having ultimately sustained combat injuries that prevented advancement. I packed my duffel bag, turned in my rifle, and came back to the northeast to settle in New York City.

I happened to return to the northeast in the fall of 2012, just in time for Hurricane Sandy to devastate New York and New Jersey. I went to work immediately, helping friends and family where I could with knowledge of home reconstruction, engineering, and safety. I helped found a charity racing team, Race2Rebuild, during this period, and still maintain a position on the planning board. I also became a member of Team Rubicon, a veteran service organization focused in channeling knowledge of veterans and first response personnel into emergency disaster response. I am now leading the New York and New Jersey region for the organization, managing a team of 30 leadership personnel and over 1600 volunteers. This is a passion, as I have observed not only what the organization can do for the communities to which they respond nationally and overseas, but what it can do for the volunteers as they adjust outside of the military.

But there are still my roots. I need to write, to edit, to fix, to help, to develop, and that is where Present Tense comes in. My years of international work with the military, negotiating everything from movement management to public relations campaigns to intelligence exchanges with generals, ambassadors, and non-government entities put me in an excellent position to learn advanced communication techniques. My knowledge of motivation strategies, of efficiency practices, and of technical solutions allowed me to assess not only a convoy plan, but a company map and a progress report. And project management was not just my degree, it was how I trained and qualified 200 personnel on a grenade launcher in a single day with many of them never having held one before, how I detained a kidnapping kingpin, and how I found an apartment in Manhattan with private outdoor space for under a small fortune. Anything can be communicated if done properly, and any new skill can be learned given the right process, and this is a cross-discipline practice. Frank saw this and, upon deciding to stand up Present Tense, asked if I would help in not only the back end business processes to make a viable firm, but to help clients find the right process, and to tell the right story, in the right way, to the right audience.

So now I’ve told some of my story. My story, like yours and like most good tales, isn’t Goodnight, Moon but is only the first few pages of a chapter book. My job now is to find your first chapter, your second chapter, your trilogy, and get it to your customers. I’m looking forward to it: I love a good story.

To connect, please email me at elana@presenttensellc.com

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