Making music, connections, and more in Germany

Roland Penny creates all types of music in his home studio in Stuttgart, Germany—hip hop, jazz, neo-soul, R&B, and go-go (the music of his youth in Washington, DC)—even a little electronic dance music. For several years, these creations only existed on “four hard drives with music that no one was hearing but me,” he said.

Then he met a man who used to be the road manager for legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who told him: “You’re holding onto all this music and not sharing it with the rest of the world?”

This remark spurred an online music channel—check him out on streaming platforms under the name “Dafonkydiabetic—and Roland’s first instrumental album called “Heartbreaker,” now available on Spotify. Roland shares his love of music with his 4-year-old daughter Harmony, who has her own guitar and drum pad and often sings along with him in the car.

But music is only one facet of Roland Penny’s life. He’s a well-traveled Army veteran who now works in human resource management and leads Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) activities with Booz Allen Europe. Here are some highlights from Roland’s journey and his current life in Germany.

Retirement, Booz Allen Europe Bring a Veteran Full Circle

Roland grew up in Washington, DC, and graduated from the same suburban Maryland high school as college basketball star Len Bias and Muppets creator, Jim Henson. His mother, coincidentally enough, worked for Booz Allen at the Bureau of Medicine in Bethesda.

“She had nothing but great things to say about the firm, and you could imagine her surprise when I joined,” he said.

Roland joined the Army after high school, and his first posting was in Germany, a place he quickly grew to love due to “the culture, people, ease of travel, and experience.” After spending 28 years as a satellite communicator, it was time to retire. The first job fair Roland attended featured a “nice, interesting conversation” with a Booz Allen representative, then came “a literal snowball effect” that led to a job with Booz Allen in Stuttgart.

“I’d been trying to get back to Germany my entire career,” Penny said. “It was the right place, right time, right fit.”

His work with the firm has involved client-facing and contract-management roles for Booz Allen’s support of the United States European Command (EUCOM). From bringing in and processing new employees to coordinating resources for EUCOM, he describes his work as “anything we need to do to support the mission. We see what requirements are coming up and how Booz Allen can leverage its own assets to help shape this organization.”

“I’ve always been a people person with an affinity for problem solving,” he said. “My career in the military helped set me up for what I’m doing now.”

Support for EUCOM, Crisis Situations, and DEI

Bringing in personnel across locations and skillsets involves a lot of moving parts. Roland explained that his team with Booz Allen offers EUCOM continuity for resources and decision making. “Members of the military are there for 2 to 3 years at most and civilians 5 to 7 years,” he said. Booz Allen is there much longer and plays an important continuity role for the command as military and civilian counterparts transition in and out.

It’s a situation that “can go from tranquil to chaos in 5 seconds,” in his words. During COVID-19, for example, his team’s work involved fulfilling the mission amid shutdowns, quarantines, and evolving return-to-work regulations. Now they’re grappling with accommodating surges in staffing needs due to the Ukraine crisis.

Roland’s other role with Booz Allen also deals with topical issues. He’s an advocate for DEI training initiatives across the firm, increasing awareness of unconscious bias and ways to combat it. He’s conducted over 20 “Bold Inclusive Conversation” sessions and firmwide “Let Us Be Heard” listening sessions. And he was invited to speak at the European Command Juneteenth celebration.

“Sparking meaningful dialogue allows the team to become more aware and comfortable engaging on challenging and sensitive topics with respect and compassion,” he said.

“As we’ve been talking about George Floyd, AAPI hate crimes, and antisemitism, you hear so many different things from so many different people from different walks of lives and cultures,” Roland said. “It’s easy to think ‘I’m the only person affected by this.’ But so many others have been affected by these things as well. Being able to relate to other folks on this team when these polarizing events happen helps create a bridge across that cultural divide.”

Traveling, Tackling Challenges, and Enjoying Life

In Germany, Roland said, “so many cultures are intertwined—you can experience other cultures without ever leaving the country,” and he’s close enough to easily travel to other countries.

“Italy, France, Switzerland—they’re all a drive away, or you can hop on the train and see the countryside,” he said. “You get to see all the things from history books or things you’ve always dreamed of seeing.”

Roland said he enjoys a healthy work-life balance in Germany, from “Sunday afternoons with people out walking and just enjoying the day” to evenings in his home studio.

“Music has always been an outlet for me and a way to express my thoughts and feelings,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roland’s role with EUCOM keeps him engaged during office hours. “If you’re adept at problem solving and want to create new products, processes, and techniques, this is a great place to do it,” he said.

Explore Careers at Booz Allen in Europe


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