Michael Naylor, a Program Specialist in the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), spends his days planning for threatening situations or helping prepare Yale departments and organizations to maintain essential functions after a disaster or disruption. The stress level ebbs and flows, but Michael possesses a solid inner calm and wisdom beyond his years.
Born in Poland, he came to the US as an infant and grew up in Branford, Connecticut. Wanting to become a teacher, Michael earned a B.S. in Exercise Science from Southern Connecticut State University. After college, he worked as a physical education teacher at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Connecticut. During his time there, he undertook the role of campus supervisor, partnering with the administration and students on rules, policies, and discipline. He also worked closely with the school’s resident State Trooper on safety planning, which sparked his interest in emergency management.
While studying at the University of New Haven, he was granted an internship at OEM. After graduating with an M.S. in Emergency Management, he joined OEM as a full-time staff member in 2019. In his current role, he does a bit of everything but focuses on business continuity and emergency response planning. Business continuity planning involves helping departments create a plan to keep their essential operations going in a disaster or emergency like the COVID pandemic. He also assists with large event contingency planning (e.g., Commencement) and provides emergency preparedness training to departments.
Michael is married and lives with his wife in Killingworth. He recently joined us via Zoom to talk about his life and career.
What was your first job?
From middle school through college, I worked as a landscaper. I eventually found a job taking care of a church-owned, 40-acre cemetery. It turned out to be meaningful work, and I was proud to keep the area pristine for everyone who visited. It made me realize that my actions can positively affect people. In life, no matter what position or job you have, there is always the opportunity to make an impact.
Favorite childhood memory
Growing up, my parents took me on many road trips. One, in particular, was exploring the New England coastline. I remember the beautiful weather and all the non-touristy towns and places we visited along the way. There was one small restaurant in Maine on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean; while eating breakfast, we watched boats going back and forth. It was picture perfect.
Best advice you ever received and from whom?
When I was in school studying history, I came across a quote from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. It was part of a famous speech he made known as “The Man in the Arena.” He talks about making an impact and putting your best effort forward, even if it is hard and there are naysayers. When I start something new or challenging and have doubts or fears, this quote comes into my head and pushes me forward. “Put forth your best effort and dare greatly. Even if you fail, you failed while trying to dare greatly.” You can’t always see what’s going to happen around the corner, and even if you fail, it’s a learning experience.
I love being outdoors, and Connecticut is a great place for four seasons of outside activities. I like to hike and live close to the Connecticut River, so I enjoy water skiing, kayaking, and simply exploring.
The biggest challenge of working in Emergency Management.
This field is inherently challenging. I think the biggest hurdle is trying to plan and predict the unforeseen. By this, I mean planning and training for what might happen in an emergency or disaster. We look at past events, and often, situations arise that we didn’t think about before. Being creative and planning for what may happen, having a plan covering every possible scenario, and being ready, is by far the biggest challenge.
The biggest change in your job since COVID began?
Trying to juggle a year-plus of the pandemic and the challenges it brings with the ordinary business operations of our office. At the start of the pandemic, contingency plans were activated across campus. Last year, when the campus was evacuated and many people went home to work, we coordinated with departments to ensure that everything was set for them to work successfully from home. Typically, emergency events last a day or a few weeks, so this has been quite a learning experience.
Favorite thing about working at Yale?
Yale has tons of talented people. If you sit back and watch different leaders, department heads, and staff think about or adapt to challenges and solve problems, it is quite remarkable. I learn something from all these individuals daily. It is incredible to see people coming together to solve complex problems.
Advice for people wanting to work at Yale or even in Emergency Management?
I feel to be successful it comes down to three things: working hard, being a team player, and being adaptable. Regardless of your career path, if you have a foundation of those three things, you will realize success and will learn skills and knowledge along the way.