Saturday, April 25, 2009

Employee Engagement: Imagine.

There is a 4-minute YouTube video of an event in Antwerp's central train station that's had 2.5M hits in the month since it was posted. You should watch it! All mind chatter aside, I noticed the wonderful feeling the video evoked. How might that feeling, and an experience of flow, be evoked in the federal workplace? Your thoughts are welcome.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Career Change: From I.T. to Acquisition

After 15 years of government service in the IT field, I felt it was time for me to make a change. I can't really say I was burned out, I loved my work and really enjoyed helping/teaching others and traveling coast to coast in support of that effort. But, I felt there was no room for growth - not only career growth but personal growth. I wrestled with the decision to change series but thought it might be difficult at the full performance level. I entertained the idea of going back to school for a doctoral degree. After examining my options, I realized various certifications were available to me as a government employee, I decided an acquisition certification would be beneficial to me in for several reasons.

First of all, there is a shortage of qualified personnel in the contracting field. Since I already had a master's degree in Business Management and Administration, a marriage of education background, coupled with my project management experience and a certification in acquisition (contracting) seemed to be a career option that could really open many avenues for me. Additionally, the information that is gleaned from contracting training and experience is just very useful in every day life. (I liken it to the experience I had in ground school. While I was interested in learning to pilot light civil aircraft, I was required to learn about weather. That shared knowledge has been very useful to me ever since!)

So who wouldn't want to improve their negotiation skills, learn to create win/win situations, hone their research skills, make sound and prudent business decisions and learn the legalities of contractual transactions? I decided I did and that's what transitioning to the contracting series (1102) career field has done for me.

Secondly, once I decided on this career track, I began enrolling in any online courses available to me via the Defense Acquisition University (DAU). As you may know, enrollment in classroom courses is reserved for folks occupying acquisition billets. While my IT position did not fall into that category, I was permitted to register for the courses. Each time I enrolled in a course, I was automatically "waitlisted". Since I was fortunate enough to live and work near a DAU campus, when the date came around for class. I just showed up. I found there were always folks who didn't show up and they took waitlisted candidates on a first come, first served basis. (They used the date and time you registered to determine the order of and who would be allowed to take the course.) In just six months, I had taken the courses I needed to become Level I certified. The experience I had working with systems used by contracting professionals counted towards the work-related requirement! I was on my way.

Because of the shortage of personnel in the 1102 series, the Direct Hire program is used to hire many personnel. Using this provision, certain requirements may also be waived. In my case, a few courses I had not taken were waived for one year to be able to hire me in at the grade I desired.
There is no doubt this has been a very good career choice for me. As a systems analyst, I was an expert at gathering and refining requirements. Those skills are used daily in my position as a contracting specialist. Also, I am still able to help people, which I find very gratifying. This is a field in which there is so much opportunity for growth and best of all, new challenges arise everyday. So, I continue to learn something new everyday, even though I have been a civil servant for 25 years. If you are burned out or just need a change, I would encourage you to find out what avenues are available for you to make a career change. You will find the skill set you possess in your current position will be valuable no matter what capacity you continue to serve. Go for it!

This inspiring career success story comes to you courtesy of Brenda W. Cockrell, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security.