Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT July-September 2016 Contents How did you become part of the Army
Acquisition Workforce, and why?
I worked in the private sector for a company
that was downsizing operations because of
the economic downturn in 2009. At the
same time, BR AC [the Base Realignment
and Closure Commission] was moving
jobs to APG, and I accepted a position as an
intern contract specialist. Although I had
opportunities outside of the Army, I was
interested in doing something that mattered
in my career. My father served in the Army
for 20 years, then worked as a contractor
and finally as a civilian employee support-
ing Nav y software programs; therefore, I
was very excited to be given the opportunity
to support warfighters and follow, at least a
little ways, in his footsteps.
What do you see as the most important
points in your career with the Army
Acquisition Workforce, and why?
I had the opportunity to serve as a team
lead on the contracting officer’s repre-
sentative (COR) project to ensure that
ACC-APG records in VCE-COR [a Vir-
tual Contracting Enterprise tool] were
complete and in compliance with the
regulations, and as a team lead contract-
ing officer on a temporary assignment to
a different division in ACC-APG. Both
of these assignments provided insights
from different perspectives and expanded
my contracting knowledge. Develop-
ing the ability to see the big picture of an
acquisition and the impacts of different
approaches has been instrumental to my
ability to make sound business decisions.
Has a mentor or mentors helped in your
career? How? Have you been a mentor?
I have not had an official mentor, but the
branch chiefs and division chiefs I have
supported have always acted as mentors.
They have taken the time to teach me,
exploring acquisition options, patiently
answering my numerous questions and
talking out topics until I understand. I
have learned a lot from each of them. I act
as a mentor now and make it a priority to
facilitate a learning environment and fos-
ter critical thinking. I often learn as much
as those I mentor.
What one skill or ability is most impor-
tant in doing your job effectively?
Communication, both written and oral.
There is nothing I do that does not require
good communication skills. When writing
and reviewing documents, I need to ensure
the entire stor y is accurately, concisely and
clearly conveyed. Good communication
skills are invaluable in meetings when
developing acquisition strategies, during
negotiations when defending the govern-
ment’s position, and when helping others
on my team through new or difficult situa-
tions. The most important communication
skill anyone can possess is the ability to be
a good listener. By listening effectively, you
can understand the perspectives of others
and more effectively work toward the opti-
mum solution to resolve any issue.
Is there a skill that you learned outside
your present career that has come in handy
in your work for Army acquisition?
During my work outside of the gov-
ernment, I learned the importance of
possessing good customer service skills. In
sales, customer service is something that
can lead to a business’s success or failure;
the same can be said for any government
program or agency. As a contracting
officer, I am always looking for ways to
provide anyone with whom I work fast,
effective and exceptional customer service.
My focus is on getting the customer what
they need, while adhering to the rules and
regulations by which I am bound. This
can be a challenging balancing act, but
the lessons I learned in sales taught me the
value of finding win-win solutions.
If you could break the rules or make the
rules, what would you change or do?
Our laws, regulations, policies and reviews,
however frustrating they can be at times,
are there for a purpose. That said, we can
always do things better, faster and smarter.
I am a big proponent of continuous process
improvements. Small changes, combined
over time, result in monumental improve-
ments. If I could effect one change, it
would be to facilitate a more collaborative
working environment between customer
and buyer. One of the biggest sources of
frustration I have encountered is between
the program office, the customer, and
the acquisition support team, the buyer.
While both are working to achieve the
same goal, each activity has its own priori-
ties and perspectives. To facilitate better
collaboration between the two, I would
initiate a six-month job rotation between
contracting and program office personnel.
If each activity had insight and under-
standing into the other’s requirement and
acquisition processes, their expanded per-
spectives would facilitate better document
execution, synergized processes and more
What advice would you give to someone
who aspires to a career like yours?
You will never know it all, so never stop
learning! Take an active role in your career
by seeking out different types of work and
job rotations. Remember that everyone
you meet knows something you don’t,
says Bill Nye. A sk questions, keep an
open mind, work collaboratively, develop
an environment of information shar-
ing, be organized, respect everyone and
— MS. SUSAN L. FOLLETT
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