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Serving Up Success
Whether in the military or the federal government, there are myriad ways that serve up success.
The range of roles in government work is staggeringly varied. Whatever you do, you’ll be doing essential, engaging work, as the following federal employees attest.
Each one of their roles vary from the first woman to run a multicolor press at the GPO and the first African-American corrections officer in the Marine Corps to the vice president, area operations, eastern area for USPS, the head of the office of diversity and inclusion for the NSF, the acting deputy chief of staff in the office of administrator of the EPA, and the deputy assistant administrator, office of communications and public liaison at the SBA.
Find out first-hand how to lay out your own successful path in the federal government from those who have blazed a trail while serving the public.
SBA’s Wales Helps Small Businesses Become Big Business
Mina A. Wales has so many duties it will make you dizzy. As deputy assistant administrator, office of communications and public liaison, She oversees the day-to-day operations of the press office, marketing, social media and strategic alliances offices at the Washington, DC headquarters of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
She’s also concurrently serving as the interim executive director for the Washington, DC-based National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), which is the office that advises the White House, Congress and the SBA on issues of impact and importance to woman business owners.
Terry Sutherland, director, press office for SBA, says that “Ms. Wales is a superstar and is the perfect role model at SBA for young new employees to look up to. She has a long and distinguished career here, and is a showcase example of a person who has worked hard and risen through the ranks to her present positions.”
Asked to pinpoint the origin of her drive, Wales recalls an audacious moment that took her across an ocean.
“When I was a teen about 14 or 15, I told my mom I really wanted to go to Hawaii. She told me to start saving my pennies. I was the homecoming queen for my senior year, so I entered a pageant because the winner would go to Hawaii to compete in a national competition. I competed against 70 girls and I was scared to death.”
Wales’s mom stepped in, and Wales stepped up. “I wanted to go home, but my mom told me to get up on stage and see it through,” she recalls.
Wales won and went to Hawaii, but she won a lesson, too.
“You will persevere from pluck. What’s in your heart matters more than beauty. Those things you learn as a child can be carried forward. I learned perseverance when I stepped onto that stage. Never quit,” she shares.
Now Wales helps the small businesspeople of America to never quit.
“What I love and find extremely gratifying is that everything we do here at SBA is to help the small business owner grow and prosper. There are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S., and more than half of all Americans work in a small business. Small business is big business!” she enthuses.
SBA has the backs of small businesspeople. “At SBA we want entrepreneurs to feel confident taking a risk on starting or expanding their small businesses that create jobs and grow our economy,” she states.
Wales has the same advice for students as she does for small business owners: “Don’t be afraid to take some risks. No matter what you aspire to be, learn from others. You won’t know everything, so listen and learn. Don’t be afraid to reach out to career professionals for mentorship. People generally like when initiative is taken.”
Wales learned early on that government work was right for her, finding a purpose in what she does and who she helps through her work.
“My college years were hard; I worked and juggled a lot academically, socially and professionally. I graduated with an early childhood education degree and taught at an elementary school,” Wales recalls.
“While I loved working with the children, I realized I really enjoyed my time working for the federal government; I served with meaningful purpose, so I returned to government work and made it a career ever since. No regrets!”
Explore jobs at USAJOBS.gov and the SBA via Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
NSF’s Davis Thrives at ‘Science Central’
The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds non-medical research in science in engineering, thereby giving the U.S. economic and defense advantages, for science is the driver of all technology, from Google to Lockheed Martin, from your smartphone to your increasingly smart car.
NSF funds 24 percent of all basic research at America’s colleges and universities, and is the primary funder in fields such as math, computer science and economics. It receives about 50,000 research proposals each year, and funds about 10,000 of them.
Rhonda Davis is head, office of diversity and inclusion (ODI) for the NSF, which has enjoyed bipartisan support since its founding in 1950.
So what advice does Davis tender to young professionals, given that she’s at a source of scientific research, or “science central?” Especially since our total knowledge, which once doubled every century, now doubles every year and is soon predicted to double every 12 hours, all thanks to science and the breakthroughs that have made and continue to be made.
“The best advice that I’ve ever received is to stay relevant,” Davis shares.
“Continue to stay abreast and knowledgeable of the subjects related to your area of work. And, most of all stay in touch with individuals that can serve as a coach, mentor and/or reference for you at any point in your career. Do not let ‘no’ discourage or impede your career growth,” she counsels.
Davis’s role is to make sure everyone who applies to NSF gets a fair shake. “I provide leadership over the NSF’s diversity and inclusion program, and its non-discriminating policies for employees, applicants and program recipients of federal funds.”
Davis loves being connected to so many bright people who are transforming our country and world.
“Every day I have a fresh, new opportunity to work with diverse teams who bring together their different thoughts and perspectives while quickly solving some of the nation’s most complex problems. I love that I frequently get to see a heuristic in action,” she notes.
Want to be similarly positioned someday? Then listen to Davis, learn the lessons of the path she chose and lay out a path of your own.
“I majored in agricultural economics and received both [a] Bachelor and Master of Science. These degrees prepared me to perform many different disciplines,” she says.
“I advise students to not limit or narrow their professional and career opportunities to positions that only align with their program of study. There are many diverse opportunities that can lead to very successful careers. Also, seek summer internships that provide varying career developmental opportunities.”
And never, ever quit, Davis further advises based on her experience. “As a graduate student who was required to complete comprehensive exams and a thesis, it often seemed overwhelming and very challenging,” she remembers.
“I joined study groups and worked closely with other students who became a great support system. Staying focused was critical to my success,” she concludes.
Explore jobs at nsf.gov/careers and the NSF via Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, OpenNSF, Medium, Science360 and RSS.
USPS’ Colin Is Proud to Work for a Meritocracy
The United States Postal Service (USPS) employs 113,000 veterans, operates 227,000 vehicles, delivers nearly half the world’s mail, and is the country’s largest retail network, larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined.
As vice president, area operations, eastern area, Joshua D. Colin, Ph.D., oversees delivery to more than 50 million customers. So how do you deliver daily on such a gargantuan task?
Well, there are 85,000 people and an operating budget of more than 7.5 billion dollars for the eastern area, but money and people power alone don’t achieve the “the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” says Colin.
There’s also a steadfastness at USPS. “What never ceases to amaze me is the dedication and commitment of our employees and the way they pull together every day and in any situation,” Colin observes.
“The average private-sector employee will have had 10 jobs by the time he/she is age 40. In contrast, many Postal Service employees make a career of proudly serving the American public for 20, 30, 40 or more years. That is dedication.”
That dedication enables the USPS to make the bargain of having someone hand-deliver a letter mailed in Tampa, FL to Anchorage, AK for 49 cents an everyday occurrence.
“As the second largest company in America and a self-supporting, independent federal agency, we’re the only delivery service that reaches every address: more than 156 million residences, businesses and P.O. boxes. Everyone in the U.S. and its territories has access to postal products and services, and pays the same for a first-class postage stamp, regardless of their location,” he points out.
USPS is also a meritocracy, according to Colin, one of which he is proud.
“I love the fact that the USPS provides opportunity to everyone, regardless of race or background. With hard work you can reach the highest levels of the organization,” he says.
Because of its scale and scope, USPS needs pert near every degree, too, Colin underscores. “Do your research on the organization and find out what feeds your passion. We need lawyers, doctors, human resource specialists, operations, accounting/finance, IT, engineers and many others. You can find your niche.”
In fact, according to Colin, there are positions in every community.
“The outlook for jobs at U.S. Postal Service is plentiful and diverse. Whether you’re looking for a position with flexible days and/or hours or growing a career, there are many options nationwide,” he outlines.
“We have mail sorters and carriers, retail associates, career-entry positions, and professional and executive-level positions. Because we visit every home and business address in the United States each day, positions with the Postal Service can be found in local communities throughout the country and at our headquarters in Washington, DC. There has never been a better time to join our team!”
And USPS is ready to give interested applicants a leg up. “The Postal Service’s Management Foundations Program is 12 months long, [is] full-time, and offers a competitive salary and benefits,” explains Colins.
“Our Operations Industrial Engineering (OIE) Program is a two-year onboarding program. It’s full-time, and offers competitive salaries and benefits.”
In addition, Colin says the USPS’ Summer Intern Program is 10 weeks long, is full-time and offers a competitive hourly rate.
Apply for jobs at usps.com/careers and learn about USPS at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.
EPA’s Wooden-Aguilar Believes She’s in the Best Place
America’s rivers no longer catch on fire, as Ohio’s Cuyahoga River once did. Our national bird, the bald eagle, whose population once numbered as high as half a million and later was reduced to 412 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states due to hunting and DDT, has rebounded from the threat of extinction.
It’s all thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has helped dirty rivers flow blue again and eagles soar overhead.
Playing a key role in such crucial work is why Helena Wooden-Aguilar, acting deputy chief of staff, says, “I would strongly encourage you to consider a career in environmental protection. I am extremely happy that I made this career choice. I love what I do.”
It’s not just the work that Wooden-Aguilar loves. She also loves her colleagues’ passion for the EPA’s work. “I love being surrounded by people who also love what they do. It truly is the best place to work!”
And what is Wooden-Aguilar’s role? “As the acting deputy chief of staff in the office of administrator, I am the designated senior resource official, senior information official and deputy civil rights official for the office of the administrator,” she answers.
“I get to work on environmental policy issues with colleagues who share the same goals. I also love that I have the ability to make a difference and to inspire employees on a day-to-day basis. This motivates me to continue to do whatever I can to ensure EPA is the best place to work.”
If you’re still in school, then tap the wisdom of your professors as Wooden-Aguilar did.
“While I was in law school I was unsure about what area of environmental law or policy I would focus on. The entire field of study was all very interesting to me. In my second year of law school, I met some really fantastic professors who helped me identify my legal strengths and also helped me to focus on where I would have the biggest impact,” she remembers.
“I’m grateful for this mentoring to this day, and would encourage students to spend time thinking about where their strengths are and how those strengths can help them reach their professional goals.”
If you’re already working, then leverage situations where you didn’t achieve desired outcomes as learning experiences.
“Take setbacks and challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow. In my experience you learn from your setbacks and challenges,” advises Wooden-Aguilar.
And if you’re hired by the Washington, DC-based EPA, then prepare to love your career and colleagues.
“It’s amazing work, and I am very lucky to work at such a fantastic place and to be surrounded by people who also love what they do,” she concludes.
See what roles are open at epa.gov/careers and learn more via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram.
GPO’s McRae Makes History & Keeps the Presses Running
Marsha McRae is a history-making woman in a history-recording entity. The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) was founded on the day Lincoln was sworn into office and printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Hundreds of years later, McRae was hired to clean bathrooms and dust desks at the Washington, DC-based GPO. Promotion by promotion, she ascended GPO’s rungs, becoming the first woman to run a multicolor press, a machine so complex it requires a four-year apprenticeship.
Today she’s the assistant production manager for two departments and oversees 70 employees. After 27 years she still loves her work.
“I love my job and work with a great group of people here. We’re more than a team. We’re family,” says McRae.
It’s a work family whose presses never stop running, printing documents ranging from the Congressional Record to the President’s budget to FBI documents. McRae and her team turn PDF files into ink on paper, doing all of the imaging and plating. You’ve likely touched something the GPO has printed, as has the president.
“We produce such an array of things that touch the hands of everyday citizens, like passports, all the way to the president. We keep America informed, and I love being part of that. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this as we record and preserve the developing history of America,” she says.
McRae’s career trajectory looks like the launch trajectory of a Saturn V rocket, but there are usually hitches in most launches.
“Once, I wasn’t selected for a position. I knew I was the best person for it, so I was very disappointed. It really took the wind out of my sails, but I didn’t let it defeat me. I took a lateral move to another department,” McRae shares.
“I was promoted two times in that department and then promoted to the apprenticeship program. Never let one defeat define you. Be nimble. Regroup and make whatever changes are necessary,” she encourages.
What else has McRae learned that can fuel others’ career aspirations?
“Learn your craft. Endure. There’s nothing that you are too good to do. I came here as a girly girl. I didn’t know about wrenches and screwdrivers, but I pushed myself. I saw what the guys did and pushed myself to at least do what they did, if not do more,” she details.
“Listen to those who’ve come before you. Be appreciative. Align yourself with the right people who will point you in the right direction and will help you when you’re struggling and feeling lost. There are very few women in printing. I was the first female multicolor press operator, period. It’s a male-dominated industry. It was an honor to be the first.”
This trailblazer never forgets where she started. “I see young ladies cleaning bathrooms, and I’ll tell them who I am and how I used to do what they do.”
And what does McRae tell those who follow in her trailblazing footsteps?
“Be the one that people count upon. Be the one who can solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how you learn.”
Apply at gpo.gov/who-we-are/careers/how-to-apply and explore at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Barnes Is the First Woman to Command a U.S. Marines Brig
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denise V. Barnes, Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Installations East Regional Brig, has scores of direct reports, with more than 100 employees.
“I oversee a military confinement facility aboard Camp Lejeune,” explains Barnes.
“My job descriptions include ensuring the safety and security of staff and prisoners, overseeing the good order and discipline of all prisoners, and ensuring that programs such as physical fitness training, individual and group counseling, life skills, and religious programs are properly administered.”
Barnes is also a trailblazer. “I’m lucky enough to be the Marine Corps’ first African-American female corrections officer, and I’m proud of that,” she notes.
“The Marine Corps’ selection process for officers is objective, and only the best and most qualified Marines are selected to the officer ranks, regardless of race or gender. I’ve had Marines tell me they want to follow in my footsteps, and that drives me to be a better leader every day.”
Her drive to daily improve is fueled by her love of her work.
“There are several things I love about my job: the great men and women I am privileged to work with, the support from my superiors, the sincere interest my boss takes in every staff member, and I love taking care of the staff members and having the opportunity to effect change and make a difference in prisoners’ lives,” she details.
It also helps that Barnes is battle-tested - literally. “Operation Iraqi Freedom was my first time in a combat zone, and there was a lot going on,” she recounts.
“Not knowing what to expect, how safe the area was, whether I would return home to my family, and whether I would have to fire my weapon was scary. It was difficult being away from my family and having limited communication due to operational security added to that.”
So how did Barnes adapt? “I leaned on the advice of Marines who had previously deployed multiple times. I had very good people on my team out there, and I had a lot of love and support from my family, which helped me through those difficult times.”
Battle-tested Barnes now has advice for those still in school: “I advise college graduates to ensure they always exceed standards, and not use race or gender as an excuse for anything. Learn as much as possible, and approach your studies and duties with all due vigor and passion.”
And if you enlist in the Corps, you’ll soon learn that the Corps takes care of its Marines.
“I have been serving for over 21 years, and I love the Marine Corps. The benefits, both tangible and intangible, are noteworthy. Those benefits include and are not limited to: free medical care for military members and their dependents, up to $4,500 per fiscal year for college tuition, support for exceptional family members who have medical challenges, and the opportunity to travel and serve in different capacities,” Barnes points out.
Learn about Marine Corps jobs at and marines.com/being-a-marine/roles-in-the-corps.html and usmc-mccs.org/careers and more about the Corps at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.
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