Just in time doesn’t always work with training and jobs

 

By Scott Greene

Chief, Leader Development Branch

While instant gratification is what people often seek, if you look for that with regard to certain education, training and high-level jobs within the acquisition community, you’ll surely be left behind. Most advanced training comes with prerequisite training, while most jobs come with a long list of implied previous types of positions and responsibilities. The key is to recognize this seemingly obvious fact as early in your acquisition career as possible and PLAN AHEAD.

Training

It might be hard to do, but try to think of what advanced training you might want to take further along in your acquisition career. Just as with many DAU classes, certain Army and DOD advanced leadership classes come with prerequisite courses that cannot be waived. Therefore, you must plan accordingly. You can’t expect to throw your name in the hat for advanced training if the prerequisites aren’t completed. Complete them now! Plan ahead.

An example is the Civilian Education System (CES) Advanced course. This course is “mandatory” for certain Army civilians. I put it in quotes purely to emphasize that the only real forcing function of making it mandatory is the follow-on courses many people will desire to take and won’t be able to without completing CES Advanced: Senior Service College, DAU Senior Service College Fellowship, Federal Executive Institute (FEI), or Harvard University for Senior Executive Fellows. The ACTEDS catalog will provide you a link into many of these Army programs.

Personally, I completed CES Advanced a few summers ago. It was nice to gain some insights into the bigger Army, to network, and to have an opportunity to learn and reflect for a few weeks. What was nicer is that I now have it completed so that in two to three years, when I want to apply for FEI and then on to SSC, I am already prepared.

Please read more about the multitude of civilian acquisition opportunities here.

Jobs

“Position planning,” as I refer to it, should also be something our AAW deliberately does. Identifying what position or type of position you desire as you move along in your career is the first step. The next and more important steps are then identifying what positions (and training) you need in order to be competitive for it. I am going to specifically use the Product/Project Manager Centralized Selection List (CSL) positions as an example. More and more civilians are interested in competing alongside our talented officers as best qualified in the annual CSL board to become a PM. From my foxhole, I see many acquisition civilians applying who only meet the minimum entrance criteria: Level II/III certified in program management and in the GS-14/15 (or broadband equivalent) pay grade. The criteria that isn’t necessarily posted is that in order to be viewed as “highly qualified” by the DA Secretariat Board, a candidate really needs to have what I refer to as diversity of experience—demonstrated mobility (multiple organizations and locations in assignments) and requisite broadening positions. In order to be selected to lead multibillion-dollar programs, you need multiple years of assistant product manager (APM) or similar program management office or acquisition functional time, years of managing cost, schedule and performance, along with years of leading and supervising people. All of that takes dedicated planning and years to execute!

The Army DACM Office has a wealth of acquisition career development information available. Please refer to the Civilian Acquisition Career Model for ideas and information on relevant jobs and competencies necessary to progress upward with your Acquisition Career Field (ACF) or in ACFs you might consider pursuing in the progression of your acquisition career. For additional information on the CSL process, please visit our site. Identify your goals early and plan accordingly—just don’t expect things to happen tomorrow!

Mr. Greene serves as the chief of the Leader Development Branch within the Army DACM Office. He is an Army Acquisition Corps member and Level III certified in program management. He holds an M.S. in leadership from Marymount University and a bachelor’s in American politics from the University of Virginia.

This article was published in the July 2017 issue of the DACM Newsletter.

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