TITLE: Assistant product manager
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, Strategic and Operational Rockets and Missiles Project Office, Precision Strike Missile
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: 51A
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 1.5
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Military
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 16
AAW/DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level I in program management
EDUCATION: MBA with a concentration in strategic leadership, Trident University; B.S. in administration of justice, Penn State University
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3rd award), Army Commendation Medal (4th award), Army Achievement Medal (2nd award), Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge
HOMETOWN: Wilkes-Barre Township (Georgetown), Pennsylvania
Maj. Megan M. Pekol-Evans
by Ellen Summey
When Maj. Megan Pekol-Evans started working on her MBA in 2010, she was planning to separate from the Army and start her civilian career as soon as possible. One thing changed her perspective entirely—the Army Acquisition Workforce. “I really love my job now. Acquisition is absolutely the best career decision I ever made.” Though she had enjoyed her time as a battery commander from 2015 to 2017, command can be quite difficult for families, and she wanted to find work that would offer more stability and a better work-life balance. It was in her next assignment that she first became acquainted with acquisition. “I met several acquisition officers, and started learning more about the career field. I thought it sounded like a good decision for me, so I jumped in and I just fell in love with it,” Evans said. “It’s exactly what I would want to do outside the military, but I still get to be with Soldiers and work in project management and organizational leadership.”
In her current role as assistant product manager for the Precision Strike Missile (PRSM), within the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space (PEO MS), Evans leads a team of 26, planning, managing and executing two major milestones—the PRSM Development Request for Proposal decision point and its Milestone B in the 2021 fiscal year. “I love working with people, working toward a goal, and it’s great when it’s a goal you’re passionate about, like supporting Soldiers,” she said. “It’s the best when you really feel like you’re working toward something bigger than yourself.”
But it’s not just the mission that has changed her mind about her Army career—she said it’s the leadership, too. “I truly have been so lucky to have some great bosses. They set out goals clearly and give you a good compass and a direction for how to get there, but they let you go do it your way,” she said. “They are open for discussion, and you do not see that often as a young officer, where you can just go to the colonel or the general and just have a good candid conversation with them, and you don’t feel like you were bothering them, or that it wasn’t your place to say something.” Evans said her leaders at PEO MS, from the O-5 level to the program executive officer, have been open to discussion on recommendations and ideas, whether or not they directly aligned with the original plan. “They’re open for conversation and you don’t feel intimidated to do that. I really love that.”
Evans said she has always been a curious and inquisitive person. “My dad would probably say, ‘Meg, you are always asking all these questions and trying to solve people’s problems. You can’t solve everybody’s problems all the time.’ ” But it does serve a purpose in acquisition, she said. In fact, she is writing a white paper about obsolescence strategy in acquisition, which she started during her first acquisition job, stemming entirely from her desire to understand why things are the way they are. “This is something that I started in my former APM (assistant project manager) position in PAC-3 MSE (PATRIOT Advanced Capability – 3 Missile Segment Enhancement), and that team is still supporting me in writing,” she said. “I highly suggest any young APM who asks the question that I did once, ‘This shouldn’t be so hard, so why is it?’ to follow that question down all the roads required to answer it.” She said she learned that the answers were often very complex, and that she gained valuable insights from the engineers, functional experts and industry partners during those conversations.
“I work with some of the greatest ‘rocket scientists’ in the world, which is often one of the most interesting parts of my day,” she said. “It is humbling to be part of a team that includes some of the smartest people in the nation, and it is eye opening to supervise the periodic assessments of our product’s progress, learning about system integration and seeing modular open systems architecture happen in real time.” On a daily basis, her teams manage warhead and rocket motor performance, keeping a focus on future growth, conducting assessments of survivability, cyber and software integration, and so much more. “It is complex and it goes without saying that none of these are easy tasks,” she said. “Our government and industry partner teams do a fantastic job in managing all of these efforts, so I am grateful to have this position and opportunity.”
And speaking of managing complex priorities, Evans learned an important lesson early in her Army career. “The most important thing I’ve learned, is about balance,” she said. “As a young lieutenant, I worked for a general officer who was an amazing leader, and he expressed just how important balance would be for me as I developed.” He saw her commitment to the mission and told her the importance of taking care of her relationships with her family as well. “I will never forget how he would make sure I put his children’s engagements on his calendar, and how he made me ‘kick him out’ for important events.” As any Soldier will understand, there are always going to be times when the mission has to come first, so Evans follows the advice she was given, to prioritize her family whenever possible. “The Army will be fine without me, just as it was before I joined—but my family will not,” she explained. “Today, I make sure that my children’s activities make it onto my calendar [they rate their own color, in her color-coding system], and their mom is in the stands as much as she can be.”
She also makes a concerted effort to stay in touch with her extended family and friends in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania. She credits her success to their influence, saying they raised her to be the person she is today. “I try my best to stay connected to my roots, and it is very important to me that my children maintain relationships with their family from back home,” she emphasized. She has built the career—and the life—that work best for herself and her family, by pursuing her passion for service, prioritizing her relationships, and keeping balance in focus.
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.