Fine-tuning the big picture

By October 1, 2019August 1st, 2022Faces of the Force, PPTE News
Faces of the Force Susan Fung
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Susan Fung

TITLE: Program integration principal
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Project Manager for Integrated Visual Augmentation System; Program Executive Office for Soldier
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in engineering; Level II in program management
EDUCATION: M.S. in engineering management, George Washington University; B.S. in mechanical engineering, University of Virginia


by Susan L. Follett

Over the course of her 17-year career, Susan Fung’s perspective has gone from micro to macro as she moved from the technical and developmental side of technologies to keep Soldiers safe to the bigger, more strategic aspects of project management and integrating those technologies into a Soldier platform. She’s using what she learned in a recent DOD training program to further expand her perspective.

In June, Fung completed the inaugural session of the DOD Industry Exchange Program, also known as the Public-Private Talent Exchange. The six-month program gives DOD and private-sector participants the chance to better understand each other’s business operations and challenges and to share innovative and cost-saving practices. It’s designed for high-performing, midcareer civilians (GS-13 to GS-15) in program management, engineering, logistics, science and technology, and contracting. Industry participants work at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, other DOD agencies, and with the Army, Navy and Air Force. Government participants spend six months with one of several organizations: Deloitte, Unisys, CACI, Amazon, Clark Construction, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Jacobs, GuideHouse, Booz Allen Hamilton and Raytheon.

Fung, a program integration principal in the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier, spent six months at Booz Allen Hamilton. “In the beginning, I expected to get deeply involved in the programs. However, due to the rotational setup I had and the limited timeframe, I was unable to get deeply involved in any one project,” she said. “I really focused on learning about each program and getting an overview of the various aspects of the programs. This allowed me to give feedback into the various aspects of each project based on my experience.” The programs included a cybersecurity project for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a virtual reality project for the Air Force, and resilient position, navigation and timing for the Navy. “I ended up learning a lot from each rotation, but not in the original manner I expected.”

From her experience, Fung had three takeaways. “Our industry partners have similar goals of delivering capabilities to the warfighter; but each side—government and industry—has different constraints and processes they must adhere to in order to succeed. Effective communication between government and industry requires a common understanding of the processes and constraints on each side,” she said. She also found that industry’s access to newer and more collaborative software tools makes it easier to communicate and collaborate when offices and people are dispersed.

“Lastly, industry’s emphasis on improved internal processes not only benefits their bottom line, but it allows them to be effective in time and personnel management. It would be helpful for the government to improve the efficiencies of their own processes.” Most notable for her was industry’s effective use of meeting time. “Most of the meetings I attended at Booz Allen Hamilton ran 30 to 60 minutes, with a succinct objective and group focus on sticking to the allotted time and keeping things moving forward,” she said. “A lot of the government meetings I attend are deep dives that take one or more hours with often less-defined outcomes.”

Fung AIA Fanning PPTE

Fung, sixth from left, and her DOD Industry Exchange Program classmates meet with Eric Fanning, former secretary of the Army and current president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), in July 2019. (Photo by Leo Bodmer, AIA)

The DOD Industry Exchange Program was Fung’s first broadening experience outside her home organization. It was also a catalyst to her actively pursuing her career path in DOD. “I strongly believe it will positively affect my ability as an Army civilian to team with industry to support the warfighter,” she said. Getting a better understanding of industry’s perspective “will allow me to communicate more clearly the government’s intent in future requests for information and requests for proposals, and during in-person engagements with industry partners,” she explained. “I also plan to make a deliberate effort to better leverage collaborative software that’s available to the government to improve internal communication and collaboration.”

So far, Fung believes one of the biggest challenges in the government is communicating effectively internally and externally with industry and other government partners. This means taking advantage of the collaboration tools she wants to start using. “We need to focus on understanding different perspectives, and making a deliberate effort to communicate more openly. We’re not all co-located, so it’s important to take full advantage of the collaboration tools that make it easier for us to work together regardless of location.”

Before she took the class, Fung’s work focused on technology planning to support a future Soldier vision within PEO Soldier. After completing the program, she has moved to a new position: program integration principal for the Test Directorate within PEO Soldier’s Project Manager for Integrated Visual Augmentation System (PM IVAS). “The new position puts me on the program management track, with a broader focus. My short-term career goal is to focus on being a well-rounded program manager.”

“PM IVAS is one of the first Army programs to use a Soldier-centered design approach, which incorporates an agile design process,” Fung said. The Test Directorate coordinates user studies, user juries and Soldier touch points to provide iterative feedback into the system’s design. “This process is important because we are providing the opportunity for Soldiers to drive the design of the system early on in the development cycle,” she said.

Fung came to the Army Acquisition Workforce directly out of college, and her first acquisition position was as a systems engineer with the C5ISR Center within what is now the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (formerly the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command). “I wanted to get hands-on experience developing night vision capabilities, and what appealed to me most was developing state-of-the-art technology and having it fielded to warfighters.”

Her career has been marked by growth in perspective. “When I started in the job, what I enjoyed most about it was that the design and prototyping work that we were doing had a direct impact on the Soldier and we were able to directly interact with them. As my career grew and I was given more responsibilities, I decided to transition my career field from engineering to program management. I enjoy having a direct impact on the Soldier and seeing the bigger picture—seeing the strategic impact of our work.”

She added that the biggest change has come over the past three years, with the creation of the U.S. Amy Futures Command and the cross-functional teams. “The Army is taking a more deliberate approach to synchronizing and integrating programs from the technology development phase through production, and is leveraging commercial contributions to a greater extent. PM IVAS is one of the first Army programs to work within that construct, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

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