Position and Unit: Contract specialist, Aviation Logistics Directorate, Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal, Alabama (ACC-Redstone)
Years of Service in Workforce: 4
DAWIA Certifications: Level II certified in contracting
Education: M.S. in logistics management, M.S. in acquisition and contract management and M.S. in management, the Florida Institute of Technology; B.A. in telecommunications, Alabama A&M University
Awards: Coin for excellence from Hon. Heidi Shyu, former assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and the Army acquisition executive; coin from Brig. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, then-Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space
Using SCEP as a stepping stone
By Susan L. Follett
Cynthia Hubbard used the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) to get her foot in the door of the contracting world, and she’s found plenty of opportunities and some sage advice from her co-workers in the four years since that door opened.
Hubbard previously worked in an administrative role for NASA at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, but was frustrated in her efforts to find contracting positions with that agency.
“I was looking for the chance to get a broad perspective on federal government acquisition and experience career development, hopefully leading to a long and fulfilling career in acquisition,” she said. A friend told her about SCEP, so she applied and was accepted. She started as trainee for the U.S. Army Contracting Command – Redstone Arsenal in the Apache Acquisition Directorate, and is currently a contract specialist for the Aviation Logistics Directorate. “So far, it has been a great opportunity to get hands-on work experience to back up what I learned in college.”
The biggest challenge she has encountered “is finding a work-life balance and managing stress,” Hubbard noted. But it seems as if she has that challenge well in hand: “I’ve learned to leave work at work, and to prioritize the fires I need to put out. It’s easy to get burned out if you’re going 150 miles an hour, seven days a week. And I always take my birthday off—I think of it like a national holiday.”
What do you do, and why is it important to the Army or the warfighter?
As a contract specialist, I work with the contracting officer in pre- and post-award contract activities to acquire supplies and services for the government. These duties include preparing and executing contract documents to procure spare parts and services, researching applicable laws and regulations related to contract actions, communicating and coordinating with various government and contractor personnel in the acquisition cycle and managing multiple requirements to completion within tight deadlines. My job is important because the supplies and services we acquire are used by warfighters every day to complete their job and mission.
What’s the most important skill for doing your job effectively?
There are two: multitasking and prioritizing. One KO [contracting officer] I worked with put it this way: Take care of whoever is screaming the loudest. The workload and the operational tempo can be overwhelming—everyone thinks their package is the most important and should be turned around in a day or so—so it’s important to look at the tasks in front of you and figure out what needs to be done next. Flexibility and responsiveness are also important. I worked with another KO who told me to think of a request as a hot potato. You don’t want to hold it for too long.
What’s the greatest satisfaction you have in being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce?
The greatest satisfaction is knowing that the work we do every day is helping to provide something vitally needed to the Army warfighter so they can do their job effectively. Whether it’s a spare part for an aircraft or services needed in theater, they wouldn’t get those things if we didn’t do our best to use the acquisition process to obtain them.
What do you see as the most important points in your career with the Army Acquisition Workforce, and why?
One of the most important points in my career so far has been with my time spent with the Apache Acquisition Directorate. My co-workers and leadership in that directorate were excellent examples of the type of asset I want to be to the Army as far as working hard every day to accomplish the tasks at hand, being supportive to your other team members and maintaining a constant flow of communication with others involved in the acquisition process so we can accomplish our goals together.
Can you name a particular mentor or mentors who helped you in your career? How did they help you?
My former director in the Apache Acquisition Directorate, Cheryl Moore Davis, has served as an excellent mentor to me in my career. Although she wears many hats and has a full calendar, she always takes the time to hear my concerns or provide advice whenever I’ve needed it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get where you are today?
Get the education you need to be eligible to apply for positions in the acquisition field, and don’t be discouraged if you aren’t successful in gaining a job opportunity the first few times. It can be difficult to get your foot in the door in this career field, but once you do, bring your A game to work every day and be an asset to the team.
“Faces of the Force” highlights members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. The series by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers, features Soldiers and DA civilians serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please call 703-805-1006.