Spotlight on Success: Shawn Gresham
Title: Product manager, Degraded Visual Environment
Command: Program Executive Office for Aviation, Huntsville, Alabama
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Program management
Army Acquisition Corps
DAWIA Level III in program management
Executive Leadership Certification, Cornell University
Graduate, Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College Fellowship
EDUCATION: MBA in aviation, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
What course or professional development activity did you participate in? When did you start and when did you complete it?
Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College Fellowship (DAU-SSCF), July 2016 – May 2017.
What was your primary motivation for taking the course?
I was drawn to DAU-SSCF because of the leadership and acquisition educational opportunities it offered. I wanted to pursue advanced leadership training without the personal expense associated with an advanced college degree program. I liked that the DAU-SSCF program was delivered in an executive-style learning format with challenging coursework and an emphasis on understanding and improving your leadership style, updates on the latest acquisition policies and practices, and networking with peers and superiors.
What were your expectations of the program or course before you started, and how did they change as the course proceeded?
Before the course started, I was prepared for a lecture-based curriculum weighted with acquisition policy and a few leadership courses. I’m happy to report that my expectations were wrong. DAU-SSCF is a senior leader development program that balances leadership, national military strategy, military history, acquisition policy and best practices. The program was challenging, but the curriculum afforded and encouraged time for self-reflection, peer networking and self-directed learning. DAU’s support and program execution was top-notch.
What were your top three takeaways from the course?
- I gained an appreciation for the role emotional intelligence plays in leader development.
- I grew as a leader by learning new coaching and mentoring techniques that I use to support leader development.
- We were encouraged to seek mentoring from current and former senior acquisition leaders.
What skills, knowledge or experiences from the course do you expect to apply most, in your job or outside of work?
top organizations in leadership education. Learning from industry instructors, as well as the DAU instructors, provided us with a rich knowledge base of material including notes from small group discussions, videos and books that I still reference today. I tap into that knowledge base when I mentor or coach future leaders by sharing information I gained from the fellowship program.
Tell us about your experience with the course and your classmates. Were there fellow students or instructors that you bonded with and with whom you plan to keep in touch?
I had many very positive experiences with the program and my classmates. Our class included students from Huntsville, Alabama; Warren, Michigan; and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The program schedule included several bonding and networking events to afford students opportunities to interact with one another outside of the classroom.
How has this course affected your career?
I believe attending the course has been positive for my career. I’m a lifelong learner, and the knowledge I received about growing as a leader, emotional intelligence and acquisition leadership have helped me achieve my goals in my current role as a product manager.
In mid-2020, I will take on an Army centrally selected project manager position serving with the Missile Defense Agency. I am deeply honored by the opportunity, and believe that my participation in the DAU-SSCF program was instrumental in my selection.
How did you work the course into your schedule? What extra requirements, if any, did it place on you or your team?
The 10-month fellowship program is your “job” for the duration of the program. That was very beneficial because it allowed students to “disconnect” from their parent organizations and focus on the program curriculum.
Who would you recommend this course to, and why?
I recommend this course to current or aspiring leaders who are willing to commit the time and energy needed to successfully complete the course. This is an excellent professional growth opportunity where you have ample time to learn, network and reflect if you’re willing to make the effort.
Briefly describe what you do in your position and why it’s important to the Army or the warfighter. In addition to having the opportunity to support Soldiers, what’s the greatest satisfaction you have in being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce?
As the product manager for Degraded Visual Environment, I lead a team of acquisition professionals in developing, testing, procuring and fielding innovative solutions to mitigate the impacts of degraded visual environments and increase crew survivability. The greatest satisfaction I have in being a part of the Army Acquisition Workforce is being part of a team of professionals who care about Soldier safety and readiness.
How did you become part of the Army Acquisition Workforce, and why? What was your first acquisition position, and what appealed to you about the work?
I was accepted into the Army Acquisition Workforce in 1997. At that time, I was an Army captain and I knew I wanted to serve in the Army as my career. I found the acquisition career field afforded the training and experience that would easily transfer to a civilian career after retirement from the Army.
My first military acquisition position was an industry exchange program called Training with Industry. I was selected to work with the Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Washington. That was in 1998-1999, and it was a very exciting time in the technology industry. The company was very accommodating and supportive, allowing me to explore several learning opportunities during my tenure, including operating software development and network security.
This Spotlight on Success is published in the April 2019 DACM Newsletter. With these profiles, the Army DACM Office highlights talented AAW professionals who have used their training and experience to launch themselves along their career path.
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