COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ground Vehicle Systems Center Systems Engineering Directorate
TITLE: Systems engineer
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 5
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Practitioner in engineering and technical management
EDUCATION: M.S. in engineering, Purdue University; B.S. in materials science and engineering, Wayne State University
AWARDS: Department of the Army Civilian Service Achievement Medal (2019)
by Cheryl Marino
As a systems engineer, Charlotte Mowczan analyzes organizational systems to find more efficient ways of doing things—taking a project from conception to completion. But at the end of the day, according to her, it’s not just about completing a project, it’s also about leadership style and delivery.
“My greatest satisfaction is hearing people say I’ve made their job easier by having clear instructions and easy access to resource materials that they can reference,” she said. “Which makes all the difference in boosting team morale, driving motivation and ultimately a successful final product.”
According to Mowczan, the importance of relationships is reinforced through the joint PEO Ground Combat Systems (GCS) and PEO CS&CSS Leadership Development Program, and she has strived to make interpersonal improvements as a result of the class. “I had the opportunity to meet with both Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings [retired] and James Schirmer, deputy program executive officer [PEO GCS], and they both emphasized the importance of having and showing empathy, as well as building personal relationships,” she said. The material is basic, but a refresher for recognizing that simple things like saying “I understand,” or just listening when someone is speaking, can go a long way toward resolving issues. “For me personally, taking that moment to show some empathy and acknowledge someone’s frustration can help build a connection with that person, versus launching into problem solving mode.”
Mowczan began her career with the Army Acquisition Workforce after hearing of an opportunity at the Detroit Arsenal through a friend. “I started as a systems engineer for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle [AMPV] program and worked on the Systems Engineering Plan [SEP] update for Milestone-C,” she said. SEP provides a foundational engineering approach for all technology-based programs, with Milestone-C being the point of making a recommendation or seeking approval to enter the production and deployment phase. Since AMPV is a major defense acquisition program (ACAT I), there were a lot of updates and she anticipated working with many people inside and outside the organization. Good communication skills and taking the initiative when presenting workable ideas, suggestions and solutions to problems would be necessary. “I really enjoy systems engineering work because the time spent on it can contribute to the success of a project.” She said presenting an idea typically inspires thought processes from others. There is nothing at all to lose by putting forth your concepts, even if they’re not perfect. It’s always better than not presenting anything at all.
She encourages junior acquisition personnel: “Don’t be shy about putting your ideas forward, if you present a plan for a project or a suggested improvement, it will get support,” she said. “There may be some edits or suggestions along the way, but taking that first step on your own is really important.”
Mowczan also believes forming good interpersonal relationships in the workplace can harvest a more “at ease” environment for promoting the presentation of ideas. And for sustaining those relationships, integrity is greatly valued. “The most important lesson I’ve learned over the course of my career is to have integrity. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you promise to do it,” she said. “In my work I make sure to follow up with people for actions I’ve taken on. If for some reason I can’t meet the promise date, I let them know why and follow up when I’m done.” This builds trust, motivation and a positive work environment.
She said her current assignment with the PEO CS&CSS staff office not only provides the opportunity to work with an assortment of people with varying levels of expertise, but also gives her a broad perspective on all the things that need to happen early in the program to secure funding. “Getting funding to do something requires a lot of documentation that is required by law,” she said, which is something most people are not aware of. “This used to be invisible to me—especially at my prior job working for a prime contractor,” she said. Now that she’s more involved with the process and familiar with all the coordinating and organizing that’s involved behind the scenes, it’s easier to see how everything comes together.
Organizing events that bring people together for a work-related or social cause to build better relationships, and just to have some fun is something she’s done much of both inside and outside of work.
“People outside of work know me for establishing get-togethers and hosting parties,” she said. “I planned a couple of outings with friends this year to see a local museum exhibit, and make a surprise visit to a friend out of state who just helped open a brewery.” During the pandemic, she was able to set up some fun, inspirational and motivating online discussion-style events for co-workers and friends to keep lines of communication open.
“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/.