AFDW emphasizes contracting professional development

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

The Air Force District of Washington’s Deputy Director for Contracting hosted a first-of-its-kind in the region Air Force Contracting Civilian Development Symposium for contracting professionals from across the entire National Capital Region on Joint Base Andrews, Mar. 16, 2017.

Ms. Yolanda Felder, AFDW’s Deputy Director for Contracting, organized a full-day event at the Smart Conference Center on JBA for Air Force contracting civilians to network and hear from a variety of guest speakers about their career progression through Air Force contracting.

The event was open to all Air Force civilian contracting professionals in the NCR, regardless of rank or specialty. Felder said all contracting professionals can benefit from hearing leaders talk about their career progression and the opportunities that the Air Force offers.

For Felder, helping people with career development is an interest born from personal experience. Felder began her contracting career as an Air Force intern in the Copper Cap program, an internship program designed to prepare college graduates for careers as Air Force Civilian Service contracting specialists by assigning them to contracting officers to receive formal and on-the-job training. Felder attributes her successful career to the help of great leaders along the way.

“I can’t say that I did it all myself, and I can’t say that I actually did have a vision for the end, but along my journey leaders took their time to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you get your Master’s? Here’s a program to help you.’”

Felder is paying-it-forward now and has found a passion for mentoring and developing the people that work for her.

AFDW Contracting has 14 interns, and Felder wanted to set up a day to talk to them about career development. As she started to plan the event, she said she has made a lot of connections in the NCR during her career and decided to call upon them to make the event bigger. She reached out to leaders in contracting offices for the Joint Strike Fighter program, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Air Force Program Executive Office for Combat and Mission Support, and Air Force Contracting Contingency/Force Management Division. Felder said the Air Force Contracting leadership in the NCR were excited to participate in the new event.

 “Everyone has their own story to tell in terms of how to develop a career in Air Force Contracting,” said Felder. “We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. I’m a career civilian. I think everyone can tell their own story in terms of how they started off.”

One of the guest speakers, Mr. Tonico Beope, director of Contracting, Air Force special Access Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, started his career in contracting as an enlisted Airman. After his time in the military, he transitioned to Air Force civil service and is now a member of the Senior Executive Service. He passed on some lessons on career development that he learned over the years.

Beope explained the importance of building technical credibility in career development by saying that technical credibility can be gained by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and grasping new opportunities. “Don’t get comfortable,” Beope said.

Attendees of the event said they really appreciated hearing from different leaders about the opportunities that are available to them.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” said Teresa Goodwin, a contracting specialist with 30 years of experience. She was previously enlisted in the Army and now works for the Office of Scientific Research. “This type of forum is great to see the opportunities available.”

Others appreciated the networking opportunity that the event offered.

Amy Case, a Copper Cap Intern at AFDW, said she realized the value of networking by seeing leaders interacting and working together.

“Networking opens more doors and opportunities… They [the leaders] all know each other. It’s cool to watch,” said Case.

In addition to helping contracting professionals develop their career in the Air Force, Felder said she hopes this event will aid in Air Force civilian retention.

“This particular area, in the NCR, it’s been difficult as I talk to leaders around here to hold on to our civilian workforce,” said Felder. “So what I’m hoping is that we build a way to instill in our employees that there’s a way to grow in the Air Force. There’s a lot of opportunities for development within the Air Force. You don’t have to go to other federal organizations to develop your career.”