Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting acquainted with Work

So after 5 weeks of orientation, DLI's are then sent to their assigned functional areas to begin familiarizing themselves with the work of the organization and to obtain some on-the-job training.  Each of my classmates all have related different experiences thus far in the past two weeks ranging from simply taking online training or looking for anything to do to even already becoming a country desk officer.  I think though a lot also depends on a lot of self-initiative and your boss.

My experience has been pretty good.  Since I already had a contracting background, much of the processes and activities are already very familiar.  Last week I was tasked with doing several contract modifications to current contracts in order to revise to add incremental funding (government funding for contracts is only available for effort 18 months in the future at which point additional funding will then need to added).  The only part of this I was unable to do was make the administrative modification in USAID's contract system since I have not yet had the required instructor training and been granted access.  (not really in a rush to get this access and start using it :P)

In between doing these modifications, I have a very intimidating list of online and instructor-taught training classes that I started to work on.  In order for me to obtain my warrant which allows me to sign contracts to obligate funding, I need various trainings and certifications.  

This week, I was assigned a cost analysis to perform on contractor proposals for an RFP for a new effort.  Basically, I read through the proposals and then analyzed whether the costs were reasonable and compared them to what we are wanting in the RFP. Then, I got to make recommendations for the negotiator on what is or is not reasonable, what they should negotiate at, and provide all the justification and information to make that argument.

It's a very time-consuming process but I actually enjoyed it.  I learned a lot about the type of work USAID does as well as how contractor's structure their proposals.  Some of these contractors propose ridiculous rates and salaries that it's unbelievable.  To think they have been taking taxpayer money at some of these rates is crazy.  There so many better places resources could be used than lining the pockets of some of these contractors to better help people and we're going to change that.

On a less work related subject, my DLI class continues to organize social functions and gatherings each week and we all do a decent job of keeping in touch.  Next week, we all get to come back together for a week of "Consolidated Training" where we will all debrief our experiences thus far, share advice, and get additional required training.  An event I'm looking forward to is a field trip to spend the day at the State Department in the "F" Bureau which monitors Foreign Assistance.  I've been in this bubble of USAID and it will be interesting to see the other agencies in which we will need to work with together so closely once out in the field.

DLI-17 with Dep. Admin. Steinberg on our first day of orientation.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The End of Orientation and Orientation Graduation

It's been a busy past two weeks!  Week three included more bureau presentations but also had some great Q&A sessions with Congressional staffers.  It's interesting to hear the perspectives of USAID from those that allocate the budgets.

On that topic, the big government shutdown and potential furlough was avoided.  If the government budget extension was not passed, I would have fallen into the Non-Excluded category meaning basically unpaid time-off.  Historically, Congress has passed a measure to provide backpay to those furloughed, but in this government environment, that would not have been a guaranteed.  So I'm happy things were worked out.  Plus, I really enjoy coming into work everyday :P.

Our class also took a trip to have lunch with the American Foreign Service Association.  It was interesting to hear how the union for the Foreign Service works and what they do.  Since I've never been part of a union, it was nice to learn how they work.  Union dues were fairly nominal and the work they do seems pretty important to me so I elected to join.

The closure to the five-week orientation program also came about.  During the last two weeks, I was able to meet my supervisor and the team which I'll be working with during my period here in Washington before assignments are determined.  The team seems great and I'm anxious to learn the USAID contracting function.  I also feel my prior contracting experience is going to be quite useful in this transition as many of the terms and overview of the types of acquisitions and awards they do are already familiar.

This last Friday was Orientation Graduation.  This past week, I've had my fiancee in town and some family fly in this weekend for the graduation so I've been busy with lots of entertaining and sightseeing but it's been a good time.  Graduation morning began with a very brief welcome by Administrator Shah who quickly had to leave to other meetings.  However, I really appreciated him taking the time to come speak to us.  Our keynote speaker was the most senior Foreign Service Officer of the agency. Instead of giving flags to everyone to indicate our country assignments, they presented certificates and planned to have small "flag days" as the assignments can be determined in the future.  I think the Graduation would have been nice if they had the ability to give us our assignments but they notified us from day one that wouldn't be the case.  All in all though, it was a very nice conclusion to the Orientation and a good transition to training and work.

Tomorrow begins the next phase of the Foreign Service adventure and I'm looking forward to it!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...