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)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Catching Up: Work and 2-year Anniversary

Things have been busy these days. Work continues, writing and completing my second annual review (2 years now with USAID!), seeing more and more of Indonesia and Jakarta, and more. 

Working in my office, I've been learning and gaining different experiences that will serve as lessons learned and fundamentals for decisions and judgement calls to be made in the future.  This section of the post will be a bit of a stream of conscious on my impressions with work so far.  Working in the Office of Acquisition and Assistance  has been a very interesting experience and I'm really enjoying it.  There are advantages and disadvantages, of course, when comparing to other different assignments one could have, but I think the former greatly outweigh the latter.

Some particular examples of things I've enjoyed so far:

  • Contracting Officers see almost all of the Mission's portfolio of the projects that are being implemented providing a good understanding and knowledge of how everything fits together and what is being accomplished.
  • Great involvement in key decisions about how development projects are implemented.  Take any sort of development challenge in any area (health, democracy/human rights, environment, education, etc) and work in a team to determine a method, partner with whom, role of USAID, how to make sustainable, etc.
  • Continued involvement throughout the life of the project in its implementation and progress towards results.
  • Building a knowledge base and experiences that will be applicable to any project or assignment in the future.  What I mean by this is that many experience/situations and knowledge learned in this position will be applicable in future assignments.  There are an infinite number of "what-if situations" that routinely emerge and these sort of serve as case studies for decision making and problem analysis for others.
Some disadvantages:
  • With large portfolios and seeing so many projects, can never have the depth of involvement and understanding that technical officers will have for a particular project.  Technical Officers will focus much of their attention on just a few projects and naturally be much more involved and know a lot more about that particular subject matter.
  • Less travel and event attendance.  I wasn't sure whether to categorize this as an advantage or disadvantage because it largely depends on life circumstance and preference.  But Technical Officers spend much more time in the field doing site visits, kick-off events, or accompanying visitors when they want to see projects.  This means much more time spent traveling rather being in the office thus allowing one to see much more of the country on the government's dime, but a lot less time being home.  If you're single, this is most likely a great situation but otherwise, perhaps not as desirable. 
  • Less involvement in the strategy of development programming.  In terms of  specifics of a technical area, Contracting Officers may have less to bring forward as we aren't as knowledgeable to the extent on specific areas.  Rather, we involved more in the "how" rather than the "what" in development and international cooperation.
Looking forward to work to come.  Need another 6 months at the Mission before I can become a "real" Contracting Officer which occurs upon being granted a warrant.   What this essentially means is that I will then be able to award contracts or grants on behalf of the US government at that point versus preparing the documentation and the pre-award work for a warranted officer to sign (though going through this process of preparing everything are essential responsibilities and key skills to have!).

In other news, last week noted my second year anniversary since joining USAID and the Foreign Service.  With this anniversary came my second promotion to class 4.  This now means I enter the regular cycle for annual reviews for the future and will compete among other officers at class 4 competitively for future promotions rather than being evaluated for satisfactory performance to class.

Lastly, was able to take my first field visit to Banda Aceh.  More to come on this!
A boat displayed on a house from the 2004 Tsunami in Banda Aceh

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