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By Maureen Clark, MPH, Public Health Analyst, National Cancer Institute, PMF Class of 2015
This is the time of year that I recall with chagrin how I got my start in the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The applications were due, and I applied at the last minute, the day of the deadline. While I do not recommend that strategy, I do, without reservation, recommend the PMF program.
The application period for this prestigious, competitive program for recent graduates of post-graduate programs is open now through October 13, 2015. If you’re just learning about the program or are on the fence about whether to apply, let me tell you more about my experience.
After being selected as a PMF-STEM finalist -- a track focused on science, technology, engineering, and math -- I was selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI has been a perfect fit because of my educational background in public health, English, and pre-medical studies, as well as my passion for NCI’s mission: to conduct and support research, training, and programs aimed at reducing the cancer rate.
The PMF program looks a little bit different at each agency. At NCI, PMFs typically complete four to six rotations across the organization. My first rotation was in one of NCI’s program offices, where I worked on strategic planning and the identification of scientific trends related to health communications research. And right now I am in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations, which serves as the liaison between Congress and NCI’s scientific staff. Each experience presents unique challenges, but all of the offices have treated me as a vital member of the team.
PMFs are also required to complete 80 training hours per year over the course of the two-year program. I have participated in training specific to my current work, as well as a special session on leadership in the style of George Washington at his historic estate in Mount Vernon. I also had the chance to attend sessions on innovation, held at the White House, and on Congress, held on Capitol Hill. There are also extremely helpful informational interviews. During a typical session, I sit down with a colleague at NIH and ask as many questions as I can to learn about his or her career.
The fellowship has provided me with an insider’s view of how the Federal Government operates. I’ve watched the budgeting process and have come to understand the priorities that shape NIH’s mission. And my external rotation -- one of the key features of the PMF program -- in the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Communications gave me a broad perspective on opportunities across government agencies.
I still have another year left in the fellowship, but because of the experiences I’ve had, I have some ideas about what’s next for me. I’d like to continue to address health disparities, particularly as they relate to health literacy and health care access. I am going to use the health communications skills I have been able to develop. And I do hope that my next job will be in the Federal Government.
I’m very glad that I made that last-minute decision to apply to the PMF program nearly two years ago. And I’m grateful for the training, networking, and career opportunities that I’ve had since then. I am most thankful for the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people across the country.
Visit www.pmf.gov for more information about the PMF program.
One of the many ways that the Office of Personnel Management helps agencies find the top talent they need to serve the American people is through the Presidential Management Fellows, our flagship leadership development program. Last week, we held our annual job fair that gives PMF finalists a chance to connect face-to-face with agency officials.
The PMF Class of 2015 is 600 strong – with 91 of the finalists taking part in our new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) track. More than 65 agencies sent representatives to the event, held at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Kicking off the fair on Thursday, I congratulated these impressive finalists for taking the first step in their journey to becoming leaders in the Federal Government.
Not only were our finalists able to meet with agency representatives, they attended informational sessions that gave them a good grounding in the agencies’ missions and goals for the future. The finalists networked and developed contacts at the agencies.
OPM’s talented PMF staff will support these finalists as they continue their search for a fellowship. It’s very rewarding for us at OPM to help agencies recruit talented individuals who share a purpose-driven mission to serve this great country over the course of their professional careers.
The President today issued an executive order designed to further help the Federal Government attract the brightest minds in technology or innovation to work on some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. The order makes permanent the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, which brings executives, entrepreneurs, technologists, and other innovators into government, and teams them up with Federal employees to improve programs that serve more than 150 million Americans. I’m proud to say that OPM had a role in developing this novel program, and I’m happy to see it thrive with our colleagues at the General Services Administration at the helm.
Feds Feed Families in Full Swing
Federal employees not only serve Americans every day on the job, they display their generosity throughout the year, especially through programs like Feds Feed Families. The 2015 campaign is underway this month, with the theme “Feds Fighting Hunger.” In 2014, Federal employees across government donated nearly 15 million pounds of food, paper goods, and toiletries to help food banks and pantries stay stocked during the summer months, when they traditionally see a decrease in donations.
Each year, employees are asked to bring items they want to donate to their workplaces or to take them directly to a local food bank. I’m confident that the continued generosity of our Federal workforce will ensure that we top last year’s total.
Working with our partners at the General Services Administration, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense, and other agencies, the government on Aug. 4, 2015 issued a request for quotations (RFQ) for a contractor to handle credit monitoring and identity theft services for people affected by the intrusion of our network. We’ve added information about the RFQ to our online cybersecurity resource center.
We are continually updating our website as we get requests for more information and as we make progress on the cybersecurity front. I encourage the Federal community to keep checking the site and to continue giving us feedback. We are listening, and are working hard to provide the latest resources, information, and support for the Federal workforce.
During my visit to the West Coast this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the attendees of OPM’s Federal Internships and Career Expo in Seattle. This event was the first of its kind. I’m thrilled that OPM was able to co-host the expo with the Federal Executive Board and the University of Washington.
This day-long workshop was designed to showcase our Pathways program, which actually includes three programs: internships, jobs for recent graduates, and the Presidential Management Fellows. These employment tracks give young people an opportunity to try out Federal service. For many, Pathways leads to a permanent place in our workforce.
The expo included panels, presentations, and roundtable discussions as well as instructional sessions, such as how to write a Federal resume. We brought together Federal officials from 20 agencies and staff from more than a dozen colleges and universities. More than 100 students attended. We hope to partner with other Federal Executive Boards around the country to host similar events.
The Federal hiring process can seem complex. One of my priorities is to make sure that everyone who is interested in working for the Federal Government knows what their options are and gets the help they need to successfully apply for Federal positions.
Agencies are always looking for top talent, and Pathways is one way that we can bring passionate students and recent graduates, with fresh ideas and perspectives, into government.
And we’ve heard a great deal of positive feedback from our agencies about these programs. Every agency has a Pathways success story to share. Here at OPM, one of our recruiters for Pathways began as a Pathways intern.
A key aspect of my Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion – or REDI – Roadmap is building a world-class Federal workforce. Programs like Pathways help our hiring managers identify the best and brightest in our nation – and they show our newest hires what being a member of the Federal civil service is all about.
Being a Federal employee is about being a part of something bigger than you. It’s about working on behalf of our nation, and everyone in it. For me, as Director of OPM, this means striving to build a workforce that looks like the America we serve. Pathways can help us achieve that goal.
On Wednesday, the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building became a showcase for the Office of Personnel Management’s initiative to attract the best talent in science, technology engineering and math to Federal service.
This “Datapalooza” was part of a celebration of the incredible work Federal STEM employees do now, and it was also a look to the future as we work to fulfill the President’s vision of growing a diverse, engaged and talented STEM workforce for the future.
Our team leaders here at OPM have forged an amazing partnership with Federal employees from across government and from the private sector. The idea was to find ways to use OPM’s valuable data to understand our current STEM workforce and to provide the tools and resources managers need to help them attract and recruit new STEM talent.
This work is so exciting and so important. Let me tell you about just a couple of the projects.
Ray Parr, OPM’s data guru in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, developed a heat map that shows where our STEM applicants are coming from. His map showed us that the four states contributing the most applicants for Federal STEM jobs are Maryland, Virginia, California and Texas. And, his team produced an applicant dashboard that provides insights into the interests and experiences of job applicants.
At another demonstration, Gary Lukowski, who manages our Data Analysis Group, enhanced the rich data from OPM’s Fedscope with charts and graphs to illustrate the relationships between STEM employees and their agencies. This kind of information will help hiring managers predict trends in the Federal STEM workforce.
We at OPM know that the Federal government is in competition with the private, non-profit and academic sectors for key STEM personnel. One way that OPM, OMB and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are working together to close skills gaps is to remind agencies about some pay flexibilities that can help attract the best talent.
As we say in the Critical Position Pay Authority Memorandum for Chief Human Capital Officer, the critical position pay authority is a potentially underutilized flexibility that can support our efforts. We are encouraging agencies with mission critical STEM positions to better educate agency staff about this opportunity.
Go to the Pay and Leave Flexibilities for Recruitment and Retention Fact Sheet and the Students, Recent Graduates, and Pathways Fact Sheet for additional information on applying to and recruiting for Federal STEM positions.
This exciting STEM event was just the beginning. I am committed to making sure that together with our partners across government, OPM will continue to innovate and expand the tools and resources we provide agencies so they can bring on board the best talent possible to serve the American people.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way to really learn what they do every day, and how we can make their lives better. This week, I joined the President’s “Day in the Life” effort. Throughout the summer, senior administrators are traveling the country speaking with -- and learning from -- the people we work for every day.
While in Los Angeles this past week, I had such fun spending time with two extraordinary individuals – Matthew Gonzales, a Federal employee at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and Megan Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran who works for the state of California as an employment assistant helping other veterans find jobs. Both are young Latinos driven by a passion for public service.
Matthew entered the Federal government as a Pathways intern, a program that brings the best young talent into government and sets them on the path to a Federal career. Matthew is now a civilian program manager at the space and missile center. He also co-led the first chapter of Young Government Leaders in Los Angeles.
Matthew shared something that really made an impression on me. At his job, there is always a lot going on and he is experiencing and doing many things for the first time. But, he said, with pride, while he is not always expected to know everything right away, he is always expected to learn. Matthew knows he has the support and tools that he needs to keep growing, and that is part of the reason why he believes the Federal government is a great place to start his career. That spirit of service is exactly what our nation needs. And I know that Matthew is one of hundreds of thousands of Federal employees with that same enthusiasm.
Megan has a passion for helping fellow veterans find jobs. While attending Mount St. Mary’s College, she founded its Veterans Outreach Association and she has continued that work now that she has graduated. We discussed our shared passion for helping women veterans get Federal jobs, especially STEM jobs. She would be a great fit in the Federal government.
In Matthew and Megan, I saw so many positive qualities: passion, dedication, an overwhelming desire to help people, a call to service, and a truly hopeful vision of the future. These young professionals remind me what it was like to once walk in shoes similar to theirs. I know there are obstacles they face each day, but their commitment to public service makes me confident we will continue to have a diverse, talented, caring, and devoted Federal workforce. Their insights helped me understand firsthand what young Latinos are thinking and what we need to do to attract them to Federal service.
I was glad to be able to tell them that we are already working hard to increase the number of Federal employees from underrepresented communities and to support and develop them in their careers. They share my commitment that we have a workforce that truly represents the bright mosaic of the American family.
So really, we learned a lot from each other. If we take the time to stop, listen, and just for a moment, put ourselves in another’s shoes, we’ll keep learning. And that makes all the difference.
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