An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Oct. 5, 2018

Keystone managers dig deep, empower with effective career development options

By DCMA Western Regional Command

Brian Gary couldn’t detect any signs of the Abrams’ turbine engines straining as the tank accelerated to 35 mph up a steep hill. And after slowing to a crawl over the edge of a nearby drop in terrain, he learned the importance of capturing how equipment will operate in its intended environment.
He was one of nine Keystone employees who toured the Army testing facility April 24-25.

With the help of Katheryn Dennis, the local Keystone manager for the group, they saw first-hand the importance of the Defense Contract Management Agency’s mission to deliver reliable equipment and systems to our nation’s warfighters.

“We are always looking for new ways to teach our future (Keystones). We definitely recommend all contract management offices engage their Keystones in interactive learning,” said Dennis.

Gary is a Keystone employee working to attain the computer engineer journeyman level with DCMA. Keystones spend three years as entry-level developmental employees. During this time, they build the skills needed for a future key role in the agency.

Experiences like riding in a tank were not always available to all Keystones. Though they had meaningful and mission-oriented work, opportunities for wider-ranging career development weren’t always present.

“In the past, Keystones were hired by individual contract management offices all across the country,” said Gretchen Smith, the agency’s Keystone program manager. Smith, who oversees the program on the national level said that at one time training opportunities were mainly driven by the mission of the Keystones’ local office.

Due to the specific nature of an office’s work, if a Keystone or leadership didn’t proactively seek out chances to rotate to a different office, a Keystone might have limited exposure to other various roles within the acquisition lifecycle.

Now, Smith and the people on her team are working with the DCMA regions to expand career development opportunities so that CMOs within each region have a wider array of options for the professional development of Keystones. More diverse job shadowing opportunities, rotational assignments or work details will now benefit newly hired Keystones and legacy Keystones.

Legacy Keystones, employees who have been in the program for two years or more, are often at a critical point because they are on the cusp of completing the three-year program. Once they graduate, they join the DCMA workforce as vital contributors to the mission and possible future agency leaders.

“In the Western Region, we are working on having continuous exchanges with external agencies. Through memorandums of agreement, our Keystones will engage with technical and non-technical aspects of the acquisition process outside of DCMA,” said Mike Pueblo, a Keystone hub manager for DCMA’s Western Regional Command. “A Keystone who graduates from the program and transitions to a DCMA career will have the benefit of being a well-rounded professional.”

Pueblo said that while he believes this is a strong approach, he and the rest of the Keystone program managers will always seek opportunities to improve the process. One change currently underway, is the Keystone hub hiring process.

A unified approach to hiring – the Keystone hubs

In January, Pueblo started work with the new group of hired Keystones under the new structure. Keystones in this cohort are spread throughout the Carson, California, hub. The Carson hub serves offices within California.
“We aligned our hiring strategy with Human Capital recruitment office efforts to ensure we could tap into the same hiring pools HC does when they travel to recruitment events,” said Pueblo.

This improved business practice leads to greater efficiency in the hiring process. In 2019, Pueblo will add a new hiring hub in Denver and the plan is to bring online the final Western Region hiring hub in Phoenix by 2020. Keystones in those areas will be dispersed geographically based on close coordination with agency offices.

This new hiring interval approach, along with a renewed focus on creating a more diverse workforce development experience, will ensure Keystones have an equitable experience. “The goal is to develop a more well-rounded employee,” said Pueblo.

Because of the successful work in the West, Smith’s team can see what success looks like. Now, with the program coming into shape, the time to develop the next generation of workforce has never been more urgent.

“It was more than just a fun ride,” Gary said of his time in the tank and tour of the Yuma Proving Ground. “We got to see the big picture of acquisition from another angle.”