News | March 10, 2020

Contracts specialist reflects on her Keystone experience and impact

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

Sherri Hood made a financial sacrifice and took a pay cut when she joined the Defense Contract Management Agency team 13 years ago.

“While it was an initial pay cut, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to enter the federal government in a high-demand field that was challenging, interesting, and I could channel into a career,” said Hood, who started her government career as a GS-7.

Years later, she said the sacrifice was worth it and she is glad she became a Keystone program intern in contracting at DCMA Hampton in 2007. The program is an agency multi-year developmental program that trains individuals in a variety of disciplines. Hood is now a contracts specialist and policy action officer for grants, agreements and other transactions in the Contracts Policy Division of the DCMA headquarter’s Contracting Directorate. In this role, she develops and implements policy and guidance and serves as the lead for the other transactions working group.

“As the OT working group lead, I serve as the agency’s policy representative for our internal and external customers. I am also involved in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment working groups and discussions to assist with developing (Department of Defense) policy and guidance and ensuring DCMA has a seat at the table,” said Hood.

Her supervisor, Patricia McMahon, said she is an asset to the team.

“Sherri has been a great addition to the DCMA-AQC Policy Division,” said McMahon, contract and pricing policy director. “Her enthusiasm for contracting, taking on challenging assignments, and leading working groups through what can be ambiguous efforts requiring direction and clarity, are the cornerstones of her success.”

Hood’s field experience directly relates to her current position. “She often relies upon her CMO (contract management office)-obtained skills to help shape policy-related guidance and recommendations for both short and long-term solutions to issues impacting the agency’s contracting workforce,” said McMahon.

Benefits of Keystone program

Prior to working at DCMA Hampton, Hood was a supervisory program manager with a nonprofit in Charlotte, North Carolina. She relocated to Hampton, Virginia, after her husband was transferred. In Hampton, she worked as a case manager with the Hampton Department of Social Services where she made eligibility determinations for clients for all public assistance programs.

“After living in Hampton for a short time, it became apparent that being a government employee was a wonderful career option that had a purpose,” said Hood. “I started applying for government jobs, and luckily DCMA was aggressively seeking Keystone interns.”

Hood joined the DCMA Hampton team when it was still a tertiary CMO under DCMA Manassas. She said the experience she gained as a Keystone intern was invaluable.

As an intern, she earned her Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification, also known as DAWIA, in contracting, Level II. She visited various federal agencies, including the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and shadowed multiple DCMA employees to learn more about the agency and contracting.

“The Keystone program prepared me for my current positon because it taught me early on that it takes a team to administer a contract effectively,” said Hood. “The teaming approach I learned during my time in the Keystone program taught me to solve complex issues and reach out to the right people to get the work done.

“Being located at a CMO that had a high volume of contracts, which most were complex, assisted me into later moving into the policy action officer position, where along with developing and implementing policy and guidance, I am also called on to assist with solving complex issues.”

Overall, she said graduating from the Keystone program gave her the skill set to quickly get promoted in the acquisition field.

“After completing and graduating from the Keystone program, I transitioned to a journeyman contract administrator,” Hood said. “In June 2012, I became an administrative contracting officer, and in March 2015, I became a contracts supervisor. I spent a total of 12 1/2years at DCMA Hampton before transitioning to my current position at Fort Lee in September 2019.”

Importance of mentoring and taking risks

Regardless of position, Hood believes in mentoring. She received the DCMA Agency Mentoring Award in 2016.

“I always believe in giving back and passing on the knowledge so that others can be their best selves,” stated Hood. “Contract administration is not an easy thing to learn, and I want to ensure to other employees that it can be mastered, but you never stop learning. If we mentor others, it builds a stronger DCMA so that we can keep hard-working employees and not lose the knowledge base. It helps others to have a successful rewarding career.”

Hood encourages employees to get the necessary training and be prepared to get out of their comfort zone in order to climb the agency’s career ladder.

“Ask for those opportunities and complex tasks, but produce excellent results,” Hood said. “There are a lot of opportunities in the contracting field, but sometimes you need to slow down and really learn your field of expertise and other skills that will make you a better well-rounded and skilled professional in the long run. This makes you a respected professional and also makes your job easier because you have experience and a thorough knowledge base.

“There is great opportunity at DCMA, so be proactive and seek out experiences within and outside the agency so that you will get to where you want to go in your professional career and in life.”

Hood said she is glad she joined the DCMA team more than a decade ago.

“DCMA is a great place to work because it makes you a diverse contracting professional. You see everything, including all of the acquisition complexities,” Hood noted. “We have to be experts at multiple processes.”

Hood also, touted the multiple job locations and job flexibility. The additional job benefits such as telework, flexible work schedules and opportunities to transfer to different locations promotes the work/life balance.

“As a working wife and mom, I am able to lean in and balance those roles by also having the opportunity to have a successful professional career,” said Hood.

As the agency celebrates its 20th anniversary on March 27, Hood hopes the agency will continue to attract a talented and diverse group of people to support the nation’s military.

“I hope to see a lot of the same faces and new faces joining the team,” she said. “DCMA has always been on the forefront of technology and innovative processes, so I am excited to see how we will continue to evolve to support our customers and most importantly, the warfighters.”

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series on various DCMA employees who will be highlighted throughout the year as the agency celebrates its 20th anniversary.