News | Oct. 27, 2021

Contract specialist encourages others to pursue developmental assignments

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

LeShan Jackson has been in the contracting career field for more than 20 years, and her recent virtual developmental assignment honed her skills even more as a contract specialist.

“This experience has been nothing short of amazing,” she said. “It has allowed me to gain experiences that have broadened my leadership skills and also have improved my critical thinking skills from a strategic standpoint. I was able to interact with senior-level acquisition professionals and assist in decision making that affects the Department of Defense as a whole.”

Jackson recently spent nine months, from January until September of this year, on a rotational assignment as part of the Defense Pricing and Contracting Acquisition Exchange Program. She was assigned to DPC’s Price, Cost, and Finance Division.

“My primary assignment was to conduct regulatory research and develop conclusions in regards to prime contractor financing and how they pay their subcontractors,” said Jackson, who works in the Contracts Directorate at the Defense Contract Management Agency headquarters. “This is important because during COVID, financing guidance was changed to allow prime contractors to receive additional government financing in order to improve their cash flow during the pandemic.

“Because the prime contractors subcontract a majority of their work, it is important for us to determine if the subcontractors are reaping the same financial benefits as the primes. Ultimately, our mission is to ensure the warfighter has the supplies and services needed to protect our nation. Monitoring how taxpayer dollars are spent and used allows us to ensure mission success.”

Jackson said her rotational assignment has prepared her for her future career goals. She would like to continue to get promoted at DCMA with the goal of becoming a member of the Senior Executive Service and one day serving as the director of the Contracts Directorate.

Jackson has been with DCMA eight years. She started her federal contracting career with the Air Force after she finished her bachelor’s degree. While working as a secretary at the Royal Air Force Mildenhall in England, the contracting squadron commander at Royal Air Force Lakenheath spoke to her about a GS-7 contract specialist position. She applied and has been in contracting ever since.

“Being a contract specialist is challenging, but very rewarding,” she said. “Over the years, I have worked hard to develop the technical, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence skills necessary for me to further my career goals and endeavors.”

Her dedication has paid off. She is Level III certified in contracting through the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, also known as DAWIA. In her current position, Jackson is the policy owner and subject matter expert for payments, which includes progress payments, performance-based payments, commercial item financing, voluntary refunds, and general payment support. In addition, she is the lead for the Progress Payment Working Group, the co-lead for the Fixed Price Incentive Integrated Product Team, and the co-lead for the Product Acceptance and Proper Payment Capability Group.

She encourages other employees to get a mentor, who can tell them about various career opportunities, including rotational assignments. Her mentors include Sonya Ebright, executive director of the DCMA Contracts Directorate and Patricia McMahon, director of the Contracts/Pricing Policy and Processes Division.

“Mentoring is important because mentors encourage and enable another person’s professional or personal development,” said Jackson. “A mentor can help their mentee set personal or professional development goals. These goals can help focus the mentee’s efforts and make it easier for the mentor to track and assess progress.

“A mentor can also help build their mentee’s professional network. When the mentee identifies professional or personal goals, the mentor can connect them to potential opportunities or individuals who can help them. As the mentor typically has more industry experience or a higher-level career, these connections can be valuable for career advancement,” she added.

Sherri Hood, deputy director of the Contracts/Pricing Policy and Processes Division, said she was glad Jackson participated in the program.

“This was a great opportunity for LeShan and DCMA,” said Hood. “The expanded insight that she received as part of the Acquisition Exchange Program assisted greatly in shaping her payments policy and guidance and in turn, she was able to provide DCMA’s perspective to the Defense Pricing and Contracting personnel by having a seat at the table. In addition, she was able to shadow senior leaders external to the agency and learn also from them, which is invaluable in her leadership development and progression.”

Because of the mentors she has had throughout her career, Jackson said it was important for her to pay it forward and mentor others at the agency. She is currently a mentor in DCMA’s mentorship program, and she has two mentees.

“It’s a win-win relationship because not only can they learn from my experiences, but I learn from them as well,” said Jackson.

Jackson said she is grateful to be a part of the acquisition workforce at DCMA.

“Being in this career field is a lot of work and requires you to be innovative, forward thinking and detail oriented,” noted Jackson. “But there’s no other career field I would rather be in because I know my efforts and work products have a significant impact on DCMA’s mission, the warfighter and national security.”

For more information about the exchange program, visit Acquisition Exchange Program (osd.mil).

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Defense Contract Management Agency
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