MIT Lincoln Laboratory trains future contracting leaders

In the fall of 2007, MIT Lincoln Laboratory initiated the Leadership Development Program for Contracting to prepare future contracting management leaders. "Because of the shortage of experienced contracting professionals, the Contracting Services Department [CSD] saw a need to train our own," says Heather Rogers, CSD Business Manager, who administers the program. The first participants—Christopher Sims, Sheralyn Fallon, and John Bereiweriso—are midway through this multifaceted program and have already injected their vitality into the Department.

Photo of 3 participants in leadership programLeft to right: John Bereiweriso, Sheralyn Fallon, and Christopher Sims are the first three participants in the Leadership Development Program for Contracting.

Sims, who holds a BS in finance from the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, started at the Laboratory as a summer intern in the Financial Services Department. During one of his rotational assignments within CSD, he contributed to the Procurement@MIT task force by identifying opportunities for efficiencies and cost reductions in the MIT procurement process.

Fallon worked on the eCat team and, according to Rogers, played an integral role in getting this electronic catalog system up and running. The eCat team was honored with a 2008–2009 Lincoln Laboratory Team Award, which recognizes significant contributions and achievements. Fallon, a Boston University graduate in business administration who had worked at a commercial financial planning and money management firm, joined Lincoln Laboratory to pursue a career in contracting.

Bereiweriso, who had a dual major of management information systems and accounting at Northeastern University, applied to the program shortly after graduation. While working with the Technology and Contracts Office, Bereiweriso found it to be an incredibly active operation involved in many phases of contracting. One of his assignments was to develop operating procedures to streamline workflow between CSD and the Air Force Administrative Contracting Officer.

The three young professionals are acquiring extensive training in the rigorous requirements of government contract management. Since college curricula in business and finance do not cover the intricacies of government contracting, this expertise is usually acquired on the job. The Leadership Development program enhances and accelerates on-the-job training. "In each assignment, they gain hands-on experience by managing their own workload," says Rogers, who noted that these employees also acquire exposure through team meetings with Laboratory leadership. Ultimately, mentoring a small group of "high-potential" individuals through a demanding training program in government contracts pays dividends for both the individuals and the Laboratory.

The three- to four-year Leadership Development program has two components: participants fulfill course requirements to earn an accredited, university-level certificate in procurement and contracts management, and they complete work rotations in various functional contracting disciplines and groups within the Laboratory. The certificate course work is accomplished through online distance learning. The rotations, varying between three to twelve months long, include assignments in CSD, the Financial Services Department, and a technical group. "The individuals really participate in the work; they don't just shadow someone," says Rogers. "For example, they are embedded in their buying team" during contracting assignments for commodities, construction, research and development, and services.

The program is highly competitive. Fallon, Bereiweriso, and Sims were chosen from a field of fifty candidates. All three are now enrolled in Boston University's Master of Science in Business Administration program. "These three are ambitious," says Rogers, adding that all are, of course, also taking the ten requisite online classes to earn the University of Virginia's Certificate in Procurement and Contracts Management. Bereiweriso finds the online courses very helpful: "They shed light on how things are done in the government contracting world." Fallon notes that "the online courses take some getting used to; they require self-discipline and time management."

The program also provides training on Laboratory-centric elements of contracting—how the prime Air Force contract functions, how technical groups manage program funding, how the Laboratory's financial accounting is handled. What makes this program unique is that participants are afforded a broad range of experiences. They take part in quarterly reviews and are required to give presentations to their Department. The first presentations are on assigned topics, for example, the Fair Labor Standards Act. Later, the participants choose topics. "They research it, understand it, and use their presentation skills," says Rogers. The participants are also encouraged to attend the bi-weekly seminars given by technical staff on the Laboratory's technology advances and innovative programs. "This gives them the larger picture of what the Laboratory does and a perspective of how their role in contracting fits in," Rogers explained.

At the end of the program, the candidates are ready for senior subcontracts administrator positions, and Lincoln Laboratory has professionals not only prepared for government contracting but also well versed in the Laboratory's mission and needs.

Posted July 2009

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