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Fathers Working in Government

Christopher Reading to His Young Kids

Christopher Reading to His Young Kids

Father’s Day is this month and we thought it would be a good time to hear from an inspired dad who raised one of this generation’s future young leaders. We also wanted to learn about his perspective on his children’s careers and on public service generally. Here are some of the excerpts from our conversation.

When asked, what do you say your child does?

Tom Walsh: “I have two daughters who work in federal office. One is at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in the General Counsel’s Office. My other daughter is a business systems analyst at HHS. I know that she works on process improvement. You’d think that having worked for the federal government myself would help me understand their jobs. My older daughter I understand because she’s also an attorney, but my younger daughter’s work? Not really.”

Why is the work they do important?

Tom: “The answer to that question is so personal. I do think that careers in public service are worth aspiring to, though that term is also so varied. The federal government is so large, so you see a great degree of difference of job satisfaction. I think it’s more what the individual gets out of it. I know my daughters feel a sense of responsibility to the public and like they’re serving them. When I was working as a federal lawyer, I always felt like I was providing a service. When I was in law school, I was influenced by an individual who had worked in public service themselves. I think it takes a long time sometimes to know what your strengths and interests might be and who you know can really make an impact. Sometimes it’s just an individual or two who see something in you.”

What did they want to be when they grew up?

Tom: “When they were young, they were exploring their life and the world. I didn’t have any sense that they were dedicated to a future profession. I don’t recall my wife and I talking with them much about careers.”

Do they like their job? Why?

Tom: “We talk about their work regularly, just in casual conversation, and I think both of them enjoy their jobs quite a bit. I think they need interesting work and that the type of folks they work with are important. You can be in a field you like in a vacuum, but your job satisfaction can rise or fall based on who your supervisor happens to be or what the policies are in the office. You spend so much time with your colleagues.” 

Has their work changed how you feel about government?

Tom: “My time in the government is just one perspective, and I’m not sure how helpful it is, because government is so huge. Your experience in one area of the government can be so different than another. The area I worked in was so different than where they worked, so it’s more useful in the general sense. I was very happy and I think they’re happy, so it’s become a joke in the family that my wife is the only one who isn’t a federal employee.”

What do you hope your child gets out of their career in public service?

Tom: “I have no idea where my daughters will be in 20 years. I hope that they continue to have a sense of fulfillment in their jobs and a sense that they are serving the public. Those two naturally fit together. Of course I hope that they have good salary and benefits too, but I want them to feel like they made a difference.”

We also wanted to get some insights from a couple of fathers working in government:

Shahin and Family

Shahin and Family

What do you do?

Christopher Morgan-Riess: “I’m a PMF in the Department of Homeland Security.”

Shahin Saloom: “I am an Assistant General Counsel for a component within the Department of Defense.”

How old are your children? Do they understand what you do yet?

Christopher: “2 & ½ and 7 months. The older one asked today what I do at work. I just told him I’m a lawyer and, if he’s feeling fancy, I’m an attorney.”

Shahin: “My son is four. He wants credit for being four and three-quarters. He just knows I keep bad people from messing up the Army.”

Looking back, do you see a difference in how you think about your career now that you have kids?

Christopher: “Before I had kids, I was looking for jobs. Whatever suited my wants and needs. When I had kids, I started to think about careers because I wanted to find something that suited this new lifestyle.”

Shahin: “Totally. Before my career was just a career thing. Now I think all about my hours and the stability. I want to spend time with my son. My time at home went from being not a concern to the primary concern. I think it’s increased my patience and my capacity for long-term thinking. The bureaucratic nonsense doesn’t bother me as much.”

Are there things other parents working in the government have said or done which make sense to you now?

Christopher: “The most obvious one is the general exhaustion that only kids can wreak on you. I certainly sympathize more now with the bleary eyes you see in the morning. Now I understand what’s it’s like to kept awake most or all of the night.”

Shahin: “My parents were more traditional old-school. They worked and came home. I absorbed what was going on in their life by osmosis. I make a big effort to be sure that my son understands what I do and why.”

The interviews and article were conducted and written by Joseph Maltby.

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Don’t Wait For Opportunities to Find You

Since joining YGL, I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many smart, qualified, and dedicated government employees working hard to make an impact, grow their careers, and support their agencies’ missions. It is an honor to work alongside them and in some cases, mentor them.

When I talked about my journey through government, I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to rise quickly. People always ask: “What is your secret? How did you get your chance? Is it your dashing good looks?” Ok, I made up the third one up, but while I do admit that I have had some luck and great timing, I generally respond with some version of one of my favorite quotes from Sir Francis Bacon:

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds”

Sir Francis Bacon, a portrait

Sir Francis Bacon, a portrait

(Sir Francis Bacon – A sharp dresser and a sharp mind)

Changing your mindset

There is a common saying in entrepreneurship that you pass around 100 million-dollar ideas everyday, you just have to be aware enough to recognize them. The best opportunities aren’t handed to you; you need to find them. The same can be said in your career.

We can often get caught up in the mindset of “this is my path,” but in doing so, lose sight of the opportunities right before our eyes. The more we open ourselves up to the unknown, the better chance we have to recognize something we couldn’t see before.

Strategies for moving forward

While talking about the theory of “making opportunities” is fun, I would rather discuss HOW we can actually change our mindsets to be more attuned to opportunities.

There are many ways to make new opportunities but there is no perfect strategy. Often times new mindsets and opportunities come from places that you never expected.

Because everyone loves lists (thanks Buzzfeed), I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite strategies from people much more successful than me on how to open yourself up to new opportunities and be more proactive in your career.  This list is by no means comprehensive and every strategy may not work for every situation, but life is unpredictable and I want you to be as prepared as possible.

  1. Find a need and fill it – There are endless opportunities to be doing things better and more efficiently through new skills, better expertise, or just simply finding time to solve a problem. Find where your team is weak and expand your role.
  2. If you want to work on a project, figure out a way to make it happen – This is where you need to get creative. Maybe you can’t support the entire project, but if you can help with a small piece of it with just your spare time, you will gain great insight, experience, and exposure to the overall project.
  3. Don’t pass up an opportunity because you don’t know how to do something – We live in the age of information. If you want to do something, learn how to do it – books, youtube, classes, etc. are right at your fingertips.
  4. Say yes to as much as possible – You never know what you’re going to learn, who you are going to meet, and what connections are going to be made. There is rarely a “perfect time” to take on a new challenge. Try to avoid that trap and instead be willing to give something a try.
  5. Always put your best foot forward – Most people think of this phrase with projects they don’t like, but we need to redefine it to also include how we interact with others. People think that opportunities come from above, but most opportunities actually come from former coworkers. Remember, everyone wants to work with people they like.
  6. Join YGL – Obviously

You don’t need to try all of these at once (although you should join YGL immediately if you aren’t a member), but these are great strategies to help get you unstuck. Give them a try and see what you think, but always remember that the opportunities are out there – you just have to be able to recognize them.

This article was written by Kevin Richman.

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Applications Now Open for YGL’s Leadership Development Fellowship

The goal of the program is to help early-career young government professionals (GS-9-GS-12)  to achieve greater clarity around their career goals and to develop the skills that align to their goals over the course of the program so that they can move to the next level in their career.

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Training and Development – A Benefit in Progress

The Fascination for Knowledge

Millenials grew up with access to the latest technology and the Internet but they also saw the market crash in 2008. The increasingly high cost of living changed their outlook for the future and led them to reexamine their career goals. Nowadays, more Millennials are choosing to take advantage of obtaining a graduate degree in order to increase their chances of obtaining a well-paying job in an increasingly competitive market. For some, however, going back to school is simply a way to satisfy their craving for learning.

Continuing Education

Training and DevelopmentA recent study from Forbes showed that Millennials value training and development the highest among the dozen categories of benefits offered in the workplace. These results showed that Millennials want to continuously learn new things and develop skills as they grow in their careers.

The Challenges in Training and Development

Training costs money and since government agencies have a responsibility to tax payers to use funds appropriately on every level of the organization, getting approval for training courses and other professional development programs for agency employees can be challenging at times. There’s the approval process, which in itself can take ages. Then there’s always the possibility of pushback from higher ups because the program office do not have the budget or the resources to cover your absence. If government agency practices continue to derail opportunities for information starved Millennials, they are in danger of losing emerging leaders in government. TinyPulse, an organization that studies employee engagement and retention stated that 75% of Millennials would consider leaving their job if they don’t see options for professional development. This telling statistic makes it clear that Millennials consider training and professional development a priority and a major deciding factor in their careers.

How to Find the Balance?

Training and DevelopmentIt can be frustrating when something like government bureaucracy prevents you from getting approval for training that will enhance your skills in your current role. The best thing to do is to remain pro-active when it comes to your career and take advantage of every resource available to you including those outside of your agencies. Keep in mind that professional and even personal development opportunities can come in different forms. Some are through formal channels such as agency driven organizational initiatives like shadow and mentor programs, lunch and learn meetings, and/or lecture series presented at your agencies. You can also take advantage of the vast amount of internet-based trainings available for free and professional organizations such as Young Government Leaders that offer similar opportunities. Finally, come up with a strong case as to why a training or conference is important for your development as an employee and volunteer to share lessons learned with the agency upon return. Work with your supervisor and director in developing an individual development plan because understanding the barriers to accessing training and development in your organization will help you close that gap.

This article was written by By Doni Mckoy

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Getting to Know YGL Moms on Mother’s Day

YGL Moms

Carol & Julia Zur

Today is Mother’s Day and we thought it would be a good time to hear from some inspired moms who raised the next generation of young leaders and learn about their perspective on their children’s careers and on public service in general.

Joni Pfeffer’s daughter Danielle is a YGL member from the Greater Kansas City Chapter. Janice McKoy’s daughter Doniella serves on the YGL National Board while Janice Nealy’s daughter Ashley is President of the YGL Atlanta Chapter. Carol Zur’s daughter Julia is a new employee at the Department of Health and Human Services working in Rockville, Maryland and Branka Balac’s daughter Jovanka serves on the YGL National Board.

When asked, what do you say your child does?

Joni: “I tell them proudly that she works for OSHA and she’s a whistleblower investigator.”

Janice M: “She’s an emergency manager for the New York City Office of Emergency Management. I wouldn’t say I have details, but overall I know she pulls different agencies together in an emergency. She protects people.”

Janice N: “She works for Treasury and she works in IT. I know she does the website, and she talks about tickets from people.”

Carol: “She works for SAMSHA. She works at HHS with opioid research and projects related to financing health services.”

Branka: “She’s working for the government. I don’t know what, but every time I talk to her, she’s happy and she’s smiling, so I assume she likes it.”

YGL Moms

Jovanka & Branka Balac

Why is the work they do important?

Joni: “She helps people who are the underdog and are trying to do the right thing. It’s helping people who’ve been wronged.”

Janice M: “Any kind of essential service that protects people, if it’s a civic duty, I think it’s important.

Janice N: “She keeps the public informed and makes sure they have the information they need.”

Carol: “So many people need behavioral, mental health, and addiction services and it’s not a high priority for the powers that be.  Hopefully the work she does will have an impact on the funding of social services.”

Branka: “I can see how she’s taken care of, that she likes what she does—not just likes, but values what she does—and she has a lot of possibilities. That’s what ‘important” means to me, taking care of her.”

What did they want to be when they grew up?

YGL Moms

Danielle Abbott & Joni Pfeffer

Joni: “I don’t remember now. I remember talking to her about being a lawyer because she liked to argue (laughs).”

Janice M: “I think she wanted to be an anesthesiologist for a really long time until her guidance counselor talked her out of it.”

Janice N: “I remember at one time she wanted to work on animated movies, like Disney movies.”

Carol: “Once she was in high school, and certainly in college, she had a real soft spot for homeless people. She wanted to do something to help them, and the mentally ill among them, but she wasn’t sure in what way.”

Branka: “I remember she was always saying she was going to be a a brain surgeon. She said she wanted to operate on her aunt and I. I didn’t worry, because she was scared of blood.”

Do they like their job? Why?

Joni: “She loves her job. It’s mentally stimulating. We used to call her ‘the rule police’ when she was a kid. Now that’s what she does for a living, enforces the rules. She finds the cases interesting and each one is different.”

Janice M: “I think she does. She’s very civic-minded and wants to make a difference. In a crisis, she can try.”

Carol: “I think she’s passionate about the causes. There’s a lot of red tape though and I know that frustrates her. She is learning a lot and feels she is helping to create change for underserved populations.”

Branka: “She likes it. She’s told me many times. She’s had jobs before with a lot of pressure, and I never saw her smile.”

YGL Moms

Ashley & Janice Nealy

Has their work changed how you feel about government?

Joni: “I work for the government myself. It’s a great place to be: the pay and benefits are good and it’s a secure place to be. The other side is that the government is a huge bureaucratic organization and you have to deal with a lot of bureaucrats and bureaucratic b.s.. That trickles down and you deal with it on the front lines sometimes. As screwed up as the government can be, I believe that we have the best country out there.”

Janice M: “I think it’s scary that they don’t pay them enough. They encourage them to find a roommate! If you’re a decision-maker in a crisis, you should get paid enough to have a roof over your head. We don’t take care of people who are providing an essential service.”

Carol: “Having worked in local government for many years, I am familiar with policies, politics and red tape. On the flip side, I’m also familiar with the many dedicated people working for the government who actually are able to institute change. I think she’s observed the same.”

Branka: “In the government, you have a job and you aren’t scared. One day I might come in to work and not have a job. If I was younger, I’d be looking for a government job.”

What do you hope your child gets out of their career in public service?

Joni: “I see her as a leader. I’d love to see her rise up in administration. She’s one of the fairest people I’ve ever known and I want to see her get what she deserves.”

YGL Moms

Doniella & Janice McKoy

Janice M: “Are you kidding me? I still haven’t figured out what I want to do! I’m sure that she’ll still be doing something that helps people’s lives. I don’t see her stopping that. She’s a very tenacious person.”

Janice N: “I hope she can get into a leadership position one day. She does a lot of training in leadership and so I think she’d like to follow that path. She has a lot of activities outside of work and she’s always taking the lead. She makes sure to get things done. I don’t know how she finds so much time in the day, but she finds the time.”

Carol: “I hope that she’s able to see some of her dreams to come to fruition. I hope she maintains her passion and enthusiasm and that she is able to impact the lives of many people. She has a wonderful work ethic and I’m confident that will remain. If she stays in the public service field, I hope she is able to take on a higher leadership role and move mountains for the underserved.”

Branka: “I came to the U.S. from Bosnia. All of the English I know is what she taught me. I never got a nice job like the one she has and I had to work and work and work to take care of my family. We’ve worked very hard to give her a chance for an education and not to want for anything. She is so smart and she’s seen so much of the world already, I am so proud of her. My goal would be that she continues doing what she likes and establishes roots in a field like that for most of her career. With all the trouble I went through to have her, and bring her here, I want her to have the best.”

We also spoke to a young leader who is a mother herself, to get her insights. Miesha is Vice President of the YGL Greater Kansas City Chapter.

YGL Moms

Miesha Carr & Family

What do you do?

Miesha: “I work for DHS. I’m also a mother of three.”

How old are your children? Do they understand what you do yet?

Miesha: “12, 3, and 1. The way the 12 year-old describes it, I work for the President. It’s hard to explain it to her. I think she just assumes I work all day to support her needs and wants.”

Are there things other parents working in the government have said or done which make sense to you now?

Miesha: “I was fortunate enough to work with several moms with teenagers. One of the biggest things they used to say was how important it is to cherish your time with your children. They won’t always be young; they won’t always look up to you the way they do now. I took that to heart and now I take every chance I get to spend time with them and cherish them right now.”

This article was written by Joseph Maltby.

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Let Young Feds Solve the Government Demographic Crisis

Government Demographic crisis

Changing Demographics via Flickr by Knoll Inc, CC BY-NC-ND, 2.0

GovExec recently reported that the IRS sees a looming demographics crisis caused by low recruitment of younger workers coupled with an ever-growing share of its workforce eligible for retirement: 40% by 2018.  As Commissioner Koskinen put it, “…if we don’t have enough young workers in the pipeline, the IRS will have great difficulty developing the next group of leaders it needs 5 or 10 years down the road.”

This isn’t just one agency’s challenge.  According to OPM, less than 1% of the federal workforce was under the age of 25 in 2013, and approximately 6.5% was under 30.  Analysis by Deloitte suggests this isn’t because younger workers aren’t interested in federal service, but because there haven’t been enough jobs available to the average young person interested in federal service.  To make matters worse, the wave of retirements may start sooner than 2019.  The GAO reports that 30% of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire by September 2017 and that attrition from the federal workforce has been increasing since 2012.  

In searching for tomorrow’s leaders to carry on the valuable work our federal agencies perform and to secure the legacy today’s leaders will leave behind, agencies must seek new solutions.  Luckily, they have a valuable and often overlooked asset in this quest: their existing young workforce.  No one understands young potential recruits like their peers inside the government.  It’s like having a free market research group inside your agency.  This is a group of people who are passionate about serving the public and craving opportunities to make a difference.  Agencies can use them to help fill the pipeline of future leaders.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons Millennials leave government is because they feel disconnected and their careers are stagnant. With that in mind, here are three potential solutions to resolve the looming government demographic crisis involving recruitment and retention:

  1. Have Employee Resource Groups (ERG) catering Millennials. Research has shown, that ERGs are a proven way not to only raising cultural awareness but to increase retention.
  2. Develop a portfolio of learning and development opportunities encompassing mentoring, coaching and leadership development programs. Millennials crave constant learning. Limited budgets hinder the growth of young employees needing training to move their career forward.
  3. Highlight programs that benefit work-life balance. In other words, embrace the motto work hard play even harder.

But it won’t be enough to change the way young people are recruited or the programs agencies implement to keep them engaged.  Agencies must also be open to changing how they think about jobs, career paths, and workplace culture in order to ensure that there is a constant flow of new ideas and fresh blood revitalizing the federal government.  Federal agencies, like all workplaces, are beginning to feel the influence of new generations on their standard practices.  This is a chance to start a dialogue with young workers and future recruits. The agencies and leaders who are most open to new ideas will be the ones that succeed at sustaining their workforce of the future. As a result, agencies will be able to successfully continue implementing their mission. In addition, they will be at the forefront of building a better model of federal service for employees of all ages, which will be a competitive advantage when seeking top talent.

As President of Young Government Leaders (YGL), I’ve had the privilege of talking to many of my peers inside and outside our organization.  I’ve heard their passion for service, their enthusiasm for the mission, sense of innovation and creativity, and their burning desire to stand up and be counted.  When we bring them together for trainings, events, and conferences, we hear one question above all else: “How can I make a difference?” Allowing us to lead the way in resolving this demographic crisis is one answer to that question.  The federal government has many challenges to face in the years ahead and all those we serve are counting on us to find a way forward.  We won’t let them down.

This piece was written by Joseph Maltby with contributions from Miguel Joey Aviles.

Miguel Joey Aviles is the President of Young Government Leaders, the only 501 (c)3 non-profit professional organization founded by, and led by, young government employees. He is an emerging leader advocate and works as a Program Manager in Leadership Development at a federal agency.

Joseph Maltby is the YGL Research and Advocacy Director, overseeing research for the organization as well as helping YGL use the results to inform the public about the interests and needs of the next generation in government.  He is a change management consultant for a federal agency.

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What the Future of Human Capital Looks Like

Deloitte released the results of its 2016 Annual Human Capital Trends Survey and the revelations were all too familiar. As it turns out, government employees are facing almost the same challenges as our private sector counterparts. Here were some of the highlights.

The private sector is also concerned about demographics.

From the report: “Millennials now make up more than half the workforce, and they bring high expectations for a rewarding, purposeful work experience, constant learning and development opportunities, and dynamic career progression. At the same time, Baby Boomers working into their 70s and 80s are being challenged to adapt to new roles as mentors, coaches, and often subordinates to junior colleagues.”

There have been hundreds of blog posts and articles about generations in the government workforce over the past few years and OPM covers the topic as part of last year’s REDI workforce roadmap. This is happening everywhere.

We may soon be facing more technological change at work. 

Technologies such as mobile devices, 3D printing, sensors, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things are changing the way companies design, manufacture, and deliver almost every product and service, while digital disruption and social networking have changed the way organizations hire, manage, and support people.”

While the private sector embraced technological change, government remained mostly in the dark ages. The resistance to change however is slowly crumbling, therefore expect to see the same technologies now impacting corporate life appear in government offices over the next 5-10 years.

Career paths are changing for everyone, but faster in the private sector.

The days when a majority of workers could expect to spend a career moving up the ladder at one company are over. Young people anticipate working for many employers and demand an enriching experience at every stage. This leads to expectations for rapid career growth, a compelling and flexible workplace, and a sense of mission and purpose at work.”

Government employees stay longer in their jobs, nearly twice as long according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that is shortening, especially as the public sector workforce gets younger. As people move around and as their expectations change, will government professional development programs keep up? The private sector is struggling, with half of executives surveyed saying their companies aren’t ready to meet leadership needs.

Employee engagement matters everywhere.

Human Capital Trends

Top 10 Trends (Courtesy of Deloitte University Press)

“Last year, ‘culture and engagement’ ranked as the most important issue overall. This year…both [culture and engagement] placed near the top of the importance list, with 86 percent citing culture as an important or very important issue.”

Just as it was on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the private sector employees also felt that employee engagement within the workplace was important and will remain relevant for years to come. As such, the younger employees in both private and public sectors will be playing a crucial role in shaping a new work culture for the future.

This article was written by Joseph Maltby.

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Why I Joined YGL

Why I joined YGL

Pondering What Lies Ahead, Image via Flickr by Rick Phillips, CC BY-SA 2.0

I first heard about YGL from an ex-colleague just as I was starting my new career. The details she gave me were vague but it was enough to pique my curiosity. I researched the site and ended up signing up for the newsletter. Couldn’t hurt right? After all, the concept that it was an organization filled with young professionals working in federal government greatly appealed to me. Little did I know that me signing up to receive the YGL newsletter will eventually lead to me becoming its editor.

In all honesty, the primary reason I joined YGL was to make friends. I was (and still am to an extent) very new to federal government and to the Washington, D.C., metro so I wanted to connect with people my own age that understood what it is like to work for the government. It wasn’t long after I started my government career when I realized that life in a federal agency was a completely new ball game. It was particularly challenging for Millennials like me so I sought to find teammates who not only shared the same interests, but also have the same forward thinking attitudes.

The second was to widen my professional network and YGL seemed like a great place to start. I identified with being young, both in age and career level within government, and I always thought of myself as a natural leader. What I liked most was YGL’s pitch about providing “a voice to aspiring government leaders.” It signaled to me that this was an organization that welcomes change and isn’t afraid of evolving. The career advancement opportunities were aplenty too. Finally, the membership was free. I weighed the pros and cons of joining and the decision, really, was a no-brainer.

I’ve only been on the YGL leadership board since December of 2015. Despite that short tenure I can honestly say that the rewards have exceeded my expectations. Not only have I met plenty of interesting folks, I became friends with some of them too. In addition to expanding my social network, I’ve also picked up tips about organizational management, leadership, and communications that I began to apply within my own agency. The results are encouraging thus far proving once and for all that any empowered “young” person in government has the capability to facilitate change, a little bit at a time.

What’s your YGL story? Share your own motivations for joining the organization and let us know your personal and professional success stories.

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Keys to Navigating the Business Environment

This lecture will provide guidance and strategies for young professionals as you strive to develop the knowledge and techniques that will make you successful in navigating the challenging business environment in the Public and Private sectors. It takes you from where you are now through the next steps of your career, covering topics such as personal branding, goal setting, the recognition of business and personal agendas, and the interplay of all these within the formal and informal structures of an organization. The concepts shared are easily relatable, enabling you to develop your own strategies as you prepare to advance in the business environment. By providing you with tools to recognize the impact of competitive forces on your plans and identifying key tactical steps that you can take to ensure success, the highly interactive and engaging session will help you extract real value relative to your position in life and the next steps you will be facing in your careers.

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Ensuring the Future of Public Service in Information Technology

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