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Guest Vern Edwards

Ignorance and incompetence are the diseases that plague our field. There is nothing worse than to know what you're doing and find yourself in an office full of supervisors and employees who do not, but who think they do. It has happened to me and it's a terrible experience. Once you're in that situation you must either change the office, which is do-able if you're the new supervisor, but which is not do-able otherwise, or let the office change you. The only other choice is to get out as fast as you can.

The only advice I can give is to check out prospective places of employment as thoroughly as possible. First, the best time to look for a new job is when you don't need one. Second, before going to a new assignment, especially if you must move your home and family, invest in an airplane ticket and a few nights in a hotel and ask to visit the office for a couple of days and hang out with your prospective supervisor and co-workers. Don't take the job if they don't want you to do that. If they don't mind, then visit. Talk to people and look at files and work spaces. Size up the place and the people. It's not a guarantee, but it's better than taking a shot in the dark. Check out their solicitations on FedBizOpps. Check to see if they're mentioned in protest decisions. Check for IG reports. Don't be seduced by the prospect of a promotion. A bad job isn't worth the money, and there are more bad ones than good ones in contracting.

On the other hand, if the job is taking over an office, then don't take over an office that is well-run and where the boss is highly respected. Not if you're ambitious. That will be like taking the UCLA basketball's coach job right after John Wooden. You can't win. Instead, take the job running the worst office in the known universe and then go at fixing it. If you can't, they'll say that nobody could. If you make any improvement at all they'll think you're a genius. If you're not ambitious, then take a job running a good office under a pleasant but not-too-bright boss in a beautiful locale with a nice climate and then go along with the program. Sign with a smile everything that won't put you in jail.

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Once you're in that situation you must either change the office, which is do-able if you're the new supervisor, but which is not do-able otherwise, or let the office change you. The only other choice is to get out as fast as you can.

Exactly. I commenced actively looking to get out at 3 months into it and after some soul searching that boiled down to "my time is too valuable for this b.s." In my application I checked off "do not contact my present supervisor" and explained that I had done so truthfully because of the "awkwardness of desiring to leave so early." Kept quiet. Applied once with a little background checking, got an interview, then accepted the lateral and was out of there just shy of 8 months. It proved to be a most positive choice.

I considered my short time in the uber dysfunctional office as a valuable experience and most fascinating to clinically take-in, more so when I knew I was a short-timer.

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If you're not ambitious, then take a job running a good office under a pleasant but not-too-bright boss in a beautiful locale with a nice climate and then go along with the program. Sign with a smile everything that won't put you in jail.

Best advice EVER!

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I love the work with my new agency and I am learning new things everyday. I HATED my old agency with a passion. WHAT A DYSFUNCTIONAL PLACE! They alienated and chased all of the experienced contracting people out within a year!

It was so stressful. Illegal crap that was taking place. Ex. I had a project that was CLEARLY services as it was for security services. I had negotiated the contract price and told the PMs and the contractor it was a service contract and that service wages were to be used. At the time I was pregnant and on work at home because I was on bedrest. My boss (get to him in a minute) went behind my back, changed it to a constuction contract (exactly what construction were they doing?) so the guards would get Davis Bacon wages and added an additional 100k in costs with NO change in the SOW. At that time, I had had enough of him and went out immediately on maternity leave. I stayed out 6 months. During that 6 months I was applying for other jobs. One came open in my office. I was the ONLY one left with any contracting experience. He pulled a 3 person panel that included the Chief and 2 project managers that knew NOTHING about contracting. I was actually insulted. A week later my new agency called to interview me for a position they had open. A promotion as well. I interviewed for it and it was all contracting staff that knew what they were doing. I came back on May 26th. I was hired by my new agency 3 days later. BTW, I was passed over in my own office. It sure did feel good to say I quit! Last I heard they replaced me with an intern. Anyway, when I was first pregnant, the new chief took over. He was a Captain in the AF that had just retired. He had all of his classes and certifications. He was on the contract admin side. In his entire career, he had written ONE contract modification. They got him because they wanted a yes man and that is what they got. Everyone that knew anything about contracting had left and were replaced with interns. The kicker, the interns were being trained by the 1106 with NO contracting classes or experience because the Chief did not know how to train them. VERY SCARY.

I heard from PMs and some other people I keep in touch with at the agency that it has been a disaster since I left. I am like GOOD.

My new agency has been awesome. They gave me a 10k payraise to a GS 12. They know what they are doing. Everyone is nice and no one is trying to stab you in the back. After being there for 6 months, they let me change to an office a 5 minute commute from my house instead of the 100 mile RT I was commuting before. The contract writing software is MUCH easier to use. They offered me work at home last week. So I have no complaints. It's crazy busy. Better to be busy then twiddling thumbs. I wonder why I did not take this same job when it was offered to me 2 years ago (turned down because I was pregnant)! I don't have PMs running behind my back crying and making veiled threats to get their work through. It's done right.

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I just noticed an interesting and timely article for this thread in Federal Computer Week by Steve Kelman.

http://fcw.com/Blogs/Lectern/2010/02/steve...c-sourcing.aspx

Here's a couple of quotes. The first concerns a comparsion Steve makes about interviewing newbies versus more senior people.

"I asked both groups to tell me one thing they had done professionally over the past year or so of which they were proud, and to share one thing that frustrated them. The newbies told only of frustrations. The more-senior folks emphasized achievements of which they were proud, and there were some interesting patterns in responses.

One source of pride (mentioned by two of the people around the table) was working with program people to persuade them of the value of competition in recompeting a contract. One person told about a customer who wanted to recompete a contract as a sole source, in a situation in which many firms that could have been able to do the work. The contracting person persuaded the customer to test the marketplace, and the result was a good vendor, with whom the customer is satisfied (not the incumbent) at a 20 percent lower cost.

Two people also talked about working to better understand what was being bought, so the contracting person could contribute more to the procurement process. Listening to both these people, it became clear that they were quite knowledgeable about the marketplace in the area where they were buying."

This is intriguing to me because I was fortunate enough to have always find work excited and rarely frustrated. I started out as a GS-5 intern and spent most of my first two years supporting a senior contract specialist. He taught me well and let me grow as fast as I could. One of the contracts I worked with him on was terminated for default. We did the reprocurement on a sole source basis due to urgency and the terminated contractor filed a claim with the GSBCA for the excess reprocurement costs. At the time of the trial, I had moved on to another assignment as a GS-9 but was called back by the government as a witness to support the government's case. My brand new boss was amazed and wondered what could a young GS-9 could add to a huge claim valued in the millions. He didn't understand that my former mentor had me so indoctrinated I knew almost about the matter as he did as far as deciding only one source had the production capacity to perform on time.

So I learned the value of mentoring and letting people grow as fast as they can and want to.

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