Sill civilian makes most of mentoring
May 24, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Midway through Installation Management Command's centralized mentorship program, Tom Easterly is learning aspects about senior leaders and himself that he believes will make him a better person, Army civilian employee and leader.
With restructuring going on across the Army and an uncertain future in regards to budgets, Easterly advised other government civilians to consider applying for the program.
"If you're looking to move up into higher levels of service, you have to go for the mentorship and developmental assignment programs while they are out there," said Easterly. "You can't wait for someone else to run your career."
Serving as a management analyst at the Fort Sill Plans, Analysis and Integration Office, he recently returned from a weeklong mentoring visit to Headquarters, Installation Management Command where he shadowed Karen Perkins, IMCOM director of administration and a Senior Executive Service civilian.
At his first meeting, Easterly sat at the back of the conference room intent to listen and observe, but Perkins had other ideas. Shadow only conveyed part of what happened for the Sill civilian as Perkins directed him to sit beside her and participate in the dialogue.
"I felt important and that the mentorship program had a lot of meaning to it, because she included me," he said. "I saw first-hand in a variety of settings how she interacted with her staff on a daily basis, and how she worked with other Army senior leaders, such as general officers and senior civilians."
He quickly realized Perkins had the ability to, as he said, "assert her authority without asserting her authority."
Responding to someone who got upset or emotional, Perkins would calmly remind the other person she didn't raise her voice and requested that person to respond accordingly, said Easterly. He said that was a skill he is working to improve.
When not shadowing Perkins, he met with other senior Army civilians to gain a more complete view of how a major Army command functions.
He said there are many "behind the scenes" Army civilians working hard to get issues resolved and provide the knowledge for top level civilians and general officers to make decisions.
"I witnessed how these decisions affect thousands of DA civilians," said Easterly.
The yearlong mentorship program provides direct development of mentees through mentor and senior mentor oversight with an SES member as the director of each team. These professionals coach and counsel each mentee and help them create an enhanced Individual Development Plan.
The mentee teams also work a special project. For Easterly, that project is a garrison level development assignment program. He and his team will brief Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, IMCOM commander, on how they propose the DAP would work at a garrison.
"The idea is to move interested people between directorates who are looking to try something new or looking for career broadening 60-day assignments. Once their time is done, they would return to their regular job. Garrisons wouldn't lose an experienced employee, and with money tight, it wouldn't cost anything to implement," he said.
The IMCOM mentorship program is open to General Schedule and Non-Appropriated Fund employees in grades equivalent to GS 11-13 for mentees and GS 14-15 for mentors.
Taking charge of his career progression, Easterly remained committed to self-improvement.
"Everything you do makes you a more valuable employee to the Army," he said. "Education is important, and I push that to other civilians I work with; if it gets rougher, it may come down to what you have in your rucksack or what do you bring to the table."
With another promotion, he will be eligible for senior level training and build on his education. This should help him reach his five-year goal, to be a director here, or given restructuring, a division chief perhaps. Ten years down the line he wants to be in the SES.
"This mentorship program was a once-in-a-career opportunity, and I was honored to have been able to take advantage of it," he said.