Every year, hundreds of captains write essays during their Captains Career Course. But for Captain Olumide Akanni, a former student at the Adjutant General Captain's Career Course, that essay turned into a follow-on assignment.
Akanni chose to write about the Integrated Personnel and Pay System -- Army (IPPS-A); the Army's 21st century personnel and pay system which leverages technology to transform industrial age Human Resources and pay processes into a data-rich, information-age system which helps the Army employ and retain the talent it needs for the future.
In his essay, Akanni argued that the viewpoint of business-like efficiency in managing personnel makes IPPS-A a logical next step to modernizing a severely outdated and decentralized human resource database.
"IPPS-A's ability to capture Soldier data and perform auditability seems like a chance for both the taxpayer and the government to get 'bang for their buck,'" said Akanni, the Talent and Strength Management Support Officer for IPPS-A's Functional Management Division (FMD). "The more you make the connections between individual talents and the needs of the job, the easier it is to see why this makes sense."
Unbeknownst to Akanni, two people were visiting the Captain's Career Course not long after he submitted his essay.
Col. James F. McNulty, former IPPS-A Project Manager, and Col. Gregory S. Johnson, Functional Management Division chief, were told upon their visit of a student who wrote a paper with an interesting viewpoint about their program.
After reading the paper, Johnson offered Akanni an assignment on his team.
"I was ecstatic because they honestly took a chance on me," said Akanni. "Being able to work on a program in an area you excel is a tremendous experience. I'm glad the colonels gave me an opportunity."
Akanni has a strong background in computer technology having worked with and on computers since he was 10 years old. One way this knowledge is utilized at IPPS-A is during interviews. Akanni has been tasked with conducting interviews and making recommendations on who IPPS-A should hire.
"It is one thing to know a little about computers, it's another thing to be a confident power user, programmer, networker, or just have a common understanding of today's rapidly changing computer infrastructure environment," said Akanni. "There are a lot of Soldiers who have knowledge we consider "gamer knowledge" -- or computer talent that comes as a byproduct of playing video games on computers. But when you start to ask about the Enterprise experience: things like networking or coding or data basing, you start to see who really has a firm understanding of the topics necessary for a project and who doesn't."
Akanni is especially proud that those he interviews seek jobs with IPPS-A; not the other way around.
"It makes a huge difference when people seek out the organization," said Akanni. "We want organizations that want people, and people that want to work for organizations. IPPS-A gives us a chance to make that a possibility."
Now in his second year on the project, Akanni values having learned to look at projects from a strategic standpoint instead of solely from a tactical perspective. He also values the mental toughness he's developed and how that toughness has carried into other areas of his life.
"I've learned more in one calendar year than in any year of my life," said Akanni. "This has been a crash course in being a strategic thinker, but it's been worth it. This is a rewarding project and like most places you get what you put in. I'm definitely tougher mentally from all aspects and that's translated to my approach to all things even physical training."
In addition to the pleasure he takes in having grown as a Soldier, Akanni is excited for what the future of managing talent and data will do for the Army as Soldiers' full skillsets will be brought to the forefront.
The Army Talent Alignment Process provides increased visibility of a Soldier's knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences. IPPS-A enables the Army Talent Alignment Process (ATAP) which allows commanders to determine the unique requirements of available duty positions and delivers Soldiers whose talents best aligns with the assignment, helping the Army increase Total Force readiness.
Active Component Officers will use the Assignment Interactive module (AIM) 2.0 to access the assignment marketplace until it becomes available in IPPS-A.
IPPS-A's "25-Point Talent Profile" will provide the data foundation for IPPS-A's capabilities managing talent and data and better enable the Army to manage the talents within its ranks. In essence helping enhance Soldier's resumes.
"Our resume is handed to us in the form of the Soldier Record Brief, but those briefs only tell part of the story," said Akanni. "People are our best resource in the Army. So, it makes sense as an organization that the same way we analyze our weapons systems and equipment is how we now will analyze our people."