A leadership mentoring program started by business management leaders from three different Program Executive Offices (PEO) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, aims to ensure their staff are equipped with the guidance and knowledge needed to build professional relationships, develop clear career goals and establish a productive working environment.
The APG Business Financial Management Group Mentoring Program (APG BFM) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. kicked off Dec. 7, welcoming participants from the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) and Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) to the first in a series of eight classroom meetings on leadership mentoring and career development.
“This is a way for us to reach out to our business management division personnel,” said Adrianne Paolercio, Business Management Division Chief at PEO IEW&S and a mentoring program lead. “You’re always working, you come into the office, you’re doing your job, but there’s nobody to tell you how to become the next business management leader. There’s no guide or anything like that.”
The APG BFM may have the answer.
Throughout the program, mentor and mentees will meet on a regular basis over four consecutive months with each 90-minute meeting focusing on a specific topic. The meetings are collaborative where participants can trade professional development and career growth ideas in a group setting rather than the more traditional format of an experienced mentor lecturing mentees on how to get ahead.
The meetings are held in a “safe” environment where mentees can comfortably engage mentors with ideas and thoughts about their careers and care share lessons through individual experiences.
“Sometimes it’s scary to do something new, to get a new job, and I think having somebody else who says, ‘this is how I did it’ and, ‘if you want that, then do it this way,’ is helpful,” Paolercio said. “This program gives people the confidence to come out of their comfort zone and try something new.”
George Sfakianoudis, Chief Financial Officer at JPEO-CBRND and a mentoring program lead, applauded the program for encouraging business leaders to address career development interests expressed by the staff throughout their organizations.
“I’m always getting phone calls from people asking about career advice,” he said. “It is just a matter of carving out that time to ensure that we can provide the best opportunities [for our workforce].”
APG BFM marks JPEO-CBRND’s initial involvement in a professional leadership mentoring program and Sfakianoudis hopes it will continue beyond the initial 8-session run expected to conclude by early 2023.
“People development is huge, and we don’t have enough of that. We have a lot of trainings, but we don’t have that leadership step on how to build that GS-13 and NH3 up to the GS-14 and NH4 level. This program will help bridge that gap.”
For Kelly Curran, Budget Management Division Director at PEO C3T and a mentoring program lead, providing the workforce with professional development opportunities is important at her organization.
“PEO C3T definitely has an emphasis on our people and trying to help them succeed in their careers,” she said. “So, we are always looking for opportunities to influence and help people. This is one of the many opportunities we make available for our employees.”
The meetings cover a range of topics from networking and collaboration to technical expertise and team management, and participants (mentees) are asked to speak about specific areas of their own career paths rather come to the meetings looking for professional advice.
“The point of the program is to go through the structure, but not just a one-way approach where we are just telling people what to do or how to do it,” Curran explained. “The point is to have a collaborative effort where we are all sharing and networking together to improve upon on what we’re doing, and running things both ways, so, it’s not just mentors sitting there giving a lecture, it’s a communication back-and-forth between mentors and mentees as we go through different exercises and discuss different scenarios.”
Although APG BFM’s structure follows the same format Curran used when she previously mentored with the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) in San Diego, mentoring leaders from different organizations presents a unique challenge.
“We are following [NAVWAR’s] framework and using their materials. The difference is, for us, we are using three different PEOs focusing on leadership at a higher level,” she said. “When I [mentored] at the NAVWAR, the BMD mentors were at the O-6 level. It was more homogenous, within the same organization. So, this will be a bit more challenging with using three different organizations and all of us figuring out how we do things differently.”
For Karlyn A. Hughes, a budget analyst with PEO IEW&S’s Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber, participating in the leadership mentoring program run by three different PEOs provides mentees with a unique opportunity to learn about other organizations.
“Being selected to participate in the program is a privilege that will provide me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience across the PEOs through a network of contacts that will be valuable beyond the duration of this program,” Hughes said. “I look forward to gaining valuable insight and lessons learned from the mentors’ work experiences as well as enhance my professional development through the support of both the mentors and mentees.”
“My goal is to advance my personal and professional development through this program and pass on my knowledge and experiences to others. I am grateful for the partnership that formed to bring this program to life,” Hughes said.