Considered the ‘backbone of a successful organization,’ administrative professionals at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command are learning about new trends and tools to help them perform their jobs in a five-part series, Navigating the Future of Administrative Work; Embracing Innovation and Beyond. The series coincides with Administrative Professionals Day, observed April 26.
“Administrative professionals play a vital role in ensuring things run smoothly. From scheduling appointments and managing budgets, to handling customer service and coordinating meetings, administrative professionals are the unsung heroes who keep everything on track,” said Kelly Foster, who organized the series. Foster hopes to educate administrative professionals about tools and trends of the future, including how artificial intelligence can be used to perform daily tasks.
Foster works at DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory but is currently on a temporary assignment at DEVCOM Headquarters as the executive officer to the commanding general, Maj. Gen. Edmond ‘Miles’ Brown.
“I’ve held a variety of positions across the business domain, which has made me an advocate for the administrative profession. I see how AI will impact our profession, and I’m working to get our community ahead of the game so people are aware of new AI tools as they become available,” Foster said.
Foster began her career as a clerk/typist 37 years ago at DEVCOM ARL. She has held numerous positions at ARL in fields including: information technology; data management; contracts; finance; and program management. She was the program manager for the eCYBERMISSION STEM program at ARL, where she managed a $5M annual budget. Foster was also the Lean Six Sigma employment director. In that role, she led the program, set up training, mentored Black and Green Belt candidates, and communicated with leadership about the program.
“One of my goals is to have an administrative professional advocate at each DEVCOM technology center as part of a larger administrative professionals’ community within the command,” Foster said.
The administrative professionals speaker series, which was held virtually via MS Teams, kicked off with a presentation featuring Chynna Clayton, former assistant to Michelle Obama. Clayton is the founder and CEO of Matriarch Made Development, a consulting firm that helps organizations develop high performing administrative teams and identify and address inefficiencies in operating structure and events logistics. Clayton shared stories and experiences during her time in the White House as the director of travel and event operations.
Other presentations included: Career Compass for CP51 Professionals; AI Trends for the Administrative Professionals Community; Correspondence 101; and AI Tools for Administrative Professionals.
Ellen Wadsworth, DEVCOM Headquarters secretary of the general staff, and LaJuanda Sydnor, DEVCOM ARL executive staff administrator, presented Correspondence 101. They discussed the basics of Army Regulation 25-50, which is the Army regulation on preparing correspondence.
Wadsworth’s team is responsible for administrative tasks for the command group. Their supporting role includes reviewing and routing packets, tracking training, ordering supplies and ensuring timely completion of personnel evaluations.
“One of the key skills that a person needs to be a good administrative professional is attention to detail. There are so many details in any type of administrative work,” Wadsworth said.
Sarah Wheat, ARL branch chief for talent development and engagement, presented the Career Compass for CP51 Professionals session with Cynthia Barnett, Ph.D., career program manager at the Army Civilian Career Management Activity. CP51 is the ‘General Administration and Management’ career series within the Army Civilian Career Program. Barnett discussed changes to the CP51 functional community, including future career and leader development opportunities. The ACCMA, established in 2022, created a centralized support office and integrated 32 career programs into 11 broad career fields. Wheat presented four best practices to help employees jump-start and develop their careers.
“The administrative staff’s role has evolved over the last several years. In the past, they were primarily doing clerical and support duties. Today, they are often responsible for managing projects, coordinating events, conducting research, in addition to supporting leadership and large teams,” Wheat said.
Wheat began her career as an administrative assistant in 2003, after earning a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. She originally planned to be a lawyer but decided instead to begin working at U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center as an administrative assistant to be closer to family. She continued her education and earned a master’s degree in project management, along with multiple certifications. She is also a certified Gallup CliftonStrengths coach, which empowers her to facilitate coaching and training sessions for individuals and groups. Gallup CliftonStrengths is an assessment that helps people understand their strengths, how to apply strength-based approach to career growth, and what motivates them to do their best work.
Wheat is a strong advocate for continually growing and learning new skills. She believes AI can help administrative professionals work more efficiently and faster by automating some of their tasks.
“It’s important for administrative professionals to have a growth mindset and continue to learn personally and professionally. How can I be more productive and efficient? Learning new skills is key for the administrative workforce, including getting ahead of the learning curve by learning about AI technology,” Wheat said.
Maikel Powell, a management and program analyst at DEVCOM ARL, is the lead point of contact for the National Security Scholars Summer Internship Program for ARL’s Strategic Partnership Division. The robust program typically has approximately eight mentors who work with 60-80 students each summer. Powell believes communication, flexibility and being resourceful are key skills to be an effective administrative professional.
Powell’s advice to a new administrative professional is to take notes, to not take things personal, to attend trainings and workshops, and to work with a mentor. Powell has mentors in both her personal and professional life.
“Participate in as many trainings as you can. There is always something new to learn,” Powell said.
Continuous learning is a key theme throughout Foster’s career and one of the main reasons she organized the speaker series for administrative professionals. Foster has a bachelor’s degree in business and a Master of Business Administration. She also completed the Project Management Professional certification, and she is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt candidate. She mirrored this year’s series on prior series that she organized at DEVCOM ARL.
“Don’t be complacent or let fear hold you back. Research your next role and determine the skills you need to accomplish it. You don’t want an opportunity to appear and not be qualified for it, so try to be ahead of your career,” Foster said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and partners.