MPA in Public & Nonprofit Management & Policy - 2011
What do you do in your current role?
I am currently a Senior Consultant with Deloitte. I work within their Business Risk service line, specifically in the area that focuses on government regulations. Presently, I have a Department of Defense (DoD) client. I am assisting the client with its regular budget formulation efforts and creating a financial strategy that links its past efforts to success on the battlefield in order to justify an enduring mission statement to remove its temporary organizational status within DoD. Furthermore, I am leading the client’s effort to implement a DoD enterprise financial systems policy that is mandated by Congress in order to make all military organizations completely auditable.
How did you decide to attend Wagner?
Upon graduating from the United States Military Academy in 2003, I was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army and became a leader actively involved in our country's expanding War on Terrorism. My two tours of duty in Iraq allowed me the opportunity to hone my management leadership skills in the most challenging of environments. Having this rare opportunity to be a decision maker in a combat zone with numerous complexities has extensively tested and expanded my skill sets.
I was often exposed to and given the responsibility of finding solutions to an array of difficult policy issues that affected our operating environment. Deep mistrust between rival factions coupled with concerns about the delivery of public services often threatened any fragile peace that we had worked hard to develop. As a resulted, I focused on actively engaging the public in order to create an environment of trust, security, and economic growth.
I was able to bring about positive change in Iraq that matters by bridging compromises between rival groups with deep hatred and anger towards one another. The ability to foster unity and cooperation is the foundation to my success in Iraq and it is what I am most proud of accomplishing while serving our country in the military. As a direct result of my contributions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, small businesses opened, schools were back in session, and some refugees returned back to Baghdad. Being a part of these success stories inspired me to continue a career in the public sector.
My time in the military was extremely rewarding both personally and professionally. More importantly, many of my experiences in Iraq demonstrated to me the unmatched effectiveness that local policy can produce in comparison to state or federal policies. I decided to attend Wagner to expand my knowledge and skills in this area and to identify other opportunities to serve my community after leaving the uniformed military.
How did you end up where you are?
During my first tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq, I served on a military advisory team to an Iraqi Army unit of 600 soldiers. One of the largest organizational inefficiencies of the Iraqi Army was how it maintained accountability of equipment. They utilized an outdated record system that required a large staff of soldiers working many hours to produce and sustain a complex paper trail of information. I provided computer training to Iraqi soldiers and designed an information systems approach to inputting, viewing, and reporting equipment levels. This new system initially saved thousands of labor hours, helped maintain better accountability of equipment, and allowed Iraqi leadership to focus more specifically on the main mission of securing Iraqi neighborhoods. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense recognized the success of my technology-based accountability reform measures and planned to use it as a model to improve the entire Iraqi Army.
More recently, I was able to use technology to create gains in efficiency in our federal government. While interning this past summer at the U.S. Office of Management & Budget (OMB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) came to my department in search of a solution to a large inefficiency in the design of their agency's reporting procedures. The EEOC required all government organization to compile and submit an annual report on paper forms that were to be returned by mail. This created an unnecessary amount of paperwork that cost each organization, including the EEOC, valuable labor hours and the taxpayer millions of tax dollars. Working with a team of technology experts at OMB, I was able to play an important role in designing a web-based product for EEOC to replace their cumbersome reporting procedures with a more effectual and economical system.
My professional experiences have helped me identify the power of integrating technology into government organizations to vastly improve how they do business. Moreover, utilizing proven technologies has the potential to help formulate bipartisan legislation that offers sustainable solutions to long-term budget shortfalls facing all levels of government. Leveraging technology in government organizations can produce an environment where more is accomplished with less resources resulting in lower costs to the taxpayers. Having the opportunity to both lead and be a team member on technology-based projects focused on making government organizations more efficient is a professional endeavor that I have enjoyed in the past and would like to be a part of in the future.
What are the connections between your Wagner experience and your current work?
After my initial visit to NYU Wagner, it became my primary choice to receive a Master of Public Administration degree. The culture of the program demonstrated exactly what I was looking to be a part of during my period of graduate studies. I spoke with students that were enthusiastic about dedicating their professional life to public service challenges as well as faculty members that focused their publications on offering solutions to difficult policy problems. Most importantly, I was attracted to the school's teaching philosophy of having students internalize classroom material by applying it while participating in real world projects. I viewed Wagner's interactive learning environment as a favorable way to further develop public management and policymaking skills.
During the graduation requirement known as capstone, I was able to utilize many of the new analytical skills I had developed at NYU Wagner. Under the tutelage of Professor Dennis Smith, my capstone team designed and led a program focused on improving the quality of government services in Jordan. Working closely with the King of Jordan's nonprofit organization, The King Abdullah Fund, we planned and executed a one-week leadership development program to help the Jordanian government's junior leaders develop the skills necessary for them to excel as managers in public service. I was able to utilize my professional experiences and apply the analytical skills learned through my graduate program to help design the 40-hour program and lead training sessions in Amman, Jordan. The Jordanian participants were extremely satisfied with the training we provided and it provided me with my first experience as a consultant.
During my full-time job interviews at the end of graduate school, I used my capstone experience as an example of applying consulting principals. My capstone project gave me a broadened appeal on my resume and made me more confident in my ability to successfully change into a different industry. Having the opportunity to study under NYU Wagner's world class faculty, interact regularly with the school's diverse student body, and internalize new skills through the practice of direct application, have undoubtedly contributed towards my professional development.
What do you enjoy about your job?
One of the main reasons I have embraced my new organization is due to its culture. My company seeks well-rounded employees that strive to have balance in their lives. Therefore, excelling professionally in my work environment includes not only client hours, but also exhibiting dedication towards professional learning and community service.
Deloitte offers a diverse set of learning opportunities in many different industries that continue to help me progress professionally. Many aspects of the consulting industry are completely new to me; however an encouraging atmosphere fostered by seasoned senior professionals has made it easy for me to learn the best industry practices resulting in my ability to optimize the success of client deliverables.
Additionally, a strong focus is placed on giving back to the community. I currently serve as an academic tutor for a Washington DC nonprofit called College Bound. The nonprofit focuses on helping children in the Washington DC area reach their goal of attending college. I am proud to spend time with these children and be a positive influence as well as role model in their lives.
Being part of a company that takes a holistic approach towards evaluating employee performance is special. I truly believe it is the best way to recruit and retain the highest quality individuals to an organization. Leaders that demonstrate qualities like loyalty, selflessness, and personal courage are often the ones that create positive transformational change that lasts. I strive to be one of these leaders and I am confident I have found an organization that will always encourage me to reach this standard of excellence.
What are some of the challenges you / your organization faces? How do you overcome these challenges?
Regular budget deficits and an increasing national debt are threatening our nation's long-term economic viability. As a result, many of our nation's political leaders are calling for deep budget cuts across the federal government. Therefore, the largest challenge in federal consulting is attracting business in a financially limited client environment.
Within DoD, impending budget cuts create extremely challenging problems. Even though billions of dollars of war funding is set to end and deep military budget cuts are projected to occur over the next few years, the military still needs to accomplish its mission. Having the opportunity to work with senior stakeholders within DoD to produce direct, operational, and strategic planning that helps their organization meet mission requirements within this budget restricted environment is both personally and professionally rewarding.
At Deloitte, we offer our clients solutions that allow them to do more with less, while still mitigating risk. These projects are often short-term, however, the results we produce are long-term and sustainable. Much of our project work has the end result of saving the taxpayers' money by putting government organizations on a more efficient operational path.
Were there any skills you gained at Wagner that have been particularly useful / relevant?
Prior to graduate school at NYU Wagner, my professional experiences were primarily focused on training, planning, and executing operations at the tactical level of warfare. At this direct level of leadership, business was often conducted at a high operational tempo in which funding accountability and using complex modeling to evaluate the impact of our actions, were given a lower priority than survival and mission accomplishment.
Therefore, classes at NYU Wagner such as financial management and program evaluation & analysis offered important instruction that are responsible for introducing, developing, and honing an array of important skills that I apply as a consultant with my DoD client. For example, understanding the federal budgeting process and different cost analysis tools are crucial to my everyday job performance. NYU Wagner introduced me to these areas in the two classes listed above, giving me a sturdy foundation to build upon in order to be an effective consulting professional in the public sector.
Furthermore, the two semester long course, U.S. Policy in the Middle East, taught by Professor Michael Doran, former Senior Advisor to the Bush Administration, allowed me to better connect the overarching American strategic policy in the region with the boots-on-the-ground activity. This has been invaluable while I work to create successful products for my client. For example, I was able to participate in a request from my client's leadership to connect the future long-term strategic importance of its organizational mission to our national security. Professor Doran's class gave me a wealth of information that allowed me to contribute fresh and innovative thoughts to add to this report.
What are your future career goals?
I aspire to make a difference in society and have strived to identify a career path that will allow me to fulfill this purpose both in the short-term and long-term.
In the near future, I hope to continue advancing in my federal consulting career. I want to utilize the management and leadership skills that I have developed throughout my professional experiences to plan and execute creative solutions to difficult problems. In particular, I am interested in focusing on information systems consulting that leverages technology to create gains in efficiency for the federal government. For example, using technology to provide solutions to the federal government's fiscal problems is a promising opportunity. At Deloitte, I am fortunate to have a client with this current requirement. I am leading an effort at my client's organization to implement an enterprise information system with the capability of capturing more data and offering more cost analysis capabilities. A highly attractive career option in the long-term is to rejoin the government as a public servant. While offering transformational leadership services to the government through consulting opportunities can create positive change, I believe there is a lot of positive change that can be created as a direct leader in the government.
Whatever path my professional career takes, I hope to remain either directly or indirectly connected to public service. Most importantly, I wish to be involved in opportunities that allow me to have a greater influence driving the planning and executing of policy decisions that produce effective results.
Do you have any thoughts to share with Wagner alumni / students?
Make every effort to interact with Wagner's faculty to optimize your potential for professional development. Some of the most important decisions that helped shape my career direction occurred as a result of mentorship I received from Wagner professors. For example, during office hours with my microeconomics professor, Kathy O'Regan, she convinced me to apply for summer internships rather than take summer classes. As a result, I was chosen for an internship at the U.S. Office of Management & Budget and the experience led me to become interested in the profession of government consulting.
Also, make sure to design a challenging, yet balanced, class schedule. Taking classes outside of my comfort zone was particular important in developing a diverse set of skills and expanding my knowledge-base. This approach to my graduate education has broadened my awareness and familiarity of different public policy issues, which will help me understand the needs of a diverse set of government clients in the future.
Additionally, I would encourage Wagner students to utilize the alumni network. Do not be afraid to reach out to the Wagner community including myself. If you have questions about federal consulting or anything else, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck!