WashingtonExec reached out to area executives to gain insight and share local “secrets to success” stories.
Find out what invaluable lessons Mary Davie has learned at GSA since joining the organization in 1989.
Mary Davie: As a member of the GSA team for over 22 years, I have worked with some of the most talented people in government and industry. One recent example is GSA Administrator, Martha Johnson, who has set, and is committed to her vision for GSA to deliver more effective government for the American people. In my role as an executive, I’ve focused on helping to achieve this goal by working to improve the federal government’s acquisition of information technology. Along the way, I have learned a number of lessons that have been invaluable.
-There are plenty of problems – develop a passion for taking them on and solving them
Passion for problem solving will help you make changes to an organization. To create meaningful change, you need to dream big and look beyond the immediate obstacles to your end goal. I recommend having a bold vision balanced against a realistic assessment of the resources available to you. My approach to solving problems with limited resources has always been to seek out and collaborate with other people who approach problems creatively and who can help me take smart risks.
-Collaboration is what turns ideas into outcomes
Collaboration is a must for doing your job effectively. Collaboration involves sharing perspectives and seeking advice from people outside your immediate circle. The more interested and motivated people you can engage to solve a problem, the more robust and successful your ultimate solution will be. Over the past several years, I have tried to champion the use of social media platforms to increase the breadth and depth of collaboration within government and with our industry partners. These platforms have acted as a multiplier for GSA’s resources, reaching beyond the walls of our organization to include federal, state and local governments and the private sector. For example, we leveraged the BetterBUY Wiki to gather perspectives from both industry and government on the requirements development process for multiple programs. We used the wiki to share ideas with a wider audience, and this ultimately led to more thorough assessments, better procurements, and more imaginative solutions.
-Build, lead and join solid teams
A passion for problem solving and collaborating with others can make your career more successful. However, the best leaders go a step further by enabling and encouraging their people to take calculated risks. Individuals who are empowered to take risks can ignite change and make teams stronger. When I started at GSA, and throughout my career, I was repeatedly provided with opportunities to work outside my comfort zone with great teams on interesting projects. It took a little courage to take a risk, but I was always glad that I did and I always learned and grew professionally as a result. Through these experiences I learned that thinking outside the box, taking a chance, and trying something different will almost always result in new skills and strengths that you might not have discovered otherwise. As a leader, my role is to let each team own their process, and step in as necessary to remove obstacles to success. The result is that team members are empowered, they feel greater ownership of their own success, collaborate better, and develop more innovative solutions.
-Find the right place to grow
These lessons have helped me find success, but I have also been lucky enough to be part of great organizations that have been the just the right fit for me. In my case, those were Virginia Tech (go Hokies!) and GSA. My education at VirginiaTech and my career at GSA provided me with abundant opportunities and mentorship; and the positive, collaborative cultures continue to help me thrive to this day.