NSPE Gateway to Government Winter 2011/2012
In This Issue of PEG e-News...

Federal Government Improves Employee Recruiting, Hiring Paths

Steven Storts

For nearly two years, the federal government has been engaged in streamlining the employee recruitment and hiring process for all executive departments and agencies. And what does this initiative have in store for recent college graduates, young practitioners, and mid-career professionals interested in pursuing or advancing their engineering careers in public service? Hopefully, the end result will be an improved, more functional experience for applicants seeking federal jobs.

In his signed memorandum in May 2010, President Obama emphasized, “Americans must be able to apply for federal jobs through a common-sense hiring process and agencies must be able to select high-quality candidates efficiently and quickly. Moreover, agency managers and supervisors must assume a leadership role in recruiting and selecting employees from all segments of our society.”

The presidential directive eliminated essay-style questions on initial application materials for any federal position, allowing individuals to submit resumes and cover letters or to complete a simple application process. Also, the reform measure now requires that job positions be filled from a larger pool of qualified candidates through use of a category rating approach, replacing the “rule-of-three” methodology under which managers could select only from among the three highest-scoring applicants.

A key component of the hiring reform initiative is a revamped USAJOBS.gov Web portal aimed at expediting the recruiting and hiring of both high-priority and commonly filled positions. The updated Web site features a specially designed resources center to aid applicants in their quest for federal employment, in addition to expanded job search tools and links denoting the status of the various stages of the application process.

Professional engineer Scott Haraburda, director of manufacturing and engineering for Crane Army Ammunition Activity, an installation of the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command, reports that his and other military agencies’ civilian hiring systems will soon migrate into the overall USAJOBS system.

“If you are familiar with this online employment site and already have a completed resume in a Word document, it’s simply a matter of copying and pasting your information into the USAJOBS resume system and then searching for job openings,” he explains. “If you are a new user, you will have to create an account before fully accessing the system. If you don’t have a resume already prepared, you can build one online. Just follow the USAJOBS screen prompts and be sure to save your information at each step. This will take some time to complete, but when finished, you’re ready to apply instantly when an employment opportunity comes along.”

Haraburda is currently developing an orientation program for NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Government interest group that addresses the federal employment application process for Army civilians. He notes that while his tutorial focuses on a specific military branch of civilian service, the content is basically applicable to all levels of public service employment, including state and municipal governments.

“For instance, I discuss the basic principles of merit systems and equal employment opportunity and offer advice on resume preparation and job interviewing,” says Haraburda. “More specifically, I look at the criteria for evaluating resumes and professional skills, provide guidance on finding position openings and applying online, and examine the intricacies of the interviewing process.”

As part of his tutorial, Haraburda poses some sample questions from an interview panel:

  • This position involves planning for receipt, issue, transportation, and storage of material in a manufacturing organization. Please describe your skills and experience involving these tasks.
  • Please tell us how you would leverage your supervisory skills, knowledge, and experience to ensure operations are adequately planned for to ensure both timely work execution and quality of repairs or installation.
  • What topics should be addressed in a hazard control briefing? If possible, please provide examples of when you have done this.

Haraburda stresses to engineers the importance of “knowing your resume cold” and addressing all qualification requirements for a job posting and suggests continual practice prior to interviewing in “talking about yourself, your skills, aptitudes, and experience.” And be sure not to overlook the obvious during an interview, either, he says, such as “staying calm, listening carefully to every question, being confident in your responses, and asking for clarification on anything you deem important.”

It is also entirely appropriate, Haraburda points out, to ask for feedback after the job candidate selection process has been completed, “regardless if you have been successful or not.” An interview panel should always offer constructive feedback on “what went well and what could have been better,” he adds.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there has already been measurable progress and achievement of the recent federal hiring reforms. For example, 92 percent of posted job announcements allow candidates to apply with a resume, and 97 percent of the job postings are free of the essay questions that used to haunt applicants, as compared to just 39 percent under former hiring practices. Also noteworthy, 26 days have been trimmed off of the average time to hire new employees.

For students and recent graduates, another federal hiring initiative is going through its final regulatory review phase before implementation—the Pathways Programs—whose mission is to improve recruiting efforts, offer clearer paths to internships for students and careers for graduates, and provide meaningful training and career development opportunities for those at the beginning of their public service. OPM expects to issue final regulations this year, although they would probably not take effect for several months.

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A Follower’s Treatise on Leadership

Captain Josh R. Aldred, P.E.

As an instructor of civil engineering at the Air Force Academy, I continually task my students to reflect and provide feedback on their learning experiences. It occurred to me several weeks ago that I should also reflect on some things that I’ve learned during my military career. One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is leadership and investigating the makings of a great leader. Many books have been written on leadership—one of my favorite being Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts.

In his book, Dr. Roberts examines the notorious and villainous Attila from many perspectives, and actually shines some light on some of his more positive qualities, particularly Attila’s system of rewards and motivation. Dr. Roberts’ investigation of Attila the Hun made me wonder who I envision as a great leader and who I would like emulate as I move up in my career. I’ve spent my entire military career as a follower of some type and even had a few opportunities to lead. Throughout my career, I’ve had great leaders and poor leaders and also learned several things from my own leadership experiences. Most importantly, as a follower I want to be led and managed effectively so that I can successfully lead someday. That being said, I thought it would be interesting to examine the qualities of a great leader from the perspective of a follower—that is, what do I expect from the people leading me?

I recently had what many civil engineers would consider the opportunity of a lifetime—an exclusive insider tour of the Hoover Dam. I’m fortunate to have a friend that works in the dam and he gave my wife and I a two-hour tour during a recent trip to Las Vegas. I was amazed at the craftsmanship of the inner workings of the dam and the fact that engineers designed such a massive and complex structure over 80 years ago using only slide rules and pure grit. One of the most captivating experiences of the tour was exploring the access tunnels that lead to massive 30-foot diameter penstocks that direct water to the turbines on each side of the dam. One half of the tunnels were raw rock and moisture was slowing matriculating through the wall, while the other half of the tunnel was rough concrete showing the intricate grains of rough-hewn formwork. I was amazed that the rock wall was holding back over 100 miles of water from Lake Mead and only allowing a small amount of water to penetrate to this point inside the dam.

More importantly, during our short time in those tunnels I made a unique connection between formwork and the qualities I look for in a great leader. The first analogy being that the quality of the formwork makes a permanent impression on the much stronger concrete—the formwork can be rough or smooth, but either way, the “fingerprint” of the formwork will be left behind. Secondly, formwork is temporary, much like our daily interactions with our leaders. The primary purpose of formwork is to provide support until the concrete cures and is strong enough to take on it owns form—much like a great leader will mentor their subordinates and provide the necessary support to mold them into effective leaders. Finally, formwork is one of the most important steps in concrete construction and unseen to most observers—much like a well-run (i.e., productive, frustration- and rumor-free) organization forged by a great leader. In my short career, I’ve noticed that we typically take great leaders for granted until we find ourselves under the auspices of a poor leader. I humbly admit that I’m not an expert on leadership; however, I’ve outlined the qualities of what I expect of great leaders in the acronym “F.O.R.M.W.O.R.K.” below.

Firm—Concrete will not cure in the desired shape without firm support. A great leader must be firm and enforce standards in order to properly form and shape future leaders. Without the proper support, wet concrete can become misshapen and full of flaws. This applies to people as well; leaders inherently have the responsibility to train their replacements and pass on their best leadership traits and lessons learned.

Open communicator—Organizations can succeed or fail due to the critical competency of communication. A great leader will be a conduit for information, rather than a checkpoint. Information must efficiently flow both ways in order to complete a task successfully and to sustain morale. In addition to being an effective speaker, a great leader must also be an excellent listener. A leader who withholds information and doesn’t solicit feedback from their people (i.e., send AND receive) inspires frustration, negative rumors, and eventually insubordination.

Real—A great leader will make mistakes and learn from them. Undoubtedly, some of these mistakes will be made in full view of the people that work for them. A great leader will be able use a mistake or error in judgment as a “teaching moment” to help train their people on what not to do. A great leader will not allow personal pride to withhold an opportunity to teach their people a valuable lesson.

Mindful—A great leader will be mindful of what motivates their people. Some are motivated by money or by recognition or by time off or perhaps a new opportunity. A great leader will use what they know about their people to motivate them and also ensure they follow through on promises made. A great leader will also be mindful of what’s going on in their people’s lives and take the time to learn about their families and hobbies. Knowing this information will instill a sense of empathy in a leader and will allow a leader to be sympathetic to a personal crisis. A leader’s compassion will always be remembered.

Worker—A great leader will be diligent and will expect their people to contribute maximum effort on assigned tasks. That being said, a great leader will never assign a task that they are not willing to undertake on their own. Furthermore, a great leader will never be afraid to get their hands dirty and complete the most menial task in order to benefit the greater good.

Organized—A great leader will always be well organized and have a plan to move forward and succeed. In fact, an exceptional leader will always have contingency plans in case Plan A becomes unfeasible. Organization perpetuates from the top down and disorganization quickly snowballs into inefficiencies and wastefulness within an organization.

Responsive—A great leader is always responsive and decisive. Nothing exacerbates frustration quicker within an organization than an indecisive leader. A great leader must also be responsive when issuing rewards and disciplinary action. Lastly, a great leader will always follow up on questions, concerns, and opportunities—taking a minute to follow up will reap a great leader multitudes of respect.

Kinetic—A great leader must be able to quickly adjust to dynamic situations and constraints. An exceptional leader will know the qualities and talents of their people and will be able to quickly assign the right people and resources to tackle any problem thrown at them. A person that is not properly aligned with their talents at work is like a rusty tool that eventually becomes incapable of completing the task it was intended for.

Of course, this list of leadership qualities is not comprehensive and there are many other talents that go into the making of a great leader. However, I feel that even a small bit of effort to lead people effectively can make an enormous difference. The Romans are known to have used pieces of reeds for some of their concrete formwork and many of their structures still remain intact today. The most unlikely material used to hold up tons of concrete was also one of the most effective—just as a small effort to take care of your people can help build a Pantheon of Respect

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NSPE/PEG Federal Engineer of the Year Award

On February 23, 2012, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., federal engineers from across the country will be recognized for their commitment, innovation, and value in service to our nation during the Federal Engineer of the Year Award (FEYA) luncheon. Congressman David McKinley, P.E. will serve as the FEYA keynote speaker.

This year, NSPE and the Professional Engineers in Government (PEG) will be recognizing 29 engineering professionals from some 13 U.S. government departments and the U.S. Armed Services.

To learn more about the FEYA event, including how to purchase tickets and a list of agency winners, please visit


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Happenings on the Hill

NSPE submitted comments on the 2013 federal locality pay program at the request of the Office of Personnel Management. OPM solicits comments from NSPE annually, when the agency must prepare a congressionally mandated report to the president that compares pay rates for federal employees with rates paid to nonfederal workers in each locality. The locality pay program provides federal employees with pay adjustments in areas where surveys have shown that the pay disparity between federal and nonfederal workers is greater than 5%. The program’s goal is to narrow the pay gap between federal and nonfederal workers.

NSPE believes that federally employed engineers must be compensated in a way that is comparable to the private sector to enable federal agencies to recruit and retain the most qualified engineers. Without adequate federal engineering expertise, the infrastructure, energy, and national security requirements of our technologically dependent nation will suffer. Read NSPE's issue brief "Comparable Professional Compensation for Federal Engineers" at www.nspe.org/IssuesandAdvocacy/TakeAction/IssueBriefs/ib_comp_fed_eng.html.

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Management Study Fellowship Deadline Approaches

The Professional Engineers in Government's $2,500 Management Study Fellowship is now accepting applications. The fellowship is awarded to an engineer pursuing advanced studies in management. It is available to any Engineer Intern or licensed professional engineer from any discipline. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens may apply if they are current NSPE members.

To download an application, please visit the NSPE/PEG Web site. [ return to top ]

NSPE Offers Resume Services for Members

NSPE is partnering with Professional Résumé Services Inc. to offer the opportunity to receive a detailed résumé critique or a professionally written résumé to compete effectively in today's challenging market. NSPE/Professional Résumé Services Inc. also offer services related to the development of documents pertinent to your individual search campaign including cover letters, follow-up letters, references, and a salary history document.

Résumé critique for just $29.95!

www.nspe.org/CareerCenter/ResumeServices/index.html [ return to top ]

Nominate Fellow Engineers for NSPE Awards

To see the complete list of NSPE awards, please visit the NSPE Awards Web page

PEGASUS Award (March 31 deadline)
The Professional Engineers in Government is administering the annual PEGASUS Award program. The Professional Engineer in Government Achievement and Service in the United States Award recognizes the engineer who has made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement and practice of engineering. The PEGASUS Award will honor a licensed professional engineer employed by a state, regional, county, special district, or municipal government.

Mentor of the Year Award (March 31 deadline)
The Mentor of the Year Award is given each year to the one member of NSPE who best exemplifies the ideal image of a mentor. The award may be given to an individual who has established a record of consistent outreach toward individuals in the engineering field, including engineering professionals and students, over a number of years. This award can also be received by an individual who has contributed to support or development of mentoring programs within their company or in the engineering community. The ideal candidate should have a record of achievement in offering guidance to and fostering development among engineering professionals.

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NSPE Continuing Education on Sale!

Celebrate the New Year with big savings on your next on-demand course purchase. NSPE is offering an almost 30% discount on all of our on-demand courses. Choose from a variety of topics available 24/7.

Also, don't miss NSPE's live webinars slated for Spring 2012... 

Communicating Clearly
This session presents tips for developing a concise and clear voice in written and verbal communications. During the session, participants will receive suggestions for making their presentations, e-mails, spoken, and written communications more compelling. Throughout, examples drawn from the presenter’s varied military experience will be shared.

February 23, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Conflicts of Interest Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion covering payments of engineers' travel expenses by vendors, serving as a manufacturing expert, design and construction of a house in a flood area, reviewing work of another engineer and thereafter performing engineering services for that client. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

March 14, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.) 

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Expert Witness and Engineering Review Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on the obligation to reimburse a payment advance, limiting the scope of an engineering review, working for a law firm client involved in litigation with a former law firm client, and a forensic study dependent upon work of engineer in dispute with a client. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

April 18, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.) 

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Business, Employment, and Licensure Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on the signing and sealing of a subcontractor’s calculations, a Canadian firm’s noncompliance with engineering licensure laws, obtaining professional references, and an employee’s awareness of his employer’s financial improprieties. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

May 16, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)

Visit the NSPE Web site to register today.

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2011–12 PEG Executive Board Contact Information

David Alan Janover, P.E.

Kirankumar Topudurti, Ph.D., P.E.

Scott Wolf, P.E., PLS

Immediate Past-Chair
Sandra Knight, P.E., F.NSPE, F.ASCE

Northeastern Region Vice Chair
David N. Rackmales, P.E.

Southeastern Region Vice Chair
Bill Bowie, PE

Central Region Vice Chair
Dr. Scott Haraburda, P.E., Ph.D

Southwest Region Vice Chair
Mark Dubbin, P.E.

Western & Pacific Region Vice Chair
Patrick M. Coullahan, P.E., PMP, CFM

North Central Region Vice Chair
Donald Neumann, P.E.

Young Engineer Representative
Josh Aldred, P.E.

HOD Representative
Sandra Knight, P.E., F.NSPE, F.ASCE

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