Sometimes when I talk to friends and colleagues, they are surprised when they find out that I started out my working life as a negotiator/buyer for the federal government. Invariably, they ask how I got into that field and what kinds of things I did in that job. The short answer is that the day to day work might definitely make your eyes glaze over. But since I have to put this information together now for a number of reasons, I thought it might be a fun story to share. So with that in mind, let's get started.
In the 1986-1987 time frame, I began an internship with what was called the Ohio Procurement Technical Assistance Program under the Ohio Department of Development. As one of two people in the office, I underwent a crash on-the-job course in learning how small businesses could do business with the federal government. This knowledge was gathered and learned while writing the Ohio Procurement Technical Assistance Handbook, which became the primary reference document distributed by this office.
As this document was being prepared, I was also responsible for the logistics and planning of the first Ohio Procurement Technical Assistance Conference in the summer of 1987. As part of this planning, I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman, U.S. Senators, and their staff to define their role in the conference, including providing an on-the-fly briefing to then Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) on what we wanted him to talk about, ten minutes before he was scheduled to speak.
As the day went on at this conference, I was briefing Milton Beach, a defense aide to Senator John Glenn (D-OH) on his topic for presentation. As we were wrapping up the briefing, Mr. Beach asked me what I was going to do after my internship was complete. My response was that I was not sure yet. He then suggested that I look into entering the 1102 (Contract Specialist) field in the federal government.
So with that encouragement, I began looking at opportunities in the 1102 field. I completed the then intimidating SF-171 job application and submitted it to various agencies. In short order, I was selected by four agencies for interview: the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the Naval Regional Contracting Center (NRCC) at the Washington Navy Yard, and the Defense Fuel Supply Center (DFCS).
As all of these interviews were to take place in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, they were scheduled over a period of two days, starting the day after I completed a work obligation for CBS Sports at the World Series of Golf in Akron, OH. As soon as I was finished on the 14th hole on Sunday, I got my check from CBS, cashed it, hopped in my car, and started my drive down to Washington, D.C., where I was going to stay with an old platoon-mate from Fort Belvoir.
What I did not know about, and could not plan for, was construction and associated delays. As such, I rolled into D.C. at 2:30 in the morning, much too late to get to my friend’s house. I talked my way into a room in the bachelors officers quarters (BOQ) at the National War College in southeast D.C.(I was in the Army Reserve at the time so it was not that hard). I crawled into bed, ready for multiple rounds of interviews slated to start at 8:30 AM in the morning.
The interviews were intense, and time flew by very quickly. I thought the opportunity with NAVAIR was sunk after one question in particular. I felt strongest that I did my best at NAVSEA, and I was ambivalent about the NRCC and DFSC.
So at the end of the day on Tuesday, I hopped back in my car and began the journey back to Columbus, OH, not knowing what, if anything, lay ahead.
Next: A New Career and a Hiccup