News: Mentor conquers challenges en route to award
Story by Thomas Perry
Because a new employee’s eagerness to succeed and impress can often conflict with their inexperience and hesitation, beginning a new profession can be stressful. The Defense Contract Management Agency’s Mentoring Award is designed to reward organizational leaders who ease this transition and contribute significantly toward developing DCMA’s future workforce.
Darren Marshall, DCMA Aircraft Integrated Maintenance Operations Crestview lead industrial specialist, is one such leader. Despite serving as an official agency mentor for the first time, Marshall was awarded a 2013 Mentoring Award after turning multiple Keystones and journeyman trainees into AIMO success stories.
“Darren Marshall is an outstanding mentor who spent almost the entire year training four employees with no previous field experience as industrial specialists,” said Army Lt. Col. Bryan Phillips, AIMO Crestview commander. “Today, thanks to Darren's leadership and mentorship, these four employees are the backbone for one of the strongest industrial specialist teams in AIMO, overseeing five billion dollars of prime and sub aerospace contract obligations and over 100 scheduled deliveries per month.”
At face value, Marshall’s accomplishments are notable. Once one considers the two significant leadership challenges he faced during the award period, those accomplishments become truly impressive. His initial challenge began when three of his most seasoned industrial specialists left the department within a short period of time in 2013. Marshall and his supervisor, Cecil Minion, AIMO Crestview Engineering and Analysis team leader, knew such an abrupt turnover of veteran talent could prove critical if handled poorly.
“My first concern was the workload increase and how to accomplish the mission with fewer resources,” said Marshall.
Minion said Marshall’s initial concerns quickly dissipated after new surveillance parameters were established and a redefined workload strategy was developed.
“He stepped up to the plate with his best bat and hit the work as hard as he could,” said Minion. “Darren and I prioritized the workload so everything important got completed. I briefed the command, letting them know we could handle the short fall and we would do whatever is necessary to prevent mission failure until we could hire replacement industrial specialists. The commander and deputy have a great deal of confidence in the Engineering and Analysis team, so their concerns were more along the lines of not burning the team out.”
When the new hires arrived, they provided relief to Marshall as well as the Engineering and Analysis Team. The welcomed infusion of talent came with a caveat, however. Marshall now faced his second leadership challenge — his new employees were located in four separate geographic locations and travel was restricted because of budget controls.
“We made a plan, but it kept changing based on new challenges,” said Marshall. “We concentrated on the important tasks first and then kept building from there. We tried to think of new ways to overcome the distance, including taking advantage of modern technology, like enabling screen share at times so they could watch me doing tasks. As the training progressed, we changed it around so they could do certain tasks while I watched for any issues.”
Nickie Brown, an AIMO Crestview industrial specialist who is currently being mentored by Marshall, said she joined the agency because she wanted her career to be meaningful and hoped to assist the DCMA mission of supporting the warfighter. Although Brown realized she needed to sharpen her existing skillset to excel in her new position, she accepted the challenge and joined DCMA.
“The number of acronyms DCMA employees use regularly is amazing, it is almost like another language,” said Brown. “There is definitely a learning curve, but the good news is that the more experienced personnel are always willing to share knowledge.”
Marshall soon began to guide Brown through her new working environment. The benefit to both Brown and the industrial specialist team was swift.
“One of the reasons Darren is such a great mentor is that he expects us to learn our job by doing our job,” said Brown. “I was given a workload as soon as Darren was confident I was up to speed on the various systems and business tools we use on a daily basis. When I run into a problem, or an issue comes up that I haven’t dealt with before, Darren will turn that into a training opportunity. He also encourages our suggestions and input, which fosters a team environment.”
Utilizing these techniques, Marshall quickly transitioned his Keystones and journeymen trainees into productive AIMO assets.
“The word outstanding does not begin to describe Darren’s performance as a lead industrial specialist and mentor,” said Minion. “Phenomenal or extraordinary might come closer. His dedication was second to none.”
That dedication was recognized when Marshall received his mentoring award. The true measurement of his impact, however, is directly reflected within his team’s successes.
“Thanks to Darren, the (contract management office’s) industrial specialist team is as strong as ever and aggressively tackles the day-to-day issues at each site,” said Phillips. “He used his knowledge, skills, ability, leadership and desire to inspire our keystones and journeymen and mold them into productive and effective employees. Our CMO is proud to have Darren Marshall — both the lead industrial specialist and keystone mentor.”