News: Stewardship spans three generations
Story by Jo Adail Stephenson
DETROIT - Sara Zunk has been a part of agency’s extended family since the first time her mother took her to work for the annual Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day. Little did she know then she would be working for the Defense Contract Management Agency when she grew up.
“My mom has been training me ever since I was really little,” Zunk said jokingly. “She would say, ‘Government job, government job - we need young people.’”
Zunk became a third generation agency employee recently as she followed in the footsteps of her mother, Carrie Zunk, and her grandfather, Mack Smay, by raising her hand and being sworn into federal service.
Things fell into place when a position opened up within a month of her college graduation. Zunk said her mother questioned her about applying because Zunk’s original goal was to get her master’s degree and then start looking for a job. “It was in reverse order but she said it’s a great opportunity even if it was just to get the interview experience,” Zunk said.
She said her mother left the choice up to her. “She didn’t try to sway me. She wanted it to be my decision. She said I didn’t have to apply.”
Zunk decided to go for it. “When else was I going to get another opportunity to apply? Might as well start it now.”
She filled out her application at her grandparents’ house but said she received no pressure from her grandfather, who retired from federal service as a property administrator. “He just stayed quiet and was very humble about it,” she said.
“The interview happened a week before my graduation,” Zunk said.
“I encouraged her,” her mother said. “You can never have too much interview experience. I’m very happy she did it. It was her decision.”
Right after graduation, Zunk found out she had been selected as a cost pricing analyst in the agency’s Keystone Intern Program.
She knew how her grandfather felt when he, along with her mother, attended her swearing-in ceremony. “Finally, the day came when I started and took my oath of office. He got the biggest smile on his face. I said to him, ‘You can’t hide your excitement anymore,’” she said.
Zunk is glad she has the opportunity to work for the same agency as her grandfather and mother. “I still have a lot of friends who are trying to find jobs,” Zunk said. “I’m really happy I’m in that (Keystone) program. You can complete your training and have a small workload while working with other people. That way I can work my way up to being on my own. It’s a lot less stressful that way.”
Some of the stress associated with starting a new job and being in a new environment is alleviated because she knows a lot of people in the office. “Since I’ve gone to work with my mom so much over the years, everybody here says ‘I remember you when you were little and you were running around the office.’” Zunk said she tells them, “You can just forget that time, I won’t mind.”
What influenced Zunk the most about growing up around DCMA was the work flexibility her mother had to attend games, practices and other activities.
Zunk’s mother said, “If you’re going to have a family, the federal government is a great employer. They’re understanding of family values and family commitments.”
Zunk’s mother, who also began federal service as an intern, believes her daughter picked up the idea about working for DCMA like she did. “I had the opportunity to work with my dad for about nine years. I always felt DOD (the Department of Defense) and DCMA were good employers.”
The family’s stewardship with the agency began with Zunk’s grandfather, a DCMA property administrator who retired after 31 years of federal service, 27 years civil service and four years of military service with the Navy during the Korean War.
It continued with Zunk’s mother, a DCMA Detroit administrative contracting officer who recently completed 30 years of federal government service.
Zunk is excited about carrying on the tradition. “I like to be able to see who I am affecting and be able to have a direct effect. Even when I go out and walk around in the community and see people in uniform, you get a sense of feeling – this is who I’m helping. I can see it.”
Even though her mother will be retiring soon, Zunk said she definitely has a resource in her mother. She jokingly said, “I have her number and I know where she lives.”