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Marine Corps Systems Command

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Senior executives advise government newcomers to grow, learn

By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Public Affairs | Marine Corps Systems Command | January 27, 2015

From the start of their careers, entry-level employees should look for opportunities personally and professionally, according to systems command senior civilian executives who spoke Jan. 13 at the Naval Acquisition Development Program Annual Training Symposium.

Jim Smerchansky, Marine Corps Systems Command executive director, most recently served for five years as chief engineer at MCSC. He broadened his message to address other specialists including information technology and cost estimating.

“You don’t know where opportunities will come from, but you need to prepare for them,” he said. “Be the best ‘athletes’ in your field so you’re ready for whatever comes up.”

Smerchansky joined senior executives from
Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Supply Systems Command. They spoke to about 400 attendees at the symposium, including 15 from MCSC due to graduate from NADP in the coming year. Each senior executive talked about his respective systems command’s mission, challenges, acquisition workforce, career planning and keys to career success.

MCSC is the only systems command in the Marine Corps. Smerchansky noted that MCSC acquisition professionals provide Marines with everything they drive, shoot and wear, which is where the upcoming NADP graduates will play important roles.

The MCSC executive director urged NADP students not to get locked into their cubicles and get out to help “carry bags down to the pier.” Literally. He recalled when, during his first assignment as a Navy engineer, he offered to help more senior workers carry equipment to the piers. In return, he was given a tour of a submarine still under construction. His initiative gave him a two-year jump on fellow engineers for submarine expertise.

“Go out and capture as much responsibility and experience as you can, and then come back and apply it,” Smerchansky said. He advised those in attendance not to rush at the expense of quality work. “Don’t get hung up on a timeline. Get hung up on an outcome.”

He also noted the growing field for IT professionals who make up one-third of the command’s technical workforce. “In some ways, this is almost a new field because of the connectivity that exists,” Smerchansky said. “Don’t get sidetracked within one area of IT. Look for areas where you can broaden your knowledge.”

He offered similar guidance to cost estimators, which he called a “growth career field” at MCSC. 

All of the senior executives agreed that career employees should not be “job hoppers” but stay long enough to accomplish a goal before moving on. They said planning one’s career in five-year increments never works because no one can predict when opportunities arise.

“All of us have a sense of service, a desire to make a difference,” Smerchansky said. In making career decisions “be pushed by a desire to grow and learn.”