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Two OICC Florence members recently benefited from a great program geared toward developing and retaining a diverse workforce for Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command. Mieko Cole and Shelly Cuellar, now full-fledged contract specialists, recently graduated from their respective degree programs and completed the Professional Development Center internship program at Officer in Charge of Construction Florence, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Cole and Cuellar first started with OICC Florence in 2020, and were identified during the interview process by Meghan Hislop, contracting division director, OICC Florence, as ideal candidates for the program.
“I applied for a procurement technician position and when I came in and interviewed, Meghan followed up and said I would be a good fit for the intern program,” said Cole.
Cole had a background working at a law office and in insurance which Hislop saw as a huge benefit to the team because it showed her experience reviewing regulations and processing changes. Moreover, Mieko stood out right away in the interview.
“Mieko displayed her driven nature that makes her such a productive team member today,” said Hislop.
Cuellar was working just down the street with the base operating support contractor and also applied for a procurement technician position.
Hislop keyed in on Cuellar’s experience as a purchasing agent and capitalized on the connection.
“Meghan told me, ‘I think you’d be great as a contract specialist,’” said Cuellar. “I was like, sign me up!”
“After the interview, I asked if they both would be interested in pursuing a developmental position through the Professional Development Center program,” said Hislop. “Given the room for rapid advancement to GS-11 or GS-12, in only three years, it is an excellent training program.”
According to their website, “The PDC program is NAVFAC’s primary source ‘to recruit, develop, and retain a diverse workforce needed for professional and administrative occupations throughout NAVFAC. The program is designed for college graduates, veterans or individuals changing careers, and provides a structured, two to three year development program that includes formal education and training, diverse rotational assignments, extensive on-the-job training, and challenging work assignments.’
“The program offers full-time developmental jobs in various career fields, structured career planning, and the option to earn special acquisition certifications,” said Hislop.
Each woman accepted the challenge and spent the past three years pursuing a college degree while working full time as a contract specialist intern, as well as balancing home life. In the end, Cole earned her master’s in healthcare administration and management from Colorado State University, and Cuellar earned her bachelor’s in business administration from San Diego State University. But it was the non-school related learning that has made each one an integral part of the powerhouse contract specialist team.
“I’ve learned to let go and rely on my technical team,” said Cole. “I was in control before… here, it is more of a team effort and I learned to let go and listen, take what they’re saying and interpret it the way they see it.”
Cuellar has learned the art of compromise.
“There’s no black and white, it’s just a whole spectrum of gray and you have to learn how far to the left or right you can go.”
They also were able to grow on personal levels, which allowed each woman to balance each other and the team.
“I’m very aggressive, and it stood out more with this job,” said Cole. “I’ve worked on it and now I’m more professional in my interactions.”
“I’ve learned to be more assertive, especially when it comes to negotiations,” countered Cuellar. “You can’t be meek about things. I’ve learned I do have that side.”
Looking toward the horizon, Cole and Cuellar each want to become contracting officers and earn their warrant. For now, they are enjoying all the ups and downs of being a contract specialist and are content in their new position.
“I love that I’m constantly learning, I’m growing, and it’s challenging,” said Cole.
“There’s never a dull moment,” added Cuellar. “You’re not always working with the same content and it keeps it fresh.”
Hislop is proud of each woman and what they’ve accomplished.
“I hope they both gained a career they love that enables them to support the war fighter and our country.”
OICC Florence provides world-class engineering, construction, and acquisition services supporting the Marine Corps’ recovery from Hurricane Florence and deployment of the Joint Strike Fighter, re-establishing the readiness of expeditionary forces for MCIEAST and II Marine Expeditionary