BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Karin DeGraw is a management and program analyst for the Process Excellence Team at Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan. She began the PaCE Program in 2017 and graduated in 2019.
In your own words, how would you describe the PaCE program, and what can you gain from it?
The program was such a rush and firehose of information from every corner of DLA Disposition Services, but in the end, it resulted in a wider scope of meaningful knowledge of the entire agency and enterprise that normally would require much longer for an employee who did not go through the PaCE program.
What was your position before coming to the PaCE Program?
I had been working in the private sector as an office manager for Oaklawn Hospital’s home healthcare and worked concurrently in the hospice agency. Fifteen years later, when I saw the job announcement for the PaCE Program, I thought that was an excellent opportunity to get back into the game at DLA Disposition Services as well as gain experience in the disposal world.
What have been your favorite parts of the PaCE Program?
My favorite part was meeting the people and hearing about what they do to support the Warfighter. There are some really great trainers in the building who are passionate about their role. I love the integrative approach the PaCE Program delivered to us since we got to do some ‘boots on the ground’ at field sites, formal classes, and shadowing different people in Battle Creek.
What would you say is the most important quality to succeed in the PaCE program?
Perseverance and a great attitude are necessary because it does get tiring going through a program like this where the agency is working hard to deliver as much learning as possible in a short period. The networking quality is important as well. Since a PaCER will gain overall knowledge of the agency’s processes, who runs them, and why, it offers an extra comfort level when you’re looking for that specific person to contact for something. More than once I’ve been asked, “How are you able to add to a conversation about various topics in Disposition Services since you have not worked in that area before?”
Please describe your current position in a couple of sentences, and how being in the PaCE program affected you in that position.
I work on the Process Excellence Team which is all aspects of the audit process. I play a couple of different roles related to leading DLA Disposition Services’ responses for the active financial audit with Ernst & Young and coordinating the resulting corrective action plans. It makes my current position more successful because of the knowledge I gained in the PaCE program.
What have you done since you finished with the PaCE Program?
I’m a geek so I highly prize my Director’s Coin, and I genuinely value my training because I know I would not have been as successful in my current position, nor would I have been as valuable to my managers. The work I did at field sites and the Overseas Contingency Operations Readiness Training were experiences that I value greatly. That experience was added to my resume and augmented my understanding of the organization’s mission. I am especially proud of the tools I’ve created or helped to create to enhance my team’s mission.
Where did you see yourself going when you first started, and how does that compare to where you are now?
When I first started, I had a very restricted view of what the agency’s mission was. At first, the program seemed daunting but as we got entrenched in the learning and sessions with trainers and subject-matter experts, it all came together. I still use my notes and learning materials obtained from the program and depend upon it frequently since my current position requires some knowledge of all aspects of the agency and enterprise.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective PaCERs?
Stick with it, give it your all, and reach out to the former PaCERs at any time to help yourself be successful.
Editorial Note: The Pathways to Career Excellence Program for DLA Disposition Services is a two-year program that takes PaCERs through all of Disposition Services and its processes to learn as much as possible about the directorate. The first year takes place at DLA Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the second year either takes place in Battle Creek for Contracting PaCERs or at an assigned field site for Property Disposal PaCERs. PaCERs begin as general schedule 7s, move to GS-9s at the end of their first year, and graduate the program as GS-11s. There are multiple pathways to becoming a PaCER, including being hired internally, as a recent graduate, or from military service.