April 22, 2019 —
As a GS-5 account technician, she never dreamed that one day she would be a senior executive responsible for the planning, programming, and execution of the agency’s purse strings.
Returning to where her Defense Logistics Agency career began, Jean Cox, DLA Deputy Director of Finance, was the guest speaker at the DLA Energy Mentoring Brown Bag Lunch Program, April 16.
Offered year-round, the monthly brown bag lunch and learn is directed at all DLA Energy employees to learn key soft skills on navigating a career within the Department of Defense.
“Energy is always my home,” Cox said. “Thank you for the opportunity to be here.”
Cox also serves in the dual capacity of the agency’s Director of Resource Management, she is responsible for planning, programming, formulating, defending and executing the agency’s financial and manpower resources.
Cox shared her insights to being successful. She stressed the importance of work-life balance and not to lose sight of it. Be sure to get exercise and time for yourself, she said. Find a balance.
One of Cox’s favorite books that offers important lessons for life and career is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
- Speak with integrity
- Don't make assumptions
- Don't take anything personally
- Always do your best
“Never turn down an opportunity when tapped,” she said. “Every day is an interview. You’re always making an impression on people.”
Cox is retiring with 34 years of federal service. She began her DLA career in 1985, what was then known as the Defense Fuel Supply Center at Cameron Station. She held a series of financial positions within Energy and in 2014, reached her goal of being the DLA Energy comptroller. In this role, she was responsible for implementation of policies and objectives related to numerous resource management functions encompassing financial policy.
She talked about how she thought comptroller was the end of her professional road.
“Being the comptroller was my dream job,” she said. “I planned to retire from that position, until the DLA Finance Director Tony Poleo came and asked for my help. Being an SES wasn’t on my radar.”
Cox said she was honored and knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up, but described being a member of the senior executive service as never having a schedule that you own.
“You never know what the day will bring,” she said. “You bounce from topic to topic. Don’t become an SES for the money, do it because you want to make the environment a better place. Look for a sponsor in the SES community to guide you along the way.”
Cox stressed the importance of mentoring in her career. Mentors are incredibly important she said. Look for mentors who are different from you and reach out to people who approach things differently.
“I owe 95% of my success to Carol O’Leary (a member of the DLA Energy Hall of Fame) who pushed me past my comfort zone,” Cox said. “Find good mentors, either informally or formally. Find people you can trust at all levels.”
When asked what she saw as some of the most important challenges facing the agency, she replied “the audit and DoD reform.”
“We have to get better and be more responsive,” Cox said. “The wolf is at the door.”
DLA Energy management analyst Beverly Johnson found Cox’s remarks illuminating.
“What caught me most was when she talked about succession,” Johnson said. “I liked her comments that DLA Energy should not forget to ‘develop their bench strength,’ it’s always good to have multiple options. Cox was talking about mentorship and referring to how some employees have long tenure (40+ years) and when they retire, the knowledge is gone. This is helpful.”