More than 400 Defense Logistics Agency Energy acquisition professionals from Fort Belvoir and Lorton, Virginia, and San Antonio, Texas, participated in a three-day, web-based symposium March 2-4.
DLA’s Energy acquisition specialists make up 73.5% of the agency’s workforce covering contracting, lifecycle logistics, production, quality, and manufacturing. In fiscal year 2020, the Energy Acquisition Team procured, and managed products and services valued at over $10 billion, performing more than 218,000 contracts out.
“I commend DLA Energy for developing a culture that encourages continuous learning,” said DLA Director Navy Vice Admiral Michelle Skubic in her opening remarks at the symposium. “Energy has an especially strong reputation for training and developing the acquisition workforce. I’m amazed at what you in the acquisition field do day-in and day-out.”
Marybeth Sandman, a member of the DLA Energy Acquisition Workforce Development & Intern Center, said the goals for the symposium were to leverage the acquisition workforce through experiential education sessions, best practice sharing, and networking events. “We initially had a target goal of 250 attendees and to our surprise, the symposium had over 400 attendees participate in the program.”
The symposium’s speakers included welcoming comments from the DLA Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Jimmy Canlas. Other notable speakers included Defense Acquisition University Vice President Frank Kelly and DLA Energy Deputy Commander Eric Smith.
The symposium used a virtual conferencing platform that provided multiple interactive areas to optimize connecting and engaging with participants.
“The interactive nature paved the way for participation,” Sandman said. “Our audience was able to move in and out of rooms just like an in-person event and enjoy the content and connections created for them.”
More than 20 educational sessions were scheduled including a virtual speed networking session and a career expo with senior leaders within DLA Headquarters and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Contract Specialist Kirk Gamblin found the symposium beneficial in showing the resources available for professionals to take charge of their own careers.
“The ability to ask relevant career questions with on-the-spot answers was a highlight of the symposium,” Gamblin said. “The interactive chat tool made it much easier for people to ask questions that might not have been asked.”
Attendees spent an average of 15 hours’ time in the sessions including 7,895 chat messages. The virtual Expo Booths experienced 228 visits and 397 interactions.
The feedback we received has been extremely positive, Sandman said.
“When I signed up for the DLA Energy Acquisition Symposium, I was not sure what to expect,” said Bruce Desoto, chief of Inventory Planning in the Supply Chain Management Division. “However, the breadth of speakers, panelists, topics, networking opportunities, and the ability to chat with colleagues and speakers made the symposium extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to future events.”
The symposium was a collaborated effort between Gabriella Earhardt, DLA Energy’s Head of Contracting Activity; Bruce Blank, Procurement Process Support director; and Ditu Kasuyi, chief of the Acquisition Workforce Development and Intern Center team. Planning for the acquisition symposium started in October 2019 with the intent of an in-person event at DLA McNamara Headquarters Complex. Due to scheduling conflicts and COVID-19, the symposium became a virtual event.
“We wanted an opportunity for our acquisition professionals to connect and network with colleagues within logistics career fields,” Kasuyi said. “Planning for the event was a team effort with help from Imani Mitchell, Laceenis Fordham, Frankie Silver, Robert Scott and many others.”
With the symposium’s success and the ability to conduct in person and virtual events, DLA Energy’s Acquisition Workforce Development and Intern Center is looking forward to future similar events.
“Energy’s leadership is committed to enhancing the performance capability the acquisition workforce from our toolbox of opportunities,” Kasuyi said. “Based upon the feedback and the analytics, a strong recommendation will be made to leadership to consider hosting this event annually.”