Columbus' Hispanic Heritage Program engages local students and professionals

By Mislin A. Hampton DLA Land and Maritime

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As part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, DLA Land and Maritime EEO Hispanic Employment Program (HEP) sponsored a flash mentoring and networking session.  The event was titled “We Are DLA” and held in mid-October at the Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC) Installation.  Ten college and high school students and six professionals benefited from this one-time mentoring and networking opportunity.  

DLA Land and Maritime strives to improve recruitment of minority groups by creating attractive and professional development activities.  EEO HEP recognizes the importance of workforce diversity and ethnic representation as well as their critical contribution to mission accomplishment.  The flash mentoring and networking session was specifically designed to provide an overview of DLA as an employer of choice and portraying the experiences and contributions of Hispanic associates at the agency.  

John Ramos, DLA Human Resources Services, provided an overview of DLA’s mission as America’s premier combat logistic support agency.  During his presentation he discussed the DLA management and supply structures, vision and strategic goals.  Ramos commented on the history of the DSCC installation, which was established in May of 1918, and its current tenants which all combined employ approximately 9,000 military and civilian associates.

During the mentoring session participants exploring careers and seeking employment opportunities were matched randomly with DLA professionals for a one-time coaching session.  During the 30-minute session 10 mentors shared their life experiences within the federal government and current responsibilities, gave important advice, and motivated the participants (mentees) to explore careers within the Department of Defense (DOD).

The EEO HEP was honored to have the participation of the succeeding mentors from following career fields:  1) Quality Assurance: Carlos Guzman and Tamara Gonzales; 2) Supply Management: Marina Matos, Mario Alonso and Shaelene Seda Vargas; 3) Information Systems Operations: Maria Castillo and Romulo Faria; and 4) Procurement: Jorge Martinez, Julio Rodriguez and Norma Rivera Cortes.
 
All the mentors passed along valuable knowledge and experience to all the mentees.  Tables were assigned per discipline and mentors met with a small group of four mentees for 30 minutes.  Each mentee had the opportunity to meet and listen to at least two mentors.  They all took advantage of the opportunity and asked questions about career development and personal growth in a more informal setting.  

To illustrate her primary job duties as a Tech/Quality Business Process Analyst, Tamara Gonzales used a pen as an example.  “As part of my job, I need to make sure that this pen meets the requirements needed by the customer. Pens come in a lot of sizes, color, differences in the type/quality of the ink, multiple features, etc.  I make sure DLA provides the specific pen that is required, ensure the quality is right, prepare a quality deficiency report when needed, and notify to the contractor or vendor any deficiencies,” she said.

 Carlos Guzman, supervisory quality assurance specialist, spoke with the students about the DLA Pathways to Career Excellence (PaCE) Program as a great opportunity for career advancement. “There are opportunities for your career.  Please be mindful of the decisions you make, especially in social media.  Be smart about things you post there.  Don’t put yourself in a situation that you will regret in the future,” said Guzman.

Maria Castillo, IT functional analyst, shared a quote from her mother with the students, “Educate para que seas una mujer, hecha y derecha,” which means study to become a full-fledged woman.  “Education is something that no one can take away.  Don’t let fear stop you from reaching your dreams,” she said.

The closing remarks were provided by Monica M. Gaudier-Diaz, a third year graduate student in the Neuroscience Program at The Ohio State University (OSU).  Based on her own experience, she shared with the audience her three keys for success.  “First, take advantage of opportunities. Take the time to think about what you want. Don’t be discouraged.  Second, find a mentor. Third, believe in yourself.  Remember that perseverance is the journey to success,” she said.

Gaudier-Diaz earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus.  As a Neuroscience PhD candidate, she investigates the effects of social isolation on disease outcome, which can have profound health implications.  In addition, she has presented at several professional research conferences, trained and mentored undergraduate students, participated in neuroscience outreach and diversity inclusion events, and received a travel scholarship to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.   

James McClaugherty, DLA Land and Maritime deputy director, recognized the inspiring words and accomplishments of Gaudier-Diaz by presenting her an organization coin as a token of appreciation.  McClaugherty concluded the event with brief remarks emphasizing how mentorship is critical to the success of both individuals and organizations.