Category Archives: Uncategorized

Staying is Not Loyalty

The agency does not love you back. It does not matter how much you love your job, your boss, your colleagues, or the mission- your agency does not love you back. And that’s okay. The agency, while accommodating as an organization, is not a human entity capable of emotion. Let’s stop acting like the agency has feelings to hurt.

Recently, I heard a number of people equating an individual’s willingness to stay in a position or within an organization as “loyalty” to the agency. Leaving a position is not an affront to the agency. It is simply saying that the position, the duties, the life circumstances are not congruent with my personal direction at this time. Subsequently, my definition of loyalty no longer includes the duration in a position or agency.

Here is my new definition of loyaltyas long as I am employed by any agency or company I will give 100+% of myself, strive to increase my knowledge, explore paths that will add value to my position, and will invest in the organization wholly. 

I left my permanent career GS-comfortable job when I was 28 after 10 calendar years of federal service. It was a defining moment. Most of the federal family reaction altered between  I was a fool or I was disloyal. In my professional life, I had just completed a huge national policy/standards win with an amazing team. It was a 4+ year investment with hundreds of thousands of donated hours to get to the win. The project was “for the good of the order” and needed to be done for the field. I gave them me. The organization appreciatively took everything I gave.

My personal life  changed, and I needed to take care of my world. My many creative solutions to stay with the agency were met with by gentle but firm “No” from the agency. No, we don’t want another remote employee. No, we don’t know of any other opportunities. No, we don’t think there is a way to meet your hopes. I acknowledge and understand that they were under no obligation to accommodate me. I knew the job I signed up for when I signed on. Conversely, I was under no obligation to remain. So, I took a job in the private sector and moved across the state.

I recognize and respect the many people in the public and private sectors who have chosen to make their jobs their life- I’ve been there. Many of us, regardless of generation but typically under the age of 40,  are starting to opt for another path. Our choosing something different is okay. It’s okay to prioritize a marriage, children, caring for extended family members, pursuing education, or investing in your community.

I have returned to federal service twice now. While I miss the security of a permanent job, I do not regret for a moment the eclectic path I have taken. I revel in the diversity of my experiences. Everything I learned in the private sector and each agency has made me into a better employee for my current employer. I still love all the agencies I have worked for and remain loyal to the missions everytime I step on public land, sort out the recyclables, or talk to someone about crisis communication.  I do not know who will be signing my paycheck five years from now, though I know whoever it is I will be giving them my all.

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Coming Out as Myself

I established my twitter handle years ago when I was exploring a new community while working for a different agency. I set it up as a place to interact without explicitly attaching it to my name, any identifiable imagery, or my agency. Now I’ve never lied and I don’t hide. But, in the world I was working in I felt it was necessary to mask some of the connections.

An interesting phenomenon has occurred recently. As I meet people in real life, who I’ve been interacting with on twitter, they assumed I am male.

I choose a generic avatar. I used a generic image of my mascot at the time- due to too much travel it was the Denver International Airport (crazy) Blue Horse. I choose an old high school nickname (which in my school was androgynous) as my screen name. And I identified my major interests… Emergency Management, Geographic Information Systems, and social media amongst others.

I tweet about the government life, emergency management, wildland fire, GIS and in general whatever strikes my fancy. This just so happens that this automatically created a perception that I am of the dominant group- male.

As I became aware of this tendency to classify me as a male I began to automatically choose more gender neutral terms.  As I continue to get involved,  I want to be more authentic. I work for a different agency. Social media is not part of my formal day job anymore.

So I’m coming out- as myself. With a photo that shows my gender.  I hope it is decently received. I’m keeping my twitter handle and nickname. I’ve had many nicknames over the years in various venues of my life and I happen to like it.

So hello, this is me.

September 12, 2001

In 2001 it was the day after our perspectives changed forever. It was the day many of us woke up shaking our heads and wondering if the day before was simply a nightmare. Realizing it was more than simply sleep- the day before was beyond our nightmares come true for many people. For me it was the day I reported to my first wildland fire working for an incident management team.

The day before was centered around a desire to help and a feeling of helpless.  We ran through our Rolodex lists (we still had those paper things back then) calling to check in on our family and friends. I was relieved to be deemed “non-essential” the day before preferring to be helpless at home instead of work. I floated around staging and wondering what next until I got the call from dispatch.

The twelfth I drove up in elevation my newspaper staring at me sitting on the front seat of my federal rig. When I got to the fire it was the first thing everyone asked for. I had been working towards this moment for years learning the system, getting qualified, and studying up but I never imagined this assignment. The fire had started August 25th and as it slowed down and was downgraded to Type 2 fire. The fire was wrapping up and I was just headed out to help put the bow on documentation and make a few maps. I drove down the forest roads following the cardboard signs with thick black marker past the small little smokes by the side of the road with the occasional flame peeking out as I rolled past.

In a post 9/11/01 wildland fire world nothing was typical. So many dealt with so much- I was just another bureaucrat. Another public servant showing up for my job and trying to meet the need that I didn’t train for. Designing and plotting out american flags for the fire engines. All the stores in these forest towns had sold out and the engines and crews were far from home. As people were released I worked to help guide them home as travel regulations and restrictions changed on an hourly basis while people were trying to find their ways home after the fire. Planes were grounded, rental cars were only being released to dual passengers, and trains were crowded. We checked and cross checked and helped the staff find their way back to their home units.

On September 12, 2001 I fully joined the fire family at a time where we were just starting to comprehend the losses in the fire community. I did nothing heroic or notable in those days. But I made a difference to others in my fire family with little acts of kindness. We do our best to take care of each other while living the #govlife.

In Honor of Government Service

This post is in honor to those who serve with zeal in the interest of the greater good.

The current political and general climate has become one generally hostile to the civil service. I take exception to many general perceptions that are perpetuated in the media, general lore, and screeched out on radio station across our magnificent country. I concede there are bad or underperforming individuals in the government  just as there are in the non-profit and private sectors.

I have spent my career either working for or with government entities at multiple levels. I enjoyed my jaunt into the private sector working with government clients. I chose the government as my employer because it is where I desire to be due to the challenging work and amazing individuals I have the honor of serving with. These are individuals who I have seen give so much even when it was not required or expected but always when it was needed.

So today I want to start this adventure out by stating my respect for the maintenance workers, law enforcement officers, public information officers, recreation specialists, data entry staff, receptionists, botanists, business analysts, park rangers, engineers, firefighters, and so many more in so many diverse positions. These ramblings are to reveal some of the inner perspective of the #govlife to those on the outside and to challenge those of us living the life.