It is not often that a new employee in a temporary role has the opportunity to create official organizational processes and develop tracking tools – especially for one as high-profile as the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
But Jessica Steele was up to the challenge. Steele, with the Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center Resource Management Office, completed a six-month rotational assignment at RCCTO and became such a valued asset that she was named the Army Financial Management and Comptroller Financial Management Intern of the Year for Below ACOM, a Department of the Army-level award.
Starting what is essentially a new job every few months can be stressful for anyone, especially in a young, dynamic organization like RCCTO. Steele said that while she was nervous to move from AvMC to RCCTO, her apprehension was quickly put at ease.
“The program manager trusted me from day one and that really set the tone for the developmental,” she said. “I was a trusted member of the team and valued. They spent a lot of time with me, not only educating me on program management, but walking me through how developmentals can grow and shape your career and how they can teach you about parts of your field that you never would have realized was a door for you.”
Meeting new challenges head on is nothing new for the self-proclaimed Army brat. After spending her childhood moving for assignments, Steele said she learned “from a pretty young age to put myself out there, be myself and not to be afraid of anything.”
That skill served Steele well when after obtaining her degree in education at the University of Alabama, when she picked up and moved to South Africa to work for a nonprofit, training local managers on the ground running the organization. It was there that Steele discovered her love for accounting.
“I found that I needed to teach myself managerial accounting so I could teach them, and then found that I really liked working with budgeting – I found it fascinating,” she said.
It was a natural fit for Steele to later join the AvMC team, as her mother had worked for the organization in its earlier incarnation as the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center. Steele said she was influenced by her mother’s own willingness to accept developmental rotations in her career.
“I saw that she was learning so much and I loved that,” she said.
Heading to RCCTO for six months was also an opportunity to build bridges between the two organizations who work closely together. Steele said that Resource Management Division Chief Terrence Clay referred to the post as a developmental but “it was more like a trial-by-fire,” she said with a laugh. “It is such a fast-paced organization with such high stakes visibility – it was a lot. It was a lot to learn but very rewarding.”
Clay had no such qualms.
“Jessica has never met a job too big or too small, and that’s what makes her invaluable to the organization,” Clay said.
Steele is quick to point out that she considers the award a team effort and that she was successful at RCCTO because she was given the tools and the autonomy to do so.
“I read the (award) email two or three times. I thought to myself, ‘Surely they have emailed the wrong person,’” she said. “Honestly, I was shocked. I am still in shock and a little overwhelmed. Even when someone gets nominated on their own, they didn’t do it on their own and they didn’t get there on their own. I have gained a wealth of experience from all of the people involved, from my own leadership at AvMC to the team I supported at RCCTO – it shouldn’t be just me getting this award.”
Steele hasn’t spent much time at Resource Management recently, after accepting another developmental at DEVCOM headquarters, serving on the Science and Technology Integration Strategy Cohort for Future of Work. Steele’s words of advice to others considering a rotational assignment out of their comfort zone: It’s OK to be scared. Do it anyway.
“Always do the thing that scares you,” she advised. “There’s a reason that it keeps popping in your mind. Don’t not take the risk because you are afraid of the outcome.”