Every day, more and more well-established leaders in government contracting are retiring. The door is open and the time is near for the millennial generation to take the torch and become the next leaders of this fast-paced and evolving industry.
Andrea Wright is the account manager for Health IT at AMERICAN SYSTEMS and Founding Chairperson of the WashingtonExec Millennial Leadership Council. A millennial herself, Wright has led many “high-potential’ employees to throughout her career, often manning teams of over 30 people. She is excited to start the Millennial Leadership Council and hopes for it to become the door for more millennials to take charge and shape the GovCon world.
WashingtonExec: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what motivated you to Chair the WashingtonExec Millennial Leadership Development Council?
Andrea Wright: A majority of my role is to work with teaming partners, internal senior leadership, and customers, all of which share more years of experienced in the space than I do. There is very much a need within the government contracting space for a group that works directly with millennials to improve their skill level and expertise. I’m excited to be the Founding Chairperson and have lead dozens of projects with large teams of more than 30 people. Most recently I served on leadership committee for the ACT-IAC Acquisition Management Special Interest Group (SIG). This experience taught me a lot about government contracting as well has how to create dynamic events that appeal to stakeholders with varying experience levels and roles. I also serve on the communications council for the Junior League of Northern Virginia.
WashingtonExec: What excites you most about this Council?
Andrea Wright: I am so excited to have a group focused purely on millennials. I look forward to creating an environment where we can all learn from each other and network/foster relationships within our level of experience. The relationships we build within this Council can be so beneficial throughout our careers.
WashingtonExec: In the National Capital Region we are all so busy, why is this group worth the time?
Andrea Wright: Council members should expect to learn about all facets of the government contracting space from sales and delivery, to human resources and contracts management. Having a broad perspective of the entire business will benefit everyone and will help us to understand how senior management makes their decisions and hopefully helps us to grow into those senior leadership roles as we gain more experience.
WashingtonExec: Who should consider joining?
Andrea Wright: We are looking for “high potential” employees, employees who want to learn and grow and who are eager to learn and network within the government contracting space. This Council will require in-person attendance in order to gain a broad understanding of the entire business. Members should plan accordingly to make sure they attend as many events as they can and build relationships outside of their company and current network.
WashingtonExec: What type of events to you expect to hold?
Andrea Wright: We plan to hold in-person roundtable events on a bi-monthly basis and to hold Council specific happy hours during the months we do not hold a roundtable events. This will help the Council learn and develop our skills while also helping us to network effectively within our Council. Members of our group will also have expose to other WashingtonExec events and speakers.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the millennial stereotypes that you hope to debunk through this Council? Are are these stereotypes warranted?
Andrea Wright: I’ve done extensive research in this subject and have lived with negative stereotypes in the workplace. Major stereotypes I see and hear about all the time are how millennials are self-serving, or “ambitious”, or require constant feedback. I also hear that we are lazy, unprofessional, and that we jump from jobs quickly. While some of these are probably warranted, I think we need to look at the difference between our generation and the generations that came before us. Our generation was the first to grow up with access to computers, the internet, social media, and the newest technologies such as blackberry and iPhones. We have always had instant access to information at our fingertips. As a result, we crave instant gratification and feedback unlike our more experienced counterparts. We also grew up playing team sports since we could walk. This has led to a generation of employees who crave teamwork and work better as a team versus independently. We also tend to get married later in life. This is different from generations before us who got typically got married before or right after college. A millennial’s job is how he/she introduces themselves, this also leads to an increased need from millennials for career development plans with continuous opportunities for growth.
Washington Exec: What are the biggest challenges you think government and industry face when building a modern workforce? How do you think contractors and the government can raise their retention rates with their respective millennial workforce?
Andrea Wright: That’s an interesting question. I think stereotypes must change as well as how both government and industry focus their retention plans. Getting to the root of what motivates millennials is the first step. I’ve read conflicting reports on what truly motivates millennials as whole but most articles agree that transparency, real-time feedback, and a philanthropic mission are key to retaining millennials for the long term, notice I didn’t mention money! Some ideas include more casual office attire, flexible working schedules, and the ability to work from home. As industry we serve the government and our customers will always come first. I don’t imagine you will see industry truly adjust to change until the government adopts flex time and off-site work for contractors.