The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is Contracts Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist Patricia Bahr, who’s vice president of contracts and purchasing at Hexagon US Federal. Here, she key achievements, learning from failures, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
Changes! Starting the year working for a new chief financial officer helped to set my department and myself up for exciting times and opportunities. It began with evaluating our current back-office systems and processes, then paving the way forward.
Interns! Participation in the newly rolled-out intern program was huge for our team. We were able to bring on two summer interns and assign them meaningful projects to accomplish. What a difference it made to our staff and team!
Initiatives! We identified five strategic contract and proposal initiatives to accomplish before the end of GFY2022. Any one of the initiatives was a challenge for me and my team yet, we were able to get all five accomplished in six months! We were actually able to complete them earlier than anticipated, in spite of unforeseen challenges ⏤ like multiple changes in contracting officers assigned.
It has been a great year, and the most exciting part is looking forward to 2023.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
To quote Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
No matter the failure or mistake, large or small, learn from it. When I failed to conclude a negotiation as successfully as I wanted, it felt like the end of the world. But finding a way ahead was just as important as accepting the situation.
I learned that it was important to find the time to go through lessons learned, documenting those lessons in writing, and apply them in future efforts, as well as openly share them with others so they could learn. Yes, it was an expensive lesson, but by having the courage to admit the failure and share that with others, it expanded the return on investment.
The lesson I pass along to my team is that the only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who aren’t trying. If you are working, then mistakes are inevitable. The role of leadership is to keep our teams from making fatal mistakes and to help the entire team learn when a mistake is made. As a result of leading by example, and sharing my own failure, others are encouraged to share mistakes, and everyone learns.
The bottom line: Don’t give up. Things have a way of working out even if at times it seems more like luck than skill. But that said, one thing I’ve noticed ⏤ the harder you work, the luckier you get!
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Change is inevitable. Embrace it! Everything in the government contracting space changes; from regulations, policies, and guidance, to the Federal Acquisition Regulation updates. Being open to many types of change ⏤ company changes, regulatory changes, industry changes, and technology changes ⏤ has benefited me tremendously. As I like to tell my team: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape!” Change brings career opportunities and there are so many tools available to those in the contracting profession. Here are my top three tips for career advice.
- Subscribe to the Federal Register. It’s free and an easy quick read. They publish a summary via email every business day and you can quickly scan for proposed rules from GSA, the DOD and other federal agencies.
- Join the National Contract Management Association and actively participate with a local chapter. NMCA is a welcoming community with numerous chapters, and no matter what stage of your career you are in, you will find resources and networking opportunities to help you. The people I’ve met in NCMA have helped me my entire career from my very first NCMA meeting to the most recent.
- Take advantage of training opportunities. As I mentioned, change is inevitable. There are numerous paid training courses offered by a wealth of qualified organizations and there are many, many free training webinars available as well. The learning opportunities are there and easy to find.