National Nuclear Security Administration

A roadmap for success – NNSA debuts new career path

October 17, 2018

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Jay Tilden speaks about taking control of your career
Jay Tilden, Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation speaks about taking control of your career

NNSA has achieved a significant milestone in the recruitment, development, and retention of its workforce. The new Foreign Affairs Specialist career path debuted earlier this month in a town hall meeting at NNSA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event introduced a new way to think about employment at NNSA.

“You are your best personnel manager. You know where your strengths are. You know where your weaknesses are. You know when you’re in a job and you don’t like it any more. And you know when you’re in a job and you love it,” said Jay Tilden, Associate Administrator and Deputy Under Secretary for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation.

He said the system will offer more control and certainty to employees who may feel unsure of their professional trajectory.

The five components of the NNSA career path
The five components of the NNSA career path

 “You’ve got to be able to communicate when you feel like you need to grow, when you need to move on, and when you need to do other things. This structure really is a road map and it gives you a sense of what you need to do.”

The career path outlines clear steps to success and is comprised of five components: career success factors, competencies, critical development experiences, qualifications, and sequential positions. A competency is a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors needed to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully. Different competencies—and different levels of proficiency—are required at different career stages. Critical developmental experiences include: formal training courses, technical and leadership development, and long-term assignments.

Brent Park speaks about the importance of the new career path
Brent Park, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation speaks about the importance of the new career path

Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Proliferation Brent Park said the methods outlined in the new career path have already been put to use by ambitious team members in his office.

“Many of my Senior Executive Service employees have gone through these steps. Many of my deputy assistant secretaries have gone through these steps. So that potential for success is something that you may want to recognize and appreciate,” he said. 

The career path leadership development progression
The career path leadership development progression

The staircase of leadership development and technical proficiency requires ever-increasing knowledge and responsibility for the employee.

Though this professional track offers solid guidelines, every employee is ultimately responsible for his or her own occupational journey. The career path is meant to be a framework for NNSA management to cultivate current and future talent needs, while providing insights into training and development to employees. It is not meant to be a checklist for a promotion, nor a guaranteed formula for more pay. Instead, it requires an honest look at one’s goals, skills, knowledge, and experience. To succeed, employees will need to use online resources and seek involvement from supervisors, coaches, and mentors. 

Jay Tilden speaks about taking control of your career
Dave Rude, Chief Learning Officer explains the five components of the new career path

During the creation of the career path, it was benchmarked with similar roles at the Department of Defense and State Department, reviewed by NNSA overseas attachés, and examined by more than 30 subject matter experts. Chief among those experts was Dick Rock, who retired two months ago, but was invited to the kick-off event. 

Dave Rude, NNSA’s Chief Learning Officer, recognized Rock’s efforts to achieve this human resources milestone by presenting him with the Management and Budget Pride Award.

Brent Park presents the Management and Budget Pride Award to Dick Rock
Brent Park, left, and Anne Phillips, right, of NNSA's Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Office, present the Management and Budget Pride Award to Dick Rock.

The citation read, “For your vision and tremendous help as a subject matter expert on the Foreign Affairs Specialist competencies and career path. In particular, the training handbook for new Foreign Affairs Specialists you provided was a terrific base of knowledge and information. Your visionary materials facilitated the NNSA’s launch of its inaugural career path for the foreign affairs workforce and set a new standard for talent management. Your achievement reflects great credit upon yourself, the foreign affairs workforce, and NNSA.” 

NNSA will be launching additional Career Paths over the next year.