14 May Meet Felicia, Senior Proposal Manager
Today, we get to know Felicia, a senior proposal manager at Criterion and veteran of the US Navy.
What branch did you serve in?
United States Navy
What was your position?
I served as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive (CTI). In the Navy, all Signals Intelligence enlisted personnel, from administrative to maintenance and everything in between, is a Cryptologic Technician. The last letter has to do with your specialty. I learned Korean at the Defense Language Institute and worked as a Geospatial Metadata Analyst.
What was the time frame you were in the military?
I left for boot camp in August 1998 and was honorably discharged January 2008.
What was the most rewarding aspect of serving in the military?
There were many rewarding aspects of my time in the Navy. I was named Sailor of the Year at my command in Seoul, South Korea, and Deployer of the Year when I was at Fort Meade, Maryland. I was honored to receive a bevy of other awards and accolades including a Bronze Star for a deployment to Afghanistan. I reenlisted in a helicopter flying over the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. I was selected to attend a Korean University for a year of intensive language training. I translated for the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ wife, and spent a week stranded on a tiny island in the Yellow Sea. I went on a cruise on the Nile, got a standing ovation from the ops floor in theater, and was forced to buy an ice cream for General Abizaid because I forgot to include an attachment on an email.
The most rewarding aspect was serving alongside many outstanding people. The only ships I ever knew in the Navy were friendships. To this day I am close friends with many of my shipmates from language school nearly 20 years ago.
What lessons learned during your service do you apply to your job now in the civilian sector?
I think the biggest lesson learned is confidence. And even now, I can sometimes forget that. But the Navy gives a sailor everything they need to be successful; it is a matter of personal choice to leverage those tools or not. As I navigated my way through boot camp, language school, training, and eventually operations, at each step I realized that I was successful. Every year when we had to complete brag sheets and evaluations, I would struggle to find words to record my accomplishments. But, over time and with practice, I started to see the impact I was making in my command, with my peers, and most importantly, with myself. I am humble, but I also know that I have done more in 47 years than many even dream of, and it was the confidence that the Navy instilled that put me in positions to take calculated risks, explore, adventure, and see the world!
Why did you choose to pursue a job in Government Contracting? How do you like it?
My path to where I am today was a bit of a curve. After I got out, three days later I started with a large business, and was supposed to be going to Germany to be a SIGINT Analyst. As usual, plans change, and I found myself in Huntsville, Alabama, because I had had my fill of the National Capital Region and a 100 mile/per day commute. Shortly after I got to Alabama an opportunity came up to work on a proposal. The criteria was, “do you have thumbs and can you string words together to form a complete sentence?” Since I was more than qualified and “on the beach,” I jumped at an opportunity to be part of something. It was like putting on a pair of old jeans. It was just right.
I loved the fast-paced environment of proposals. It reminded me of my first true passion in life: soccer (or as the rest of the world calls it: football!) I played striker till I was 23, when I found myself as a goal keeper. Someone asked me how I enjoyed it and I said, “It is 40 minutes of sheer boredom and 5 minutes of sheer terror!” Nothing in between. Either all eyes are on you and you can be a hero, or the ball is nowhere near you and you can count the number of leaves on a four-leaf clover repeatedly. (I also did earn a spot on the All-Navy soccer team in 2001, but broke my ankle, and had to return to Korea to prepare for my year-long Korean University program).
Proposals are a lot of waiting for the government, but when the final RFP is released, all eyes are on you and you can again be a hero. I would have never picked this as my adult career (mostly because I did not know it existed when I was younger). But, my eye for detail (honed further by the US Navy), my social skills, and my ability to jump into a deep end of a pool without knowing the temperature of the water, or – worse – what could be lurking in the depths, all help me be successful as a Senior Proposal Manager.
What advice would you give to military members who are about to re-enter civilian life?
Oh gosh…. I am not sure I am the best to be giving advice here. I was asked to do a special deployment that would take me out of my command (but still in NCR) for the last 6 months of my enlistment. I jumped at the opportunity (because, really, I rarely don’t jump at opportunities). However, this left me with a single work week to completely out-process. I didn’t even start looking for a job till December (my enlistment ended January 23), and I just got lucky….
So, my advice, is do the exact opposite that I did. Give yourself a full year to out process right. Use every resource that the military provides, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take your terminal leave and really leave the country, find a small beach, and just soak it all in, then come back to the hustle. Hopefully, your future employment will be with a veteran-friendly company, but if not, work on ways to make it so.
Editor’s Note: Criterion has many veterans and active reservists among its leadership and staff. You will find many profiles in our Life at Criterion category.