On a Mission to Advance Civil Agency PerformanceApril 2016
Paulette Huckstep's goal is straightforward—she wants to help her sponsors become as effective and efficient as possible.
"I love that my efforts help government agencies fulfill their missions. As a not-for-profit organization, MITRE has the objectivity to assist our sponsors to overcome their challenges and be good stewards of the funds they manage."
Huckstep works within the Center for the Enterprise Modernization (CEM) as a process improvement specialist. CEM is the federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) MITRE manages for the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service; it's co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Documenting Operations Provides Insight
She takes on a variety of different roles and tasks for her sponsors. "My work can include transition management, process improvement, engineering analysis, organizational change, and communications, to name a few. No two projects are the same, and that's what I really enjoy about my job."
Many of her assignments are relatively short-term; she's often brought in to tackle a specific set of tasks with a targeted role. "On one project, I spent three months supporting the VA's Technical Acquisition Center in restructuring the tasks and deliverables in the systems development life cycle for acquisitions. We also refined business requirements to ensure the sponsor received the best bids from contractors."
In another project, Huckstep was part of a MITRE team that supported preparations for the 2010 Census. "I used my experience in process improvement to help the Census Bureau capture what it actually takes to get the job done. We then developed a program management plan so they can have repeatable processes. That will help future censuses go smoother."
Streamlining Promotes Efficiency
In her current project, Huckstep is assisting the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, also known as ODAR. The office handles appeals of disability determination.
The project has a direct impact on disabled people in the United States, Huckstep says. "If someone is turned down for disability in their state, they can reapply for benefits. If their claim is rejected again, they can file an appeal with ODAR and bring the case before a judge. Currently ODAR has a backlog of over a million claims. It can take over 500 days to have a judge hear your appeal."
MITRE's work for ODAR focuses on two phases. Phase One examined opportunities for shared services and focused on helping the office centralize its services and eliminate duplicative processes.
Phase Two addresses the backlog of claims. "We're examining ODAR's business processes, identifying the key bottlenecks, and helping them streamline what they do. Our goal is to find ways to reduce the backlog of claims through triage, data analytics, and other strategies."
Satisfaction with a Job Well Done
"When you go home at night, you know the work you do has a positive impact on people's lives," Huckstep says. "Your sponsors are passionate about their missions, and you really want to help them solve their challenges."
Huckstep and her husband—also a MITRE employee—have the added benefit of working at MITRE's New Carrolton, Maryland, location, which is near their home. This close proximity has been invaluable.
"I really appreciate that MITRE encourages employees to volunteer in our communities. I'm also grateful to have a good work-life balance and the flexibility to take care of my family."
—by Kay M. Upham
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