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'Grow Your Own' Qualified Employees

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2001 – Diversity in the federal work force is a government goal. To DoD managers grumbling about how hard it is to find employees who could help them meet the challenge, Renee Coates might say, "Grow your own".

That's what Coates herself started doing in 1995 as the assistant director of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs in the Washington Headquarters Service's Personnel and Security Directorate. She hired Scott Deyo, through the summer hire program for persons with disabilities. Since then, she's added two more "home-grown" talents, Kimberly Coleman and Teisha Williams, both equal opportunity assistants.

Coates proudly touts her three proteges, saying they have become critical assets to the overall success of the agency's EEO and Cultural Diversity Program.

The three were hired as part-timers under the summer- and student-hire programs.

Deyo spent the summers of 1995 and 1996 working for the EEO Programs Division while pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va. Graduating in 1997, he worked at a psychiatric hospital for a year. During this time he completed his mediation certification through the Virginia Supreme Court.

While completing his master's degree at George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Deyo acquired practical experience by conducting alternative dispute resolution interventions at the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Institutes of Health. He also helped draft the ADR policy at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He has since earned his master's.

Coates picked him up as a full-time ADR specialist in March. He was immediately assigned to write the administrative instructions and policies for the agency's new ADR program.

Coates said she discovered in 1995 that Deyo was a computer wizard and "grew" him by giving him assignments emphasizing automation requirements, including creating elaborate briefing charts and graphs.

"The summer program influenced my future because I was inspired by such a professional and socially conscious organization," Deyo said. "It was a big step from southern Virginia, but I welcome the challenge."

Williams and Coleman expect to earn bachelor's degrees by the end of the year. Williams is a psychology major at Bowie State University in Prince George's County, Md., and Coleman studies political science and history at American University in Washington.

"When I first started, my duties were pretty much limited to filing, mailing documents and greeting customers," Williams said. "Now, I actually deal with individuals who feel that they've been discriminated against. I interview employees documenting information, advise them of their rights and informing them of the different options available in accordance with EEO law and regulations."

"I've always wanted to work with people, and this was a good first step for me to achieve that goal," she said.

Coates said Williams' job is critical because "EEO regulations mandate that organizations must stay abreast of the administrative process in order to satisfy time-line requirements."

"When Teisha began her full-time employment with the office last summer, the EEO caseload was hovering around the 45- plus mark," Coates said. "Due to the automated tracking system she established, coupled with her expedient work habits, she has helped to decrease this number to 27 cases."

Williams also works closely with Coleman in support of the ADR program. She identifies situations that might be mediated without going through the regulated EEO administrative process.

Coates called Coleman "the right and left arms of the office." In addition to being Coates' immediate assistant, she's the office's general administrator with oversight for a host of functions.

"More specifically, she coordinates the special emphasis programs, such as the Pentagon displays for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic American Heritage Month, African American History Month, Women's History Month," Coates said.

"She also provides support to the Cultural Diversity training staff to include on occasion facilitating some of the workshops," Coates said. "Her newest role is serving as the database tracking administrator for the ADR program."

She said Coleman is the first person customers talk to when they call with a problem. Coleman screens customer concerns, discerns the basic issues and determines first how the case should be handled and second to whom the case should be assigned.

"My goal is to learn as much about the EEO process as possible and become more involved in the ADR program that we're developing," said Coleman, who moved from Chicago nearly four years ago. "I'm enjoying helping Scott develop the ADR program and fine-tuning it."

Coates said Deyo, Williams and Coleman are proven examples of the types of individuals that supervisors can and should "grow" to fill positions in their organizations.

"When you witness bright young talent come through the door through such programs as the summer hire and student programs, demonstrating ambition and interest beyond the norm, supervisors should take that opportunity to challenge their potential," she said. "The assignments should stretch their minds and their capabilities exposing them to ideas they might otherwise never experience."

She said managers and supervisors should have that innate ability to identify when employees demonstrate they possess that extra something. "Be willing to take a risk on those folks and expose them to greater opportunities within the organization," Coates said. "If a vacancy occurs, you then have someone you can bring in who is not only a valued contributor, but also has an appreciation of the mission and functions of the organization."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEqual employment opportunity assistant Teisha Williams finishes requirements for a degree in psychology this year. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageRenee Coates, left, poses with her "home- grown" protégés, Teisha Williams, Kimberly Coleman and Scott Deyo. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageKimberly Coleman's boss calls her "the right and left arms" of the Equal Employment Opportunity Programs division in the Pentagon's Washington Headquarters Service's. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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