When the government calls, this senior executive makes the move

The Farm Credit Administration has had a new operations associate director. Byron Adkins moved over from the Interior Department's Business Center.

The Farm Credit Administration has had a new operations associate director for several months now. Byron Adkins moved over from the Interior Department’s Business Center late last year. He was also a recipient of a Presidential Rank Award in the most recent cohort. The Federal Drive with Tom Temin talked to Bryon Adkins about his federal career and his current position.

Interview Transcript: 

Tom Temin And we never did talk about your Presidential Rank Award, and that was for work done before coming over to USDA. And the Rank Awards. Never state why someone got one. So, what did they tell you? Why, you got it.

Byron Adkins So it’s been a series of events. I’ve been a senior executive for about ten years, and so it was a combination of all of the accomplishments over that ten years that was highlighted, particularly when I worked at the Department of Commerce and partnership with GSA in renovating the headquarters facility and what we called at that time, the 21st century workforce model, which basically is opening up to open workplace, bringing more light into the build and make it a more modern touch and feel. But also, my work, you know, with the transition back from Covid 19 and how we handled that at the department, as well as the presidential transition team, which we’re up again here soon. We partner with GSA to house all of the presidential transition political when they were going through that process. So that was very interesting part of being at Commerce, but also most recently at the Interior Business Center, the work that we’ve done, highlighting, you know, the Orphan Wells work and the grants that my organization was able to award some 560 million. And then we also have one of my associate directors that received a Fed 100 award for our work with transitioning the effective Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to their new financial system in ERP, in which we partnered with them on that. And so that was significant and a great effort that I was able to be a part of. And then last but not least, particularly in this administration, the difference, that I was able to champion was also a part of that packet as well. And so, I was very fortunate and very humbled to be a recipient of that award. And it really was a highlight over a long career as a senior executive. So very thankful.

Tom Temin And just getting back to the Commerce Department, this will test your knowledge of the history there, what is now occupying the space that used to be the aquarium.

Byron Adkins Okay. That is now a piece of space that’s currently under renovation. We were able to actually start work with our first consolidated security operations center, which is a piece of it. The other half of it is still under renovation, to my knowledge, so we won’t be able to find anything in the aquarium. You have to go up to Baltimore, where those fish were shipped to.

Tom Temin Well, now that it’s the SoC, it gives new meaning to phishing attacks. I guess you might say. And sorry about that. All right, so now, you have moved from a kind of a big, visible multi-service agency, the interior Business center, and you are in a very focused organization. Just give us the short version of what the Farm Credit Administration actually does.

Byron Adkins Happy to do so because I had to educate myself as well once I came on board. So, the Farm Credit Administration essentially provides oversight and regulation to what they call the farm credit system. And these are a group of institutions that provide funding to all of our farmers, ranchers, farm own cooperatives, rural home buyers as well, and Ag business to ensure that we are able to feed the world. And the Farm Credit Administration ensures that they’re safe and sound dependable sources of credit. Also is more important. And I think this is in partnership with USDA as well, supporting the next generations of farmers, making sure we’re serving that next generation, by ensuring that they’re safe lending for young and new farmers that are up and coming and ranchers as well. And so, it’s a really interesting mission. You know, we go out and examine those farm credit system and institutions, and make sure that they’re doing all the things they need to do, but very small as well, like you mentioned, about 350 employees. So, it’s been a quite a culture shift for me, but it’s been a good shift.

Tom Temin We’re speaking with Byron Adkins. He is now the associate director for operations at the Farm Credit Administration. What does it mean? Operations, since it’s basically a kind of a white-collar operation, if you will. There’s no real mechanics there.

Byron Adkins Yeah. So, it’s very similar to the work that I was doing in Interior Business Center. When you think of. So, the mission is to make sure that we regulate the farm credit system, and we have examiners and regulators that do that. But every organization, every mission requires mission enabling functions. And so, I work in the Office of Agency Service, and we help support those things. Everything from H.R., our back office, H.R., and all of those suites of systems to operational things such as security, personnel security, cyber security, making sure folks has transportation of fleet. Despite being a small agency, we still have to provide those infrastructure and operational things. I, I’m over the facility as well. So, kind of going back to my roots within the Department of Commerce, having an opportunity to really make sure I’m creating a space where folks want to come to. And operationally, they can get the things they need to get done to accomplish your mission.

Tom Temin And are you now a user of shared services after having been a provider of them at interior.

Byron Adkins I’m happy to say that the Farm Credit Administration is a user of shared services. Both ARC and IVC provide service to us, so we are believers of it, and I think we’re examples of good government. By using shared services.

Tom Temin And a lot of small agencies, the independent agencies or the smaller bureaus was in large departments such as USDA have a cloud strategy. But it’s most of what the FCA doing cloud based at this point.

Byron Adkins We’re working towards it. Right. And so, it’s a process. You can’t turn the Titanic in a day. And so that is part of the long-term strategy that we’re looking towards. And one of the top priorities of our chairman as well is looking at how we can innovate, but also comply with some of the IT executive orders associated with that. And so, we’re doing it internally for FCA and we’re slowly working on that. But I definitely say our partners I mean I mentioned, you know, ARC, IBC NFCs, our payroll. They are all moving towards cloud-based solutions and their support to us. So, we’re kind of doing tangentially, more aggressively and then in-house within FCA is top of our list to make sure that we’re moving in that direction.

Tom Temin And in some ways, you exemplify what the Senior Executive Service was supposed to be all about originally. That is, a cadre of people who could move into any department or any function and kind of help it operationally, leadership wise, regardless of the specific mission, hasn’t always worked out that way. Some people are very mission focused and senior executives stay in the same kind of channel. You’ve moved around a lot. What’s the first thing when you move in as a senior executive to a place that had somebody else and probably thought they were doing just fine, thank you. And you’re the new guy there.

Byron Adkins You know, one of the first things I do is listen and observe, and I call it the, you know, the first hundred days of learning, making sure I understand, exactly how things operate, being immersed in understanding the culture of how to get things done is very important. And so, I spent a significant amount of time doing informational interviews and understanding the dynamics and challenges associated with the organization. I will tell you, there are 1 or 2 things that I walked in the door that were on my plate that I had to most immediately work on and handle, and I did that judiciously. But I will tell you, that’s where I spent a lot of time at. And I can also tell you, I was very fortunate. It was not a situation where the house is on fire. And, you know, I walked in, and I had to quickly change things. So, I was very fortunate about that. Not saying it was cruise control, but, I did have an opportunity to kind of get to know the agency, get to know the players in the mission and figure out how I can best serve then. So, I think that’s what I would carry to any organization and what I’ve done in the past as well to be successful. And then once you understand that you can figure out how you can best add value to the organization.

Tom Temin So those immediate issues, I imagine, must have been personnel related. So, you can’t really give us the details.

Byron Adkins Some of that was that, but other things were just, the timing on impeding deadlines for things that we had to do for the administration at that quickly was able to take care of.

Tom Temin All right. And what about the telework remote work? Where is the FCA actually headquartered? Where are you? Do you go there every day? And what about the rest of the workforce? Is it mostly remote now or what’s going on?

Byron Adkins Sure, we have a hybrid model, and that approach has been informed from feedback from employees about where they best work and how they would like to approach that. And so typically I’ll go in once or twice a week. We’re headquartered in McLean, so that’s where the majority of our workforce is. But we also have for lease locations across the country, where we have our field, what we call our field offices. They have small offices and cadres of FCA employees as well. And they are also, you know, in a hybrid work environment. You also have to understand there’s a significant portion of travel for examiners because they actually physically go out to foreign credit institutions to examine and regulate them as well. And so, they are really traveling on top of having a hybrid work environment. And that’s worked really well. It seems like for FCA. And so, we’re going to continue that until we, you know, see that we need to make a different change.

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