CXO Fellowship program helps mid-level managers hone their skills

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Federal Employees in the D.C. region have until today to get their applications in for the annual CXO Fellowship Program, operated by the General Services Administration. It’s a way for mid-level managers to get the training and  networking they need to move up a notch or two. With more, Federal Drive with Tom Temin turned to the CXO Fellowship program director, Angela McPherson.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Good to have you on.

Angela McPherson: Thank you for having me.

Tom Temin: Tell us about this program. This has been around a few years — and how does it all work for the people that get to be fellows?

Angela McPherson: So the CXO Fellowship Program began in 2014, is an initiative for the Federal CFO Council with the mission for increasing interagency and cross functional collaboration. The first cohort consisted of 27 finance fellows, but the program has since expanded to include force mission support functions, information technology, acquisitions, finance and human capital. The program is geared to professional development and networking opportunities for the next generation of federal leaders.

Tom Temin: So that’s why there’s an X in the middle. It’s not just finance, but all of those high level functions that interact with one another.

Angela McPherson: Correct.

Tom Temin: And who was eligible for this? Is it more than just GS 9 through 13? I mean, what do you have to have as a background? What types of people are you looking for that might have success in this program?

Angela McPherson: We’re looking for the rising stars in federal government. We’re looking for our future leaders. We want to make sure that you are operating in when of the current functions — acquisitions, finance, human capital or information technology. We want you to be endorsed by your supervisor. And a lot of our participants are endorsed by the agency heads, so those CXO leaders.

Tom Temin: Got it. So it might be the CIO or the deputy secretary for management, that type of person that would say to you, hey you know Sally or Henry here really should be in this program.

Angela McPherson: Yes.

Tom Temin: Got it. And how are the final selections made?

Angela McPherson: The final selections are made by the agency leadership. We try to have a diversified voice represented from each agency. So we want to make sure that we have a person from each function under each agency. Because again, this is a cross functional collaboration, so we want to make sure that we’re all learning how to speak the same language.

Tom Temin: Sure, I guess yeah the language of finance is certainly different from the language of information technology, been learning that one for a long time — and so, once someone is designated as a fellow by his or her agency, then what happens?

Angela McPherson: We will contact them to again confirm that they have the supervisors approval, and we will let them know that they have been selected for the program. And we would give them the dates of the orientation to begin the program.

Tom Temin: And at the orientation everyone gathers together?

Angela McPherson: Now that we’ve explained ended, largely we have broken the orientation up into functions, so that people within the same functions can meet each other across agencies. And we talked to them about the program, what’s going to happen, what the expectations are — things of that nature and give them an opportunity to network amongst themselves. And then afterwards, orientating each group, we will then bring them together as a whole.

Tom Temin: Got it. And this lasts a year does it, and what happens? What are some of the events and activities that have happened throughout that period of time that they are fellows?

Angela McPherson: We do group coaching, there’s professional development. There’s networking opportunities, and we do agency visits, which is something that’s rare. Get to see the inside of some of those agencies that are hard to visit. We also have senior executives that come and speak, kind of share their journey and give advice on how to move up in government.

Tom Temin: And this is not quite mentor-protege, is it? It’s more networking and learning by watching and seeing. Is that a good way to characterize it?

Angela McPherson: It is. It’s more of a community. It’s multifaceted. So the cells get to learn and share their experiences with each other from the same agency or the same function. And they also get to share with colleagues across agencies and functions. The network that they build in the fellowship is a network of people that will grow with them. So as they’re rising in government, their fellows are growing and rising with them, and they call upon each other for advice.

Tom Temin: Sure. So some of the takeaways then are the network of people themselves, what else?

Angela McPherson: The network of people themselves, they will be able to learn different skill sets and learn about other aspects of government. As a fellow alumni myself, it has been a great experience for me, and just in my career path.

Tom Temin: Sure. And I imagine because you are a program director, then you know what questions to ask say the IT people or the finance people or the HR people when you need to get something done in your own program?

Angela McPherson: Absolutely.

Tom Temin: And what about the pandemic? Because you mentioned visiting other agencies, getting together for orientation, none of that is probably going to happen, at least in the immediate future. What are your plans to to have the program go with this latest group of cohorts?

Angela McPherson: We’re taking in consideration the pandemic. We’ve currently moved to a virtual environment. So we’re trying to still give them the same amount of training and experience as much as we can in a virtual setting. But we are still considering what we can do from this standpoint to have as much face to face and virtual, kind of a hybrid method.

Tom Temin: I guess with the warm weather coming, you can have outdoor gatherings and everybody stands six feet apart, but you can talk from that distance.

Angela McPherson: You can. Microphones are still good.

Tom Temin: And how many people do you expect to come into the program this year?

Angela McPherson: We are looking to have about 80 to 100 people.

Tom Temin: Wow. Alright. Anything else we need to know?

Angela McPherson: That it’s a great program. Please share it with your fellow colleagues. Give it a try. If you are working in one of the four mission critical functions, please go to our website and apply.

Tom Temin: Alright, we’ll make sure they know. Angela McPhersonn is director of the CXO Fellowship Program at the GSA. Thanks so much for joining me.

Angela McPherson: Thank you for having me.