A new resource for federal career advancement, available only to feds

Federal employees, and federal employees only, have a new place to go for information on leadership development and career advancement. A whole series of semina...

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Federal employees, and federal employees only, have a new place to go for information on leadership development and career advancement. A whole series of seminars now lives on a special section of MAX.gov. Joining the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with details, from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Kim Wittenberg.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Kim, good to have you back.

Kim Wittenberg: Hi, Tom, it’s great to see you again.

Tom Temin: And besides your job as a health scientist administrator, you have also put together this kind of library of resources for federal employees. Tell us more about it.

Kim Wittenberg: Thanks so much. Yes, so much has happened since I talked with you back in 2018. I was thinking about at that time, the federal leadership and professional development seminar series, LISTSERV or email list had about 3,000 members, and now we’re up to almost 6,000. So it has been a lot of continued interest and growth.

Tom Temin: Sure, I had more hair on the top of my head back then, too.

Kim Wittenberg: Well, in 2021, you did mention the MAX.gov website, and we do now have a live website on MAX.gov that’s a fed only section and the community portion of MAX.gov that allows for a repository of the seminars. So we have a video recordings, the slides, the rosters of folks who have attended so they can connect with each other, and various other resources connected to past seminars.

Tom Temin: And tell us more about MAX.gov for the uninitiated, this is a site that has a lot of different things there. But almost all of them, you need to be a fed and have an account as an official federal employee to access them, correct?

Kim Wittenberg: That’s correct. MAX.gov is mostly open only to federal employees. Although there are sections that are open to the public as well, depending on the page, the different pages have different privacy. My page in particular is open to the entire federal government, but not public. So that website allows you to get in to see the seminars, they’re divided up into three main buckets. There’s the bucket for general leadership topics, such as last year, we did one on accessibility and how you design something from the very beginning to make sure it’s an accessible product, and another bucket of topics design, developmental opportunities, and the myriad of opportunities that exists for federal employees. And then there’s another one on career advancement resources, such as the seminar we did on getting to SES.

Tom Temin: All right, and by the way, it’s available only to federal employees, as you say, and do you have a way of keeping the Russian hackers out, too?

Kim Wittenberg: I’m not sure about that. I do want to say there is a public facing site, as well. So YouTube, we still have a YouTube channel. So for the seminars that are not sensitive in nature, the recordings are posted on the YouTube channel. So there’s the YouTube channel link, there’s the MAX.gov link and there’s also the LISTSERV, the email list that folks can sign up for to receive resources and announcements for seminars, and I can share all those links with you as well.

Tom Temin: OK, yeah, we’ll put those at the bottom of the posting of this interview when we put it at our website. And what’s the origination of these video seminars? Can any agency do this, say accessibility or whatever the case might be? You’re a new SESer, here’s what you need to know, that kind of thing. Can any agency contribute to this?

Kim Wittenberg: Yes, we’ve had many different presenters now across the government. So back when I spoke at the 2018, we were offering single presenter seminars. And in 2019, we started to also offer multi-presenter workshops that are multiple hours in length up to half day or full day. So we have a cross-government perspective of different types of successful strategies, depending on the topic. And those have been of great interest and one that we did last year, in 2021 was actually on telework and hybrid work environments and successful strategies for those environments.

Tom Temin: Definitely timely there. We’re speaking with Kim Wittenberg. She’s a health scientist administrator at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And in her spare time, if she has any, puts together this whole MAX.gov site. And what’s the take up in? Do you have a way of monitoring how many people and what types of people and what agencies are using it?

Kim Wittenberg: I don’t have a way of knowing who has actually gone on the MAX.gov website. But we do have two tabs in addition to the repository sections, we do have two tabs that I’m hopeful we’ll get some visitors. One of them is on connection. And that tab has resources in it that provide all sorts of other LISTSERVs and federal communities of practice and how to join and find those federal communities, for example, there are communities for federal evaluators, communities for strategic planners, but sometimes it’s hard to find your counterparts in other agencies. So that tab has information on what communities exist and how to connect with them. And then there’s another tab called Get Involved. And that tab is something that I just started a month ago and launched two knowledge sharing initiatives, one of which is on lessons learned and successful strategy initiative where feds can submit their lessons learned and successful strategies, and another is on submitting hurdles. So feds that are facing a hurdle that’s widespread, they’ve been dealing with it for a while, they can submit it and then present it and I’ll go out to the listserv of almost 6,000 feds who can respond and potentially provide a solution.

Tom Temin: And could someone create some sort of an interest group or a community of interest on there and establish one and exchange ideas?

Kim Wittenberg: That’s what I’m hoping in the future. I’m hoping to have a more of a capability of discussion threads and submitting wikis and things like that.

Tom Temin: What kind of support if any of you get from OPM on this?

Kim Wittenberg: Well, OPM has actually been great at providing speaker support. So we’ve had several speakers from OPM, we did a workshop last year on developmental opportunities, hosting them, and receiving them and OPM was fantastic. We had 20 speakers that day from across the government. So that was a very large workshop. And they were very supportive in that.

Tom Temin: It strikes me that given the virtual way people have been working, and now they’re used to it, it seems like the in-person idea might even give way as the main format, and people doing it virtually because it’s no travel involved. No travel time involved. And it gives you much greater capacity, I guess, to create content.

Kim Wittenberg: Yes, that’s an interesting question, Tom, because when we last spoke, of course, it was in person and virtual. And now it’s been just virtual. And I think that the seminar series has really been successful in maintaining an engaging environment during the seminars. So even if there are 60 agencies and 1,500 in the audience, they’re all able to still interact with the presenters. They’re able to chat and type in their comments and their questions, talk with each other. And in the survey, I asked folks, how many new people that you connect with, and it’s just amazing that even in this all virtual environment, there are many new connections that are still happening.

Tom Temin: And how do you have time to do this, given that you have a responsible job at the agency?

Kim Wittenberg: Well, I have tried to make it as efficient as possible. So over time, it’s kind of been something that that happens more quickly at the workshop that I did in November on telework, and hybrid work strategies. That one actually came together in two weeks with nine speakers. So I’ve gotten more efficient at pulling the events together. But it is a labor of love. So I can’t say that I don’t work some late nights on those sometimes.

Tom Temin: Well, I know what you’re talking about. What’s the old saying if you want something done, give it to a busy person?

Kim Wittenberg: That’s correct.

Tom Temin: Kim Wittenberg is the health scientist administrator at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, but we’ll have a link to her great site. Check it out.

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