Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs
MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today?
KB: I made a mid-career move to join the Federal Service in 2000. Prior to that, I spent 9 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and another 8 years with the Virginia State Government. I was ready for a change, and loved the flexibility – and opportunity – that came with joining our Country’s largest employer.
I am currently the head of Human Resources (HR) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an organization of 12,000 dedicated scientists and program administrators who use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision-makers with the reliable information they need, when they need it.
NOAA’s Mission: Science, Service and Stewardship
- To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts
- To share that knowledge and information with others
- To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources
The work is fascinating. My team of HR professionals provide tools and guidance to ensure NOAA has the talent needed to accomplish the mission, and promote a work environment that enables optimal employee performance.
MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?
KB: I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else. Mission is what drives me, and the Federal Government has some of the most exciting and meaningful jobs in the world. But more importantly, our customers are the American People. As public servants, we are not here to generate revenue, but rather are motivated by a “higher calling” to serve others. We’re here to protect our nation and its resources; to provide essential services to the public and ensure long-term economic prosperity; to fight deadly diseases such as cancer and HIV; and to care for those who need our help.
I’m proud to be a public servant, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
MC: What is one of your biggest achievements?
KB: I’m working towards it now!
At NOAA, and more broadly across the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), we are changing the way we deliver HR services. In 2017, we began moving transactional functions to a shared “enterprise” approach, where efficiencies are gained through process improvements and technology solutions. As these day-to-day operations (e.g. personnel actions, benefits, payroll, etc.) are migrated to the DOC Enterprise Services Organization (ESO), the NOAA HR team focuses more on providing human capital guidance to our customers. We are reshaping ourselves to serve as strategic partners with our mission areas, guiding them to make effective decisions on how to attract, develop, and retain the workforce they need.
This 3-year transformation is the most comprehensive change management initiative I’ve led. It affects every aspect of our work – and impacts the thousands of internal customers we serve at NOAA. We have much more to do to achieve the goals we’ve set, but we are making progress.
MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government?
KB: A few things come to mind:
- Know that every organization has a degree of “bureaucracy.” This is not unique to government. The key is to learn your organization inside and out. Gain insights into how decisions are made and who is in a position to influence them. Understand what it takes to get your voice heard: Do your research, see issues from all angles, bring a constructive solution – and then deliver your message with positive intent.
- Be open to change and say “yes” to the potential opportunities it brings. Better yet, be a change agent. You might have to bring a little patience and a lot of persistence, but be bold and know that you can make a difference!
- Know when to seek new opportunities – and when to stick it out. Federal service brings a lot of flexibility (e.g. to move between roles, positions, and even agencies), which creates not just career ladders for upward mobility, but also career “lattices” with lateral, vertical or diagonal moves that help build capabilities. Work hard at developing your skills through continuous learning and development… and consider alternative assignments or positions. But, be careful not to move so often that employers question your dedication or persistence.
- Never forget that at the heart of everything we do at work are other people. It’s not enough just to be the best in your field. You also need to be someone others can work with and rely on. To be your most effective self, dedicate time and effort toward building trusted relationships and broadening your networks. None of us operate in a silo. We are interconnected – all driven by a common mission – and we need each other to be successful.
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