John Sporing: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts formerly at the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
I’m starting to like having themes for my interviews. Last time, it was sunshine, and what better way to personify sunshine than with an interview w/ Anita Arile….if only I had interviewed her in her beloved island of GUAM! This time around my theme is “home”. For me “home” is defined by so many things. Now that I am married, “home” is where my husband is but “home” is also where “home” has always been, with family and friends, with mami, and tíos, and tías and cousins…home is what keeps me grounded, what reminds me that not too long ago, I lived in a town with a population of 14,000 people, where traffic lights are few and high-rise condos are nowhere to be found; that I am a border baby and will always be, and that no matter what I do in life or where I move next, I will always be just a girl trying to make a difference in the world.
I was home a week ago. Despite the swine flu, and the many “I wouldn’t go close to Mexico if I were you”, I went; I had to go, my grandma said so (lol). Nothing like a five hour plane ride, a two hour drive through the desert in the middle of the night, and the best feeling in the world… being with mom on mother’s day weekend (not too mention experiencing those magical Arizona sunsets!). By the way, no swine flu there, I’m fine.
So this week, I decided to interview John Sporing, a great guy overall whose dedication to public service is exemplified by his willingness to help others, as John puts it (and I quote): “I define success as knowing that at the end of the day, I have made some kind of impact (hopefully a good impact) on someone’s life, career, relationship, etc.”.
So, what does interviewing John have to do with “home” you say? Well, when I met John at an event in downtown D.C., one of the things he mentioned was that he moved around a lot when he was young, and I wondered: when you move around a lot, where do you consider home?
Enough blabbering! Thank you John for taking the time to answer my questions and hope you all enjoy this interview.
1. You once mentioned you moved often while growing up, where do you consider home and what do you miss most about being “back home” (if anything)?
I am a military brat, so yes we moved around quite a bit when I was young (I went to seven different schools growing up). My mom’s family is from San Antonio, so we always seemed to return back there between tours. When dad retired from the Army we moved back to San Antonio. My parents still live there, so that is where I call home. I have to say I miss the food the most, these Northern folks just don’t know how to make good Tex-Mex!
2. What is 13L and how did you get involved?
13L is a group of mid-career Federal employees working on projects to improve the federal workforce. Some of our projects include Flash Mentoring and FedPitch. In fact we just held FedPitch 2009 on the National Mall as part of Public Service Recognition Week.
I got involved after I met Scott Derrick (the founder of 13L) when I read an article about 13L in the Federal Times. The group sounded like we would be a good fit. I have met some great folks in 13L and through our various projects.
3. What would you say are some of the major challenges you’ve encountered in your career?
I think for the most part I have been very lucky in my career. I have been surrounded by very intelligent and resourceful individuals who have been willing to help me at just about every turn. That is a major reason why I try to give back to those around me every opportunity I can.
4. How do you define success? What in your opinion are the main ingredients of a successful career?
I define success as knowing that at the end of the day, I have made some kind of impact (hopefully a good impact) on someone’s life, career, relationship, etc.
The main ingredients of a successful career….I guess being able to look at yourself in the mirror each day and know that you are doing the best that you can, and also having a cadre of people around you who can give you honest feedback.
5. Have you ever had a mentor or someone who inspired you to do your best?
I have had many mentors in my life and still do. I like to call them my personal board of directors. Just like a corporate board, I have mentors with different strengths. That allows me to call on different people depending on the situation.
6. If so, what was it about this person that inspired you?
I think finding a mentor who sees something in you that no one else sees (sometimes not even yourself) is important. I think each of my mentors over the years has seen something in me that, with a little help, would make me a better person.
7. What is Strategic Presence?
Strategic Prescience is non-profit I started up earlier this year. With the help of several colleagues, we are providing leadership development, strategic planning, and IT assistance to small non-profit organizations. I want these non-profits to be able to focus on their mission and not have to worry about learning how to update their website. So far we are helping three organizations and are able to provide these services at no cost.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I plan to stay with the Federal government—in fact I am moving to a new job at the end of May (after 17 years with my current agency). I hope I am able to remain in positions where I can make things better for the American people.
9. I noticed you travel A LOT! Where are some of your favorite places to visit?
I do love to travel. I think it goes back to my childhood when we were always moving around with the military. I think a lot of people do not realize how many great things there are to see and do around the world (even around the USA).
In the US, New York City is by far my favorite place to visit. So much to do and you get to meet people from every place in the world (even more so than in DC). I also do an annual trip to the Wine Country in California (to stock up for the rest of the year).
Outside the US, for a quiet get-away, we head down to Aruba (they have direct flights from Dulles). For something more exciting, we have really liked South America lately—the prices are low, so you get a lot for your money.
10. What is your favorite type of wine?
My favorite type of wine depends a lot on what I am doing. I almost always drink reds, and am very partial to cabs and malbecs right now. But I will NEVER turn down a good port!
11. How did you find out about GovLoop?
I met Steve Ressler at a conference a little over a year ago and we got to talking about this new project he was working on—GovLoop. A couple days later a mutual friend also mentioned GovLoop so I joined up. I have found it a great way to meet other government folks from around the world.
Great profile of John. I like the idea of a personal board of directors. I’ve done it more informally but I need to fill up a couple seats on my board.
I also like the discussion of home. Personally as my family is spread out my definition is home is a little unclear. But my current house is my 1st house with my partner and we’ve been growing into it – turning a house into a home with two cats and filling the house with memories.
Celia: You’ve summed up John very well. Good job…
John: Congrats! Keep up the great work of adding real value to the federal sector. (I’ll drink a glass of Malbec in your honor this week.)
It is always gratifying to see public servants that are still very excited about what they do no matter how long they’ve been with the Government. I’m always inspired and motivated by that. May be I should join 13L. What are the requirements for that? Great Interview Celia!!
John: You are an amazing person to manage so many interests and also welcome a new and challenging job! Your non-profit work is interesting – I will check that out!
Enjoyed reading the interview.
John: I like your definition of a mentor – a person who sees something in you that no one else does and who helps you be a better person. Best wishes with your charity –
Celia – Great reflections to set the stage.
John – It’s been great to meet you recently and learn more via this interview! Based on your work through Strategic Presence, you may be interested in learning more about an innovative charitable venture here in Durham called DurhamCares. It would be interesting to launch something similar in DC.
John, I sure enjoyed reading your interview. You covered many critical items. Please know that you are making a difference… ! Best wishes with your new job – Mike
Great interview. It it only an annual trip to California for wine? By my count I think you’ve gone at least twice in the last 3 months…. ? 🙂
Rumor has it you are also involved with the Senior Fellows Board that is comprised of graduates of CEG’s Fellows Program (now administered by Partnership for Public Service).
Nice job covering some important issues.
John, hope to meet you when you’re down here!
Congrats on the new job, John. What a great interview to have as your introduction to your new colleagues. And I love the idea of a personal board of directors. ~ Claudia
John and Celia, what a wonderful conversation – I think you’re both pretty amazing, and am so glad to know you. John, I enjoyed learning about your world and wish you great success at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Kitty
John, thanks for sharing. You are amazing to successfully flow from one interesting project to another, making a huge difference along the way. I vouch for your Tex Mex abilities –Wow
It’s been great to know you and work with you over years. As a living witness, I can say for sure that you have made positive impact in many peoples lives, myself included. Continue the good work. Thank you.
Best of luck with your new job!
Great responses John! I especially like your definition of success and that of a successful career!