Here’s Your Map

A binder of org charts and history on a federal agency is one way to greet a new person to a job in the public sector. I think my team mentioned the existence of such a hefty introduction when I joined two years ago. I never saw it, but I also didn’t think I needed it.

Yet despite my confidence, each agency does have its own flavor of alphabet soup. The acronyms and protocols aren’t intuitive. In short, the maps are hard to read.

I’m part of a program in the Office of Research and Development (ORD) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The model was designed to give recent graduates short-term tastes of government work as in-house contractors.

The program incorporates a crucial component that has served me well – and could carry over into your organization. Each contractor has a federal employee who serves as a mentor.

My role in EPA is the communication lead for the innovation team in ORD. The team was created in 2010 to catalyze creative problem solving in the agency, expand proven innovation activities, and pilot new approaches to research.

I actually have two mentors because I also contribute to the broader communication team for of ORD’s Assistant Administrator. These people have helped me figure out the organization itself and guided me in the search for my own efficient paths to get work approved and completed inside a government agency.

We meet regularly for lunch to chat about work and life outside the office. Plus, I know I can pop by their desks almost any day for quick advice.

This type of background support has been invaluable in my first two years, especially considering my assignment.

How do you effectively communicate “innovative” research? Innovation can have many definitions, but we generally summarize it as the transformation of ideas into sustainable solutions that offer a better path than existing alternatives.

In the next couple months, I’ll focus these blog posts on the innovation activities I’m involved with here at EPA and on the experiences of a young person still new to the government world.

  • Has your organization tried a mentor program?
  • What has made it a success?
  • What obstacles have you faced?


Dustin Renwick works as a part of the Innovation Team in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science contained here.

Dustin Renwick is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Patricia D Jones

Hi Dustin,

I am thrilled to know you will be posting articles related to innovation and possibly mentoring. I believe a successful mentoring program could greatly improve the employee satisfaction levels at any organization. I also think fostering an innovative environment allows each person to expand their abilities and skill set. Thank you for your article.

Dustin Renwick

Thanks for reading, Patricia!

Supporting an innovative culture throughout an organization can be difficult, but as you point out, the potential rewards are significant for both the individuals and the overall group.

Dustin Renwick

Thanks for reading, Pat! I’m excited to share EPA’s work and some of my personal experiences as a young government contractor.