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Homegrown Leadership

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 5th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2015 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick off the NextGen Training Summit on July 20th and 21st in Washington, DC. This year we have 30 finalists – the NextGen 30. Over the next month we will introduce you to our finalists through this blog series.


Meet the finalist:

Who: Chris Hamm, Director for U.S. General Services Administration Assisted Acquisition Service, FEDSIM

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Finalist, Advocate Award

“Chris is a homegrown leader of FEDSIM, having worked his entire career there. He worked his way up from the ground floor, serving in every role in the organization first. He has an incredible grasp of the intersection of acquisition, fiscal law information technology, and human capital management. He maintains a strong FEDSIM culture that rivals any private consulting organization, keeping his government team innovative, engaged, regardless of the challenging federal environment…He fosters an organizational climate of meaningful work, recognition of quality performance, and support for individual employees during challenging assignments.” –Steve Viar, GSA. Viar nominated Hamm for a NextGen Public Service Advocate Award.

Chris Hamm has never been afraid of a challenge. As Director of FEDSIM, the GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Service for government agencies, Hamm helps manage over $7 billion in information technology and professional service contracts. Working with and modeling from the private sector, Hamm works tirelessly to improve government technology and acquisition practices.

Today, “Mr. Hamm fosters an organizational climate of meaningful work, recognition of quality performance, and support for individual employees during challenging assignments. He has recruited, hired and trained over 50 percent of the FEDSIM workforce,” Viar said.

From updating an entire email infrastructure to building a new application, Hamm has managed many of the government’s less-frequent undertakings. His organization FEDSIM is a fee-for-service organization that every agency can employ as-needed for big IT projects.

According to Hamm, “FEDSIM is like a consultancy to the government that really specializes in doing large, complex IT projects.” Anytime they need a major technological overhaul, government agencies turn to Hamm. “Whenever they’re seeking to do something that they only buy once every five years or so, they can seek out and hire an expert from my practice to help them run that acquisition and really make sure that they’re using the best practices across the government,” he explained.

Best practice sharing is not something always equated with the government; Hamm hopes to change that perception. “One of the big things in my office is interacting very frequently with private industry,” he said. Because FEDSIM is not appropriated, it is easier to both work collaboratively with the private sector and employ private industry acquisition practices.

Drawing from the private sector, Hamm has adopted performance-based contracting. Rather than focusing on how he thinks contractors should do the work that’s needed, Hamm emphasizes the overall goal of the project. When beginning any project, he asks, “What is the mission of the agency, how do those align with [the contractor], and then how do we let the contractor work within reasonable boundaries so that they get that out?” He believes that contracts simply have a higher chance of success when everyone has a clear understanding of the mission and the desired outcome.

Hamm acquired his unique management perspective early on in his career. He got his start in government through the Presidential Management Internship program. “Most of my peers who started in that program wanted to try and change the world, they wanted to change the government,” he said. While many grew frustrated, losing patience and moving to the private sector, Hamm stayed the course. “The ability to influence really happened over time. It doesn’t happen right away,” he observed.

Hamm contends that making a real difference requires patience. “Once you start getting credibility with the underlying subject matter expertise, then [government agencies] start to be willing to compromise from the ordinary work to your kind of mindset,” he said.

“I ended up staying in GSA because it’s very much like a private entity,” Hamm admitted. Because it’s not appropriated, the GSA can conduct itself in a very business-like manner. Individuals’ ability to work in a variety of areas over the course of their careers while still serving the public attracted Hamm. “You’re going to be working on different technologies and working with different agencies,” Hamm said. His position in the GSA has allowed him to have many diverse experiences without jumping around to different employers and careers.

Variety is just one of many advantages Hamm sees to serving in the public sector. He believes that there are a lot of opportunities for training and quick career advancement. “Within a short period of time, a lot of people get responsibility that would exceed the corporate world,” he said. An individual could be managing $100 million project by age 26, power relatively unheard of in the private sector.

It’s facts like these that Hamm hopes will convince the next generation of talent to consider a career in the public sector. He recruits many people who are fresh out of college to join him at FEDSIM, wanting them to find the same value in public service that he did.

“I’m a public servant because I really want to make a difference in how we work with industry, and how we can actually get things done within government,” Hamm said. Using modern technology and a unique approach to acquisition, he strives to advance the public sector in a meaningful way.

When asked about his award nomination, he simply said, “It’s very humbling.” Humble, patient, and innovative; Chris Hamm is a true homegrown leader.

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list here. Finally, register to attend the Awards Ceremony to get to know the NextGen 30 in-person!

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Anya Porche

I learned a great deal from every topic listed above. 18 Quotes for women were outstanding and will utilize them as ice breakers in public speaking emgagements in the future.