Val Ruark always envisioned sculpting her future in 3D design, not navigating the corridors of public service. Even after graduating from Salisbury University, her journey wasn’t chiseled out clearly. Initially assigned basic administrative tasks at NASA, Val’s curiosity and ability to spot opportunities led her to explore beyond her duties, turning a simple data entry task into a chance to understand the strategy behind the policy reporting mandate.
“By questioning our approach and forming coalitions across multiple organizations, I was able to uncover millions in rogue assets by having a greater level of granularity and just more reliable data,” she says. “And then I was able to demonstrate that this is something that could add real value as its own program. And they’re like, ‘That’s right, and you need to run it.’”
Val became a federal employee and tasked with the program she proposed, setting a benchmark for the agency. Her role expanded beyond NASA, influencing change across the government.
“To me, that just shows that hard work, commitment, and just doing the right thing can really elevate your career, elevate your success, but you’re also elevating the whole agency,” she says. “It was something that I took so much pride in and it was fun to be able to go around to the other Centers within NASA to promote that use case.”
After a decade, a new opportunity beckoned. REI, a company she had worked with in her NASA role, offered her a management consulting job in change management working alongside GSA, NASA, and several other agencies. She was drawn by the promise of governmentwide impact and truly driving change.
Many do not fully understand all the roles the General Services Administration serves. One of those being a vital advisor to the Office of Management and Budget. From REI’s vantage point, OMB’s two offices for Procurement Policy and Federal CIO works together by simplifying technology acquisition to boost government efficiency.
Since 2015, REI has been collaborating with GSA, strengthening its connections with the Office of Government-Wide Policy (OGP) and the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). The company supports the Governmentwide IT Category and it’s mission to drive down IT costs by helping agencies of all sizes purchase IT goods and services in smarter, fairer, and more secure ways.
REI is more than technology experts. The company champions causes like accessibility and promotes values like diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s solutions and services are deep into federal acquisitions and IT management. In everything REI does, it focuses on the pulse of market shifts, crafting strategies for the future while addressing today’s challenges. REI doesn’t just identify the needs of its customers; the company anticipates them.
Through whole-of-government approaches like governmentwide Communities of Practice (CoP), REI is advising on how to set the blueprint for future-forward agencies. REI’s support to CoPs such as the IT Buyers and the Federal Technology Investment Management (FTIM) inform their strategies to be nimble, efficient, and innovative.
Such strategies or strategic initiatives have included exploration into financial operations (FinOps) for cloud acquisitions. Understanding the FAR and common agency challenges for cloud buying, the company took a step back and proposed how the Cloud and Infrastructure, IT Buyers, and FTIM CoPs could collaborate to drive change. Together, they looked at cloud acquisitions and operating costs in-depth, considering tech and business, and sought advice from experts like the FinOps Foundation, for better understanding.
Involvement with these collaborations has helped REI develop robust federal acumen and understand vital agency experiences to help push governmentwide goals forward. It showcases how forming coalitions across government can address obstacles and drive projects that might have been hindered by budget or resistance.
At its core, REI’s work bridges gaps between various government agencies, addressing urgent requirements while also crafting long-term plans. To give you a snapshot, the company’s collaboration with GSA has led to:
- Organizational Change and Collaboration: Bringing agencies together, breaking down the “we’re different” mindset and sparking a new era of teamwork. We helped spearhead the use of organizational change management (OCM) tactics for development of the Federal Change Management Guide.
- Better Visibility and Accountability: Shedding light on agency processes, gaining insights to make agency and Federal operations compliant and effective. We counseled on the revamp of the Federal IT Taxonomy and implementation of Technology Business Management (TBM).
- Outcome-focused Results with Innovation: Launching new governmentwide capabilities resourcefully, amplifying impact and value-add to the Federal IT Marketplace. We assisted in a multi-agency effort lead by GSA to operationalize the governmentwide IT Vendor Management Office, which went live in under 6-months and joined all four major acquisition programs.
These clear gains, underscore REI’s ability to see the big picture, not just individual tasks. At the heart of this is REI’s Mindful Modernization approach, which provides a strategy for generating a meta-awareness of the need for transformational change and equips agencies with the ability to implement in a continuously changing environment. REI tackles customer challenges comprehensively, merging business knowledge, the latest technologies, and proven methods for thoughtful solutions. This people-first, flexible strategy goes beyond just meeting standards; it actively advances modern digital transformation, deeply integrating emerging technology into the agency’s culture and strategy.
Make no mistake about it, change in a vast bureaucracy isn’t easy. However, working with GSA showed REI the powerful difference they can make together. Simple tools like, the Federal Change Management Guide help to secure early wins, form coalitions, and lead change. The guide has been leveraged by several federal programs, councils, and CoPs to support various important initiatives. To boost the guides value it also serves as a compliment to other federal playbooks like Application Rationalization and defining the role of Chief Data Officer. For each of these use cases, the guide contributed to widespread positive change.
“It all goes to show that when you create something valuable, people notice” Val says. REI is proud the guide has had a significant impact, influencing not only GSA but also others beyond.
This impact and drive to affect change are exactly why Val enjoys her work at REI. She attributes her motivation to a deep-seated determination and passion for hard work.
“Characters like Jack Ryan and MacGyver, who manage to do good and think on their feet, inspire me,” she says. “I’ve learned it’s not just about following orders; it’s about finding value and innovation in everything. Whether it’s leveraging technology for financial planning or building invaluable connections, it’s all about being resourceful and making a difference.”
In the end, we all have a bit of MacGyver in us, ready to innovate for the good of our country.
Senior Manager, Advisory Services
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