Recently our team interviewed several White House Leadership Development Program graduates to learn more about their experience in the program. Over the next month, we’ll share their stories, learning moments, and advice through a variety of mediums, including blog posts and social media. Stay tuned for more!
Change is hard, and making a change as a mid-career professional to gain new skills and experiences isn’t an easy decision to make. The Performance.gov Team recently caught up with graduates of the White House Leadership Development Program (WHLDP) 2019 Cohort, Lelia Jackson and Salim Mawani, to find out how they embraced change, what inspired them to apply, and how the WHLDP changed their career paths for the better.
The White House Leadership Development Program: Who’s It For and Why Apply
The WHLDP invites high-performing career GS-15 employees from across the Federal Government to join a year-long rotation in which they gain on-the-job experience and leadership development training. Each fellow is assigned to work on a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal from the President’s Management Agenda, the Administration’s long-term vision for creating a more modern and effective government.
Both Jackson and Mawani agreed that the opportunity for new challenges in a government-wide role drove them to apply for the program.
Mawani: “I was at a point in my career where I could pursue the most it was offering.”
Jackson: “I would agree and share that sentiment. I felt I was ready to
diversify my portfolio and work at the top level of government to enhance and fine-tune my
leadership skills and business acumen.”
Focusing on Mission-Centric Work: Cross-Agency Priority Goal Accomplishments
Mawani: “Grants affect everything – from education to road infrastructure to the opioid epidemic. I was inspired knowing that [my] work would have an impact on every single taxpayer… Making the process more transparent [in regards to grants] and making things more accountable.”
Jackson was placed on the Sharing Quality Services CAP Goal to support the creation of cross-agency efficiencies and reduce duplication of effort. Specifically, she worked on the NewPay Initiative, which will replace outdated payroll systems and modernize federal payroll services, leading to elevated user experience, reduced costs, better-managed budgets, and enhanced security posture.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
For Jackson, navigating new territory initially felt daunting. However, her proactive, positive approach helped her quickly discover the skills needed to achieve this major project.
For Mawani, he gleaned a lesson learned from each challenge. He shared his top three with us:
“Whatever the challenge is, the answer is in the room somewhere.
You need to collaborate. You don’t need to have all the answers.
Be adaptable. As we got more information, we modified over time. You need to be agile enough to take on bits of information – all this came from people feeling empowered to present ideas to the table.”
Advice to the Incoming WHLDP Cohort
Before closing-out the conversation, Jackson and Mawani shared words of advice for the incoming WHLDP cohort:
Jackson: “Let this be your oyster! Don’t just do what’s offered to you; look for more opportunities where you can add value.”
Mawani: “Set a high bar – actively collaborate with your team to do what it takes to meet this goal. Come into the program with the understanding that you will be challenged in unimaginable ways and the WHLDP will stretch your skills and knowledge to overcome these challenges.”
The White House Leadership Development Program is a year-long program for high-performing GS-15 employees that focuses on developing enterprise leadership skills, working across functional areas, and leveraging networks to drive collaboration and results. For more information on the WHLDP and the 2019 graduating class, visit the website.