3 Newcomer Tips for Traveling the Defense Acquisition Industry

A strange language, a new culture, and a unique landscape best describes what one would experience if traveling to a distant country. Traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures can be an enlightening adventure, but it will come with certain difficulties. Defense acquisitions can be the same as traveling to a new place. Known as the world’s most difficult and complex acquisition system, the U.S. defense acquisition operation is much like visiting an unknown country. I have the privilege of exploring this new country, and it’s an experience that I cannot forget.

My first encounter in defense acquisitions was eye opening. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and it came with a ton of questions. First, what even is defense acquisitions? Up to this point, I have had zero contact with the defense world in any respect. Imagine being dropped off in a country that doesn’t speak your language, that was my first encounter. I was hired as a program analyst for a defense contracting company, and thankfully, my boss knew my ignorance and guided me into Defense Acquisition University classes and office explanations. This significantly reduced the culture shock and confusion. Slowly, I began to learn this new language and understand the culture of defense and industry. Almost one year has passed since I began this journey, and trust me, I’m nowhere close to being an expert. Defense acquisitions can be daunting for the beginner; fortunately, I had help with my understanding of the system. The first help was a mentor who was knowledgeable of the system. Someone who can spend one-on-one time with you and explain the little details will be an asset to one’s journey. The second help is Defense Acquisition University (DAU) classes. DAU offers online courses that takes one through the entire process of defense acquisitions. This is crucial and necessary to understand and to move forward in a defense career. Lastly, a group of experienced people that one can network and share information. I’m lucky to be able to attend a Friday breakfast group that deals with defense works in their separate businesses and lives. I usually sit back and listen to the wisdom of years of experience and advice.

Defense acquisitions can be overwhelming as a newcomer. If one has the resources and the help, it can be conquered. Utilize these three tips to gain priceless wisdom of what to do and what not to do while traveling the defense world.

1. Find a mentor to guide you one-on-one, this makes the learning process much easier.

2. Take DAU online courses, for many companies it is a requirement, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

3. Build relationships with those who have endured the learning and have been successful in the industry.

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By: Matthew Sheppard