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My PSC Story: Erneisha Bailey

Erneisha Bailey is a contracting officer (CO), who works on the contract side of the Program Support Center (PSC). She recently shared her story of how she has navigated her career.

Image of Erneisha Bailey.

Erneisha Bailey

Tell me about yourself and your background.

I am a military brat and I moved around quite a bit growing up. I was born in Temple, Texas, which is right outside of Waco. But I settled in Kansas City, so that is what I consider to be home.

I played basketball for a majority of my life, from age eight to playing professionally overseas in Europe. I was a McDonald's honorable mention All-American and a WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) All-American as well as the player of the year for the state of Missouri. I played for four years at the University of Texas, graduating with a Sports Management degree. After graduating college, I played professionally in Finland for two seasons and Luxembourg for one season. I also have a Master’s of Public Administration from Bowie State University.

How did you first get into government work?

In my opinion it is about who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Both of my parents have worked for the government for a long time. My dad is a contracting officer. He worked with a lady whose husband worked at PSC at the time. He was a predominant figure with me getting hired at PSC.

How long have you been at PSC?

Nine years as of June.

Has your entire career been at PSC?

I worked as a contractor in a National Security Agency fitness center, but my career as a fed has been at PSC. I started as a contract specialist.

Tell me about your progression from a contract specialist to contracting officer.

I think I just fell into it. I started out on a team where I didn't know if I wanted to do contracts, to be honest. It was over my head and I didn't know what I was doing, but as I said before, my dad is a CO. He coached me in a way where I could understand the process. He would say, “Once you do it, the process does not change. No need in recreating the wheel.” 

Once I was able to complete easier actions, harder ones started coming my way. I was placed on a different team per a reorganization within PSC and ended up with Stephen Crooks as my CO. I really flourished on his team. He was the one CO early in my career who told me I could do this work, do it well, and be a great CO if I stuck with it.

What do you enjoy most about being a CO?

The lack of micro-management (laughs). As a specialist, you have to get every part of the contracting process checked by a CO. I work rather quickly, so having a review at every corner would slow me down significantly.

How has PSC changed over your nine years?

There have been some good and bad changes. Honestly, I try to keep my head down and not focus on what I cannot control. We have had different management and turnover ... good, bad, and indifferent ... it doesn't matter to me. I get my work and do it. That's it. It stays here. But, I think with those changes, my supervisor tries to catch a lot of it so we (contract specialists and contracting officers) do not feel it.

My team lead catches a lot of it as well. As for the contract specialists and contract officers, from my point of view, we do not really see and hear what is going on until something big happens or we have an all-hands (meeting). Other than that, I try to keep my head down and focus on my work.

Was the decision to go from a contract specialist to contract officer difficult?

No, absolutely not. I am pretty confident that I will be a federal government employee for my working career, and that is something that comes with the territory. I wouldn't want to be a contract specialist for the rest of my life. 

Image of Erneisha Bailey playing college basketball at Kansas.

Going back to your basketball background, does any aspect of being a professional athlete transition to what you bring into your work?

Absolutely, even though I do work independently, I am still a part of the team. Joe Pirrone is our captain and Lydina Battle is the point guard, and everybody has a supporting role. So, how our team works is that we have six or seven customers and Lydina has broken it down to where each contract specialist/contracting officer handles a certain amount of customers.

We all have to play our part for us to be successful. That's another thing I like about PSC and how it’s structured, with Joe being the supervisor and Lydina being our team lead, is that it is a team atmosphere. If I need help, I have Lydina and other teammates to back me up and vice versa.

When I talk to people about Erneisha, one of the biggest adjectives is “strong customer service.” How did you develop your customer service philosophy?

I believe my idea of customer service changed a couple years back when PSC had a customer service workshop. I learned that being transparent and vocal are keys to customer service. Our customers pay us money for a service. I would not want to spend money and have to keep constant tabs on the return on my investment. It is important for me to keep my customers updated without them asking for the update. That way they know their requirement is significant to me, being worked on, and will be completed within the timeframe needed. At the end of the day, our customers want to know we care, and I definitely do.

How would you describe your brand and the core values that drive you?

Obviously, good customer service. We serve the customer and the community. That is the forefront. If I have established this as a part of my career, then I want to be the best at it. As an athlete, I wanted to be the best, and as a contracting officer, I want to be the best, and I want to give the best service. My brand is customer service, a positive attitude, and the ability to get it done.

Are those the same values that drive you or are there other values that drive you?

I want to make sure that everything I do is ethically correct. I do not want to go down to the Hill or anything like that (laughs). As long as it is by the book, I am not going to try to do anything that will get myself or my leadership in trouble. I value wanting to do the right thing and getting the job done correctly.

What do you think is next in your career? Is supervising something you see as part of your natural career progression?

Absolutely. I know I am going to have to do it at some point. Is that something that I would want to do in the next year or two? I am not sure. I enjoy working for who I work for. Joe has been a great supervisor and Lydina has been a great team leader. I love the people who make up our team. I definitely see being a supervisor in the future but when, I do not know.

What do you think your leadership philosophy will be?

I have been a captain of basketball teams throughout my athletic career. However, that is something completely different from leading a squad that handles millions of dollars. I do not know what it would be, but I can only mirror it off what I have dealt with. I have had some good supervisors and some bad supervisors, but how its working now is something that I would want to mirror. Lydina does a good job of protecting us, and I would want to be that type of supervisor or team leader. 

When you look at your PSC career, what are you most proud of, and what is your biggest regret?

I am most proud of how successful I have been here at PSC. Being able to climb up the GS ladder so quickly and as young as I am. I realized that I can have longevity at PSC doing contracts. 

Regrets?

I regret waiting so long to jump into the government. I really thought I was going to be a professional athlete here in the states. I can only imagine where I would be had I started working for the government in my early 20s as opposed to my late 20s.

When you got your GS-13, how did your parents react to it?

I am very close to my family, especially my mom and dad. They have always been my biggest fans. They have always tried to put me in the best situations and assist as best they can. I could tell it was a very proud moment for them.

Image of Erneisha Bailey playing college basketball at alabama.

Who did you model your basketball game after? Also, name a coach you would've loved to play for.

I cannot pinpoint one player. I took parts of different player’s games to model mine after. As a shooting guard you cannot help but marvel at Ray Allen and Reggie Miller’s jump shots.

I was recruited by pretty much every major D1 program in the country. I have met many coaches and played for legendary coaches. However, one coach I would have loved to play for would be Gary Blair — Texas A&M women’s basketball coach. Playing against him for four years, he always had positive things to say about me as a defender and he won a national championship recently. But I look terrible in maroon, burnt orange is way better!

Would you like to share your story for the “My PSC Story” series? Contact us at psccommunications@hhs.gov

 

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