Since its inception in 2001, the Marine Corps Information Technology Management (ITM) Community of Interest (COI) has been focused on the professional development of the Marine Corps IT workforce. As one of 20 functional civilian communities in the Marine Corps, the ITM COI’s mission is to create a working environment to attract, retain and empower the best and brightest talent to support and develop a sustainable ITM civilian Marine workforce.
Early on, community leadership recognized that to achieve a consistent, motivated and highly skilled ITM workforce, there must be a support structure established across the Marine Corps. This support structure would be local, would understand local issues, and serve as a conduit for information within the community. Thus was born the ITM community representative system. Community representatives were established at a number of bases, posts and stations and these volunteers were active, engaged members of the community.
In 2008, we recognized that our community representative system needed a jump-start. Having no representation at several installations was detrimental to the community leadership's situational awareness. To revitalize the system, two key steps needed to occur. First, we communicated the value of having a community representative to local commanders. Second, at the recommendation of the existing representatives, we changed the "community representative" title to "community workforce leader" (CWL). Collectively, we felt this title better described the role we wanted these people to play.
In June of this year, the ITM COI held its annual CWL summit. In attendance were 21 of the 26 CWLs, and as part of a complete strategic planning workshop, we established a community steering committee made up of six CWLs. The community manager established short and long-term goals for the community and had discussions that formed the basis for a strategic plan. Additionally, the work conducted at the summit resulted in an amended community charter. Most importantly, the attendees discussed the philosophy of CWL characteristics. Significantly, they agreed that seniority isn't always a requirement. CWLs below the GS-13 level provide a unique perspective. The spirit of volunteerism was judged to be paramount since the community only advances at the will of its members. Many of our CWLs have been volunteers for more than five years. This provides a continuity of message that could not be duplicated with a rapid turnover of personnel.
As part of the goals identified at the summit, enhancing our CWL network by encouraging the use of both the community's SharePoint site and Jabber, the Defense Connect Online (DCO) chat client, was critical. The SharePoint site allows the CWLs to visit a single location and find documents, get information updates and collaborate on COI-wide issues. Further, a dedicated section of the steering committee facilitates the operations of that body. Jabber enables real-time, short-duration communications and is invaluable for getting answers to those "pop-up" questions that invariably occur. Almost half of our CWLs have Jabber accounts and have already conducted numerous ad hoc conferences.
In the future, our CWL infrastructure will mature and evolve. The strength of the community lies in its ability to advance ITspecific workforce issues, and CWLs will play a significant role in this regard. Information transparency will help our CWLs provide a wide range of resources to their constituents. Adhoc CWL working groups that volunteer to tackle community issues will draw on the expertise of the local IT workforce, thereby increasing involvement at the grass roots level. Barriers to information sharing will be eliminated as a problem at one installation finds its solution at another.
"Throughout the Marine Corps, the spirit we wish to foster in our CWLs is that of empowering and growing each and every community member," said Deputy Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) Directorate, Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps ITM COI Community Leader Mr. Jim Craft. CWLs will be at the heart of this spirit.
At the end of the day, the whole purpose of the community is to support our ITM workforce and facilitate professional development opportunities. CWLs are critical to this effort, communicating key messages and advancing ideas. The community leadership recognizes that initiatives designed to move the community forward would be untenable without the valuable contributions these individuals provide. With this support, the Marine Corps ITM COI continues to evolve into an entity whose contributions are acknowledged Corps-wide.
Pete Gillis is the community manager for the U.S. Marine Corps Information Technology Management Community of Interest. For more information, contact email@example.com.