Each year the Marine Corps gives the James Hamilton Award to the Information Technology Management Civilian Marine of the Year. In 2012, Jonathan Page, project manager, assigned to the G-6, Marine Corps Bases Japan, received the award. Page was selected from among a number of highly qualified nominees, and the Information Technology Management Community Manager, Pete Gillis, recently asked him some questions.
Q: How did it feel to hear that you were the recipient of the 2012 James Hamilton Information Technology Management Civilian Marine of the Year Award?
A: I was honored to be nominated for this prestigious award and going on to win it was wonderful. It felt gratifying to know that my leadership supported me and that the work that we are doing here in Okinawa was being recognized.
Q: What was the first thing that you did after you received the news?
A: I shared the news with my wife and family, who were as elated as I was.
Q: What was it like to be one of the award recipients?
A: It is my understanding that the competition was all well-qualified this year, and Command, Control, Communications and Computers Department, HQMC, received quite a few nominations. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate all of the nominees for their hard work in the IT field. Like Mr. Hamilton, I was instrumental in refining processes and developing efficient, cost-effective alternative solutions and my command recognized me for them.
Q: Would you consider yourself a trailblazer?
A: Sure. The way I look at projects or obstacles is different than most. I spend the majority of my time listening to folks who actually do the work and putting ideas into practice rather than presenting them before committees. I try things, fail, learn, refine, improve and challenge myself to produce better results. I always hear the old saying “think outside of the box.” I understand the intent, but I would encourage you to burn the box and let the horizon be your new canvas.
Q: How were you able to refine processes and develop efficient, cost-effective alternative solutions in the government environment?
A: Through common sense and the support of a grass-roots working group. We had a member from each service who was passionate about supporting first responders. I would share the stories of how our first responders were using antiquated technology, which limited their response efforts. In Okinawa, the Marines respond off base for any service member or dependent. When you know they could be coming to save your kid’s life, you pay attention and grease the skids where you can. It is very easy to overcome hurdles when you put the project in prospective.
Q: To what do you attribute your success in achieving your objectives?
A: My customers. I know I am directly involved in supporting someone running into a burning building to save a life when everyone else is running out. Living in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” you never know when the next 9.0 earthquake, tsunami or nuclear reactor meltdown will occur. None of us thought it would happen in March 2011, but it did.
Q: How difficult is it to apply innovation and a creative approach in a government environment?
A: Not all that hard. I see too many people complain about a situation instead of attempting to fix it or be willing to risk failure. The biggest challenge is finding the person to sponsor the effort and the right person to champion the effort while putting their name on the line.
Q: Was there resistance to your plans and efforts? How did you overcome it?
A: I was met with plenty of resistance along the way, but rightfully so. My immediate leadership ran me through the wringer and looking back on it, I’m grateful because they made sure we got it right the first time. I overcame it by understanding the concerns of each person and helping them realize the pros and cons of staying as-is or changing. You always hear folks say, “Embrace change.” I think more people should learn to embrace rejection, since winners are rejected quite a bit. Losers are afraid to ask and rarely get what they want. So, ask away, and if someone says no, ask someone else. Everyone needs to realize that we have a lot of sincere and appreciative leaders and managers. They get frustrated like everyone else because they want to improve.
Q: Was it difficult to get others to work with you?
A: Not at all. We stepped out of our comfort zone and had the emergency management, first responder, and IT communities come together. You have some folks that like to talk about capacitors, tuners, routers, panels, etc., but part of my job is interpreter of IT talk for non-IT folks.
Q: How did you get your sister services in the region to participate?
A: There are unique challenges we face in this region that most CONUS personnel will never experience. The biggest one is that we do not have anyone to rely on but ourselves and the other service components. In the states, most installations have an agreement with the county or state they are in. We work very closely with our emergency communities and they helped solidify the requirement to participate. Everyone realizes that a truly interoperable solution is required. Getting the widgets to work in a shared environment is the easy part.
Q: What career advice would you give to others?
A: Never be too proud to admit that you made a mistake, to ask for help, to apologize or to thank others. Invest in others, and never stop learning.
Q: What are your plans now? For the future?
A: My current plans are to remain OCONUS in Okinawa, Japan, as long as I can be of benefit to my customers. We are starting to wrap up a few projects and I prefer the research and implementation portion. My future plans are to move into advanced research and development for over-the-horizon technology.
Pete Gillis is the community manager for the U.S. Marine Corps Information Technology Management Community of Interest. He is assigned to Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) Department, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.