By Mim Williams
I have been at Deloitte for just over three weeks. More specifically, I am a Summer Associate in Deloitte Consulting’s Federal Practice performing strategy and operations services for our government clients. A mouthful, I know. Basically, I am in a cohort of 16 graduate students, MPP and MBA from around the country, assigned to work with different government agencies on problems they can’t, or don’t want to, deal with in-house. My first week at Deloitte was full of orientation classes, sessions, team building exercises, presentations, happy hours and dinners. All in all, a great rundown of everything-Deloitte; well, everything except information on my summer project.
For the summer, I have been assigned to work on a Department of Defense/Aerospace project, analyzing solutions for a major aircraft program for the US Navy and US Air Force. My first non-orientation day was spent meeting my manager, talking about the aircraft program (and its ills) and orienting myself to what our mission for the summer would be. Oh, that, and learning that I would be part of a two-day strategy session with industry power players to discuss how Deloitte could capture this business development opportunity.
The next day, I arrived at the office (at 7:30am, mind you) to strategize with the big wigs. I was excited and felt fortunate to be included in such an important meeting. Having done preliminary research over the weekend and vigorously highlighted the read-ahead my program manager sent me, I was ready to soak up the knowledge of my more experienced counterparts.
Then it happened. After all of the early morning, coffee-induced niceties ceased, the four-star General and other “emperors of aircraft” began speaking a foreign language. Acronym. I was surrounded by industry giants, including a former vice president of Lockheed Martin, and I had no idea what they were saying. “The PMO at the JSFPO is not utilizing the PSAT.” And “ALGS, more specifically ALIS, is immature and threatens the health of the JPO.” My head was spinning. Not only was I supposed to be learning from these industry leaders, but I was also in charge of taking detailed notes to discuss after the summit with my supervisor.
At that moment, I had two options. I could sit there in the conference room for the next two days like a deer in the headlights trying to learn Japanese (well, close enough!), or I could do something about it. I chose the latter. I opened a new Word document and titled it “Acronym Decoder.” Every time a new acronym was thrown out, I added to the document. During lulls in the conversation, I would feverishly look up the cryptic symbols and add their meanings to my precious DoD dictionary. Slowly but surely, and with consistent referencing to my golden document, I was following the conversation. By the second day, I could not only follow, but was also anticipating developments in the strategy and critically analyzing our potential courses of action.
The day after the two-day strategy session ended, my program supervisor asked me how I thought the meeting went. I was proud of myself. I was able to tell him that I thought Deloitte DoD & A&D had several potential opportunities to aid JSFPO over the life cycle of the aircraft. He agreed. Then he asked me to become the PSAT expert for our team. I nodded, turned back to my laptop, and opened my precious acronym decoder. Ah, the Product Support Assessment Team – I’m on it.