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AFLCMC aids Kessel Run in recruiting new rebels

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A two-person team assigned to improve Air Operations Center software perform ‘paired programming’ at Project Kessel Run’s Boston Offices Jan. 10. Kessel run offered jobs to 28 additional software experts during a hiring event Jan. 23-24. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Scott “Zip” Willits, right, Kessel Run Operations Engagement lead, interviews Catherine O’Connor for a position as a product manager during a hiring event at the Air Force’s Kessel Run facility, Boston Mass., Jan. 24. The KREL space house’s teams of Airmen tasked to create software specifically for use in AOCs.

Scott “Zip” Willits, right, Kessel Run Operations Engagement lead, interviews Catherine O’Connor for a position as a product manager during a hiring event at the Air Force’s Kessel Run facility, Boston, Jan. 24. The KREL space house’s teams of Airmen tasked to create software specifically for use in AOCs.

Materiel Leader for the Air Operations Center program Lt. Col. Jeremiah Sanders takes a call at a desk in Project Kessel Run’s Boston office Jan. 10. The office space is open to encourage collaboration and teamwork, with the majority of design and coding done by two-person teams practicing what is called ‘paired programming.”

Materiel Leader for the Air Operations Center program Lt. Col. Jeremiah Sanders takes a call at a desk in Project Kessel Run’s Boston office Jan. 10. The office space is open to encourage collaboration and teamwork, with the majority of design and coding done by two-person teams practicing what is called ‘paired programming.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

BOSTON -- An innovative effort to speed up talent acquisition for the Air Force compressed a months-long employment process to just weeks, when 28 on-the-spot job offers were made to candidates at the Kessel Run hiring event in Boston held January 23-24.

More than 200 resumes were received and reviewed during a month-long campaign to fill positions ranging from developmental through senior level, with 57 candidates invited to on-site interviews during the two-day event. Twelve of the selectees accepted job offers immediately, exiting with on-boarding and reporting instructions. One applicant was interviewed, on-boarded and sworn in the same day in less than five hours.

“The success of the Kessel Run event confirms that teaming and collaboration amongst hiring managers and human resource experts can lead to a more agile hiring process,” said Eric Dilworth, Director of Personnel, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “Pre-screening of applicants and on-site presence of personnel experts led to the 28 on-the-spot offers.”

In addition, flexibility and increased use of available hiring authorities allowed us to reach talented employees required for the Kessel Run mission, Dilworth explained.

“This is clearly a revolutionary way for us to attract talent,” he said.

More than half of those hired during the Kessel Run event had no prior military affiliation, bringing a significant injection of fresh technological talent into the Department of Defense. About 40 percent of those with job offers were women, aligning with the program’s goal to continue benefitting from a diverse workforce.

“Our event model aimed to eliminate barriers created through the traditional hiring processes by leveraging on-site participation by all stakeholders necessary to recruit and hire,” said Jennifer Bauer, a management analyst at AFLCMC. “Teamwork is the backbone of our success.”

Led by personnel teams from AFLCMC Personnel Directorate and Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, in conjunction with Air Force Personnel Center professionals, this event was one of a series of nationwide hiring and recruitment events launched by AFLCMC in 2018 to acquire new talent for critical positions in all career fields and at all levels. The approach is part of a larger Air Force effort to better compete with the private sector for the workforce it needs as it aims to decrease the latency inherent in the traditional federal hiring process.

Air Force Materiel Command has been a leader for the Air Force to improve the civilian hiring process.

“Recognizing the need to build a human capital system that meets the needs of a 21st century Air Force, AFMC has aggressively pursued ways to recruit, develop and retain top civilian talent,” said John W. "Bill" Snodgrass, Director, Manpower, Personnel and Services, AFMC. Over the past year, significant strides have been made to identify and implement process improvements in the hiring process.

“We’re doing things different in every way possible, but following the rules and working within the system,” said Col. Enrique Oti who leads Kessel Run efforts in support of Program Executive Officer Digital. “Our goal and our mission is to show the larger Air Force that it’s possible to scale up and deliver major software programs at the speed of private industry. This hiring event is critical for that scaling up effort, because more of the right kinds of people on our team means more products out the door.”

Staffing experts from AFLCMC and AFMC started the initial work for the hiring event in Fall 2018. Applicants were invited to submit material to Kessel Run managers in December 2018. Managers then invited the most highly qualified individuals for hour-long interviews at the two-day event where they could showcase technical skills and interpersonal behavior.

“We had five hiring professionals here for the two-day event,” said Kristy Ramadan, a staffing specialist with the 66th Force Support Squadron at Hanscom. “I think this event is a success because we’ve done other major, on-the-spot hiring events like this. Building a large-scale event like this takes a lot of preparation, and hopefully the applicants just see a smooth interview and onboarding process.”

Teamwork is highly valued at Kessel Run, where at the most basic level, two-person teams perform ‘paired-programming’ and use linked workstations to build code to suit warfighters needs, like digital battle-buddies. Hiring event coordinators also relied on another time-honored military tradition: sponsorship programs.

“We’ve seen in the past that bringing on people with no prior military experience, and throwing them into the onboarding process can be disastrous,” said Scott Willits, a retired lieutenant colonel who leads operational programming projects at Kessel Run and spearheaded the event’s sponsor initiative. “We can’t expect people to know the acronyms or know where to go and how to get their Common Access Cards. If they don’t have someone on their side to go through the entire federal hiring process, it can be isolating, and that’s the opposite of the culture we’re trying to build.”

New employees will program, manage projects and work on engineering for major software programs like the global Air Operations Center and the F-35’s massive Autonomous Logistics Integration System.

“All you need to do is look at the success this program has had,” said Steven Wert, PEO for Digital. “We’re expanding like this on solid foundations of building and sustaining applications that Airmen in combat want, need and use every day. The Air Force pulled together to expand the program because the products work.”

“We plan to expand use of this innovative hiring process to other locations and organizations,” said Dilworth. “This process may not fit every situation, but we will surely take advantage of the decreased hiring timeliness to enhance the AFMC and AFLCMC missions.”

Note: Marisa Alia-Novobilski and Benjamin Newell contributed to this story.

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