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FCW : November and December 2014
Nina Malakouti Managing complex IT projects and services and the companies that sell them to the federal government is not for the faint of heart. Understanding the pricing, conditions and processes that are the foundation of good federal contracting also requires an agile mind. Nina Malakouti, a supervisory con- tract specialist at the General Services Administration, has both a stout heart and a sharp intellect. She nailed down two of the agency’s biggest Schedule 70 contracts in 2013 using the mettle and the mentality those kinds of deals demand, according to her managers. Negotiating both contracts meant working in a high-profile environment that required poise and focus under stress, bouncing back after temporary setbacks, sacrificing spare time and weekends, and responding to status and information requests with short turnaround times. It also meant wrangling with multiple stakeholders who had divergent views and objectives to produce outcomes that benefited government customers and vendors. Malakouti honed some of those skills through her work in the private sector. Before she came to GSA in 2009, she managed contracts and operations at a pharmaceutical consulting firm and before that worked at an engineering and construction management firm that spe- cialized in federal project management. On the Schedule 70 contracts, Mal- akouti “took action in tough negotia- tions” with both companies, said Cheryl Harris, a division director in GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services. The negotiations were high profile with the press, GSA managers and the companies involved, and Malakouti “was phenom- enal” in the role, Harris added. — Mark Rockwell Christina Manol As a budget officer in the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Infor- mation Systems, Christina Manol has seen demand for her skillset soar in the past few years as budget dollars have dwindled. “You really have to validate your requirements and make sure that what you’re asking for is critical because the resources are so low...that you really have to fight for what is there,” she said. “Not only that, but you have to dig deep into saying, ‘OK, if I don’t get this money, what happens and when?’” Given the uncertain fiscal environ- ment, it is hard to overstate the important role of a budget analyst. Equipped with a talent for math and an accounting degree from George Mason University, Manol relishes the responsibility. “Previously in my career, I was the one actually crunching the numbers,” she said. “Now, as a budget officer, I’ve moved more to an analytical role to make sure that what we’re saying makes sense [and ask] is there a better way that we can spend the money?” PEO EIS manages more than 30 pro- grams worth a total of about $1 billion, November/December 2014 FCW.COM 21 Megan Schmith has accomplished things at the General Services Administration that people did not think could be done — and she did it quickly and on her own terms. Schmith took over an inter- agency working group that focus- es on sharing best practices and experiences among agencies and grew it by 400 percent. GSA CIO Sonny Hashmi said every agency is now represented. “I was amazed that one person could bring together all these agencies without any formal authority or mandate and make a measurable difference,” he added. As manager of platform strat- egy and innovative solutions at GSA, Schmith is responsible for developing the strategy for new and emerging technologies and maximizing GSA’s IT spending. In the past year, she expanded her efforts to maximize IT invest- ments for agencies beyond GSA — a move that earned her two promotions. She developed and continues to lead GSA’s cloud governance body and works closely with Hashmi on the development of a cloud-based IT management system. “Megan is one of the rare peo- ple in government or anywhere who is the best combination of technical skill, passion to make a difference and the drive to over- come obstacles,” Hashmi said. — Colby Hochmuth Megan Schmith