News | Feb. 5, 2020

Following the family’s leadership example

By Susan L. Follett

Angela Sarinelli has her family to thank for her acquisition career, and for their example of federal service. “My grandmother and my aunt both worked at Picatinny Arsenal, and my aunt, Tina Pittenger, still works at Army Contracting Command – New Jersey (ACC-NJ) as a procurement information analyst, managing contract writing systems.

"She suggested that once I graduated from college, I should see what options were available there. I didn’t know what kind of work was done here, but I applied anyway,” she said. “I am so grateful for my aunt for giving me that push: If it wasn’t for her, I would not be working here today.”

Sarinelli’s uncle, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. T. Alan Bennett, commanded the Ogden Air Materiel Area, now the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Included in Bennett’s responsibilities were logistics support for the Air Force; system support for the Minuteman, Titan II and Bomarc missile systems; the Genie rocket; the F-4 Phantom and the F-101 Voodoo; and worldwide management of all conventional air munitions.

“I never met him because he died when I was young, but I keep his picture at my desk as motivation. It gives me extra inspiration knowing that he lived his life for his country and touched the lives of so many warfighters and civilians throughout his career.”

Sarinelli is a business management specialist in the Business Office of the Project Manager for Close Combat Systems (PM CCS), part of the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition. “I serve as an adviser to the project manager, deputy project manager, business manager and project officers on all aspects of the acquisition planning and execution for acquisition activities included in the PM CCS portfolio,” said Sarinelli, who has been in her this role for two years.

The pace at PM CCS is pretty brisk, Sarinelli said, “and I spend a lot of my days going from one meeting to the next. Fortunately, I have a great supervisor, and she has been very supportive in helping explain things when questions arise and helping me get over hurdles I encounter.”

Sarinelli started her acquisition career at Picatinny Arsenal with ACC-NJ. “I worked at ACC-NJ for eight years before taking a position at PM CCS. I learned a great deal at ACC-NJ that I apply to my work for PM CCS and the transition from one organization to the other was pretty easy—in a lot of ways, it’s the same position but in a different capacity.”

Sarinelli recently participated in the Inspiring and Developing Excellence in Acquisition Leaders (IDEAL) program. Sponsored by the Director, Acquisition Career Management Office, the program started in March 2019 and consisted of three weeklong resident sessions that wrapped up in October 2019. “I love to learn new skills, and I was motivated by the potential to learn new tools and techniques that are used by successful leaders,” she said. “I believe that learning leadership skills not only benefits your career but is also beneficial in daily life.”

She expected what most people would expect from a career development class: a typical classroom setting and lectures on leadership skills. “What I got was much more than that,” she said. “Not only did IDEAL teach me skills that I can use throughout my career, it also gave me the opportunity to listen and speak to senior Army acquisition leaders from across the country and to forge relationships and networks with fellow IDEAL classmates from around the world.”

Sarinelli noted that the session on self-development “was by far the most beneficial to me in my career and home life. It taught me a lot about emotional intelligence. Having a high level of awareness and control over your emotions is an important trait of a successful leader.”

She also learned a great deal from the program’s guest speakers. “I loved having the opportunity to speak candidly with senior leaders about their journey and get leadership tips from the top. They commended us for our efforts to take control of our careers, and shared advice and personal experiences. You can’t get that sort of access anywhere else,” she said. “I especially enjoyed hearing from Ms. Chenxi Dong-O’Malley,” product director for Small Expeditionary Power Sources within the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support. “Ms. Dong-O’Malley shared her story and explained how she was able to balance work life with her home life, which consists of two small children—I can relate!”

Sarinelli was also impressed with how responsive IDEAL program personnel were to suggestions for improvements and changes, incorporating new approaches into her cohort as well as future cohorts. For example, she explained, participants previously were assigned to a class location based on their duty stations. “Someone from Fort Belvoir would be assigned to the sessions in Washington, but would usually use the free time during the day and after classes to go back to work or go home, and not get the most out of the networking opportunities outside of class.” Following a suggestion from Sarinelli and her classmates, participants now can choose which location they’d like to attend.

Now back at Picatinny, Sarinelli has found that what she applies most from IDEAL is how to listen. “IDEAL taught me how to be an active listener and to listen with an open mind instead of making assumptions. I now consider myself an active listener and I am fully engaged in the conversation,” she said. She is also harnessing the course’s sessions on personal development “to be a better leader among my peers in addition to being a servant leader to the senior leaders within my organization. I learned that you can be a leader without being in a leadership position, and I lead everyday by portraying positivity and staying motivated and focused on mission.”

She added, “My career has definitely gone in different direction from where I thought it would go—I studied social work in college—but I like being busy and learning new things, and I find it’s rewarding to serve my country. It’s gratifying to know that what I’m doing benefits warfighters and keeps them safe.”
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