LOS ANGELES — In preparation for his retirement Jan. 10, the District’s Deputy for Programs and Project Management Ken Morris, who began his federal career in 1974 when commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, answered some questions about the 26 years he has spent as a federal civilian employee in the Los Angeles District. Exit interviews are just one component of how the District helps shape the workforce of the future and build ready and resilient people and teams through talent management and leader development strategies.
When did you first get hired by the District and what was the job?
I was first hired in January 1988 as a GS-11, project engineer, Engineering Division, Santa Ana River Branch. I worked for the previous eight years for private industry before coming to the Corps. I spent five years with Caterpillar Tractor in San Leandro, Calif., and Applied Materials in Santa Clara, Calif.
What other positions have you held in the District?
I was promoted to a GS-12, project manager in 1990 in the Santa Ana River Branch and promoted to a GS-13 in the Planning Division as the section chief for the Regional Planning Section under Ruth Villalobos, the then branch chief for the Environmental Resources Branch. I returned as senior project manager in Programs and Project Management Division, following a six-month deployment in Kosovo with the Army Reserves. I was the team leader assigned as the director of Public Works for five base camps in Kosovo and Macedonia.
What are a few ways the District has changed since you started here?
The District has changed technologically with desktop and laptop computers on every desk. No more “typing pool” for letters. We had a ‘robot’ on the sixth floor in the federal building, which was a cart that delivered mail to the offices. There was a strip in the floor that mapped out the path the robot would take. It would be loaded with mail at the mailroom and travel along its path to specific locations and stop. It would then sound a chime like a doorbell when it reached an office. The secretaries would come out and unload their mail then push a button to send it off to the next location. Additionally, I think the interns we have now are smarter and more technologically savvy. It is also great to see more females in leadership positions. It brings more balance to the workforce.
Tell about the work you’ve done in your present position and what you think are a few of your accomplishments?
In my current position as deputy for Programs and Project Management Division, I have had the honor of serving a great group of people, both in leadership and those in subordinate positions, who are, without a doubt, some of the best I’ve ever worked with. They are very professional and knowledgeable. I have had the responsibility of ensuring consistency of operations and program management policies and procedures for Civil Works, Military, Interagency and International Services, Navigation, and Programs and Project Controls branches. I have also represented the chief in overall program discussions and decisions and basically helped ensure the consistency of operations across the Programs and Project Management Division.
What I’m most proud of is that we have synergy in our division; we care about our people and it shows. I’m also proud of the fact that we have a training program available to all of our employees based on principles of project management. It’s called the 21 Course training for project managers. We also increased the number of project managers with professional certifications from 10 percent to 80 percent during my tenure.
What was a project or activity you really enjoyed working on?
I really enjoyed working with a film company to film the Santa Ana River and produce the first and subsequent Santa Ana River Mainstem project videos. That was a real blast!
What advice do you have for junior employees?
My advice to younger employees is to find something you are passionate about and pursue it. Be good at it and consistent with it and make your mark with it. However, also try to maintain the proper balance in your life and don’t burn yourself out. Know that the life you set for yourself is totally up to you. You are the producer, director and the star of your own movie (your life). So, make it a blockbuster and not a flop! God has blessed all of us with talent, and using that talent to the best of your ability is how you bless God. So, show your appreciation for what you have and be thankful. Ultimately, having the right attitude is key to moving forward in your career and in your life.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are not totally set. I will reassess after I retire and determine exactly which direction I plan to pursue. I plan on finishing my book that I started about six years ago, now that I’ll have more time. I can’t stay still for too long. However, one certainty is I plan to move back to South Carolina to help my mom as she continues to age. I want to be closer to help her golden years be her best years. And, I can’t forget that I have to do all the “honey do” items for my wife.