This week, we caught up with Wisconsin State Training Coordinator, Jessica Vieira. Jessica has a heart for service and a mind for training. Using her background in non-profit organizations, Jessica brings a refreshing view of training to the state employees of Wisconsin. Read below to find out more about this week’s featured Day in the Life interviewee!
Jessica Vieira has been Wisconsin’s State Training Coordinator since early 2017. Before this, she attended California Polytechnic State University on a full scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Gates Millennium Scholars Program and graduated in 2004 with a B.S. in Psychology. She later completed coursework toward a master’s in education with a focus in special education. She devoted the next decade of her life to working for a non-profit mental health organization, where she was responsible for providing mental health education, training, and recovery tools to those in her community. In addition, she partnered with various California agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol and local technical colleges, to provide mental health crisis trainings to all officers and many EMT-trainees along California’s central coast. In 2016, she decided to broaden her horizons and took an opportunity for a fresh start in Madison, Wisconsin.
NASPO STAFF: Jessica, as a State Training Coordinator, otherwise known as Chief Learning Officer, a large part of your job consists of keeping Wisconsin state procurement staff up-to-date on regulations, policies, and resources for best practices. What is your favorite part of your job? Tell us a little bit about how your training is set up; are your trainings agency-specific, or do you offer them to user agencies?
Jessica: My absolute favorite thing about my job is the variety it has to offer! Since training is such a far-reaching topic with many applications, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with a vast array of exciting projects and to work with an excellent, highly skilled team.
In Wisconsin, we’re responsible for providing training to procurement staff from state agencies and the University of Wisconsin System, so we focus on presenting general information that can apply to all learners to the greatest extent possible. This includes basic expectations and overviews, guidelines and recommendations, and examples from a variety of situations. Since each agency is allowed to have additional requirements that go beyond those mandated by statute, it’s expected that they will provide their staff with specific information and examples as necessary.
NASPO STAFF: In a modernizing government, online trainings are reaching professionals quickly to keep them up-to-date. However, coming into a classroom with the mindset to learn and having an instructor physically present to ask questions and for clarification is timeless learning. What’s your preference: online trainings or in person?
Jessica: I believe there’s a time and place for each type of training. In Wisconsin, we’re moving toward offering more material online, but I don’t think we would consider moving to a curriculum that completely cut out classroom interaction. Ideally, we’d like to build as much of the introductory material as makes sense into computer-based trainings, then offer more specialized trainings in a classroom setting. This way, new employees would be able to access the required information immediately, working through it at their own pace, which would allow them the tools and information necessary to begin to do their job. Once they’ve built an appropriate foundation and have gained some on-the-job experience, an instructor-led training with classroom discussions, scenario-based exercises, and perhaps some panel presentations by subject matter experts, would help enrich the material and provide a meaningful learning experience for the participants.
NASPO STAFF: If I were a fly on the wall in your office in Madison, Wisconsin, what would I hear and see every day? Walk me through a day in the life as the State Training Coordinator/Chief Learning Officer in the Department of Administration, State Bureau of Procurement.
Jessica: As I’m sure is common for most of us, each day offers a different experience (but isn’t that what makes it great?). In a typical day, I’ll do some type of training prep, which may include sending reminder emails, putting together handout packets, or setting up a class. I’ll also work on completing my current tasks for whichever projects are on top of my list (right now those would be our procurement conference and a project that will reorganize and modernize our websites). I am also responsible for our monthly procurement newsletter, so I may be writing or editing articles, or sending out drafts for management to review as well. In addition, I help answer questions for our Procurement Help Desk, so throughout the day, I will be returning calls and answering emails related to procurement, trainings, our bidder registration system, our various procurement systems, or our PCard Marketplace from state employees, bidders or vendors, or from the general public. We recently implemented an electronic signature tool, so I’m often asked to stop by someone’s desk to walk them through using the system, to share one of the resources I’ve developed, or to meet with a team who is considering adopting the system for their group. Of course, I will probably also have a few meetings to attend and a few urgent tasks that will come up, but those just keep things exciting and fresh, right?
NASPO STAFF: Furthering excellence and professionalism within public procurement is at the heart of NASPO’s mission as an organization. NASPO is a founding partner of the UPPCC and has been actively promoting the CPPB and CPPO certification for state government procurement professionals for many years. Promoting Training and certification for a world-class procurement profession is in NASPO’s Top 10 Priorities for 2019. Does your agency offer a state-specific certification program? If so, can you tell us about it and why it is so useful for your agency? If your agency doesn’t, could you tell us about your ideal program? What would it include and why?
Jessica: While Wisconsin doesn’t have an official state certification program like CPPB and CPPO, we do offer a substantial curriculum to our state’s procurement staff and have them complete the portions that are applicable to their position. Currently, our standard curriculum consists of eight full-day instructor-led courses and one half-day course. This series is offered three times a year, with one class typically available every two weeks. The full-day course topics include an introductory class, RFBs, RFPs, contract administration, negotiating, purchasing print, software licensing, and creating solicitations in our online system (which is taught in our computer lab); the half-day course covers cost-benefit analysis. In addition, we host workshops and webinars to address new policies, new tools or programs, or to explain ways to use our contracts as the needs arise.
Within the next year, we plan to further develop our training program and explore possible enhancements, including offering additional topics, updating existing trainings, and converting some material into alternative formats, like computer-based trainings. In addition, we do our best to promote NASPO’s Procurement U courses to our staff and have even provided them free of charge to state employees through NASPO’s Professional Development Funds.
NASPO STAFF: Name one accomplishment you are most proud of since you became the State Training Coordinator.
Jessica: Each year, we host a statewide procurement conference for approximately 160 state employees and I have taken on the role of Conference Coordinator. I have the opportunity to work closely with our Procurement Director and management team to develop workshop topics, establish a conference theme and logo, find a keynote speaker, and keep track of the scores of tasks and decisions that need to be made. While this can be a rather stressful project, I find it to be hugely satisfying and it’s one that I am always immensely proud of. Those who know me best understand that I have a bit of a compulsion to organize things – whether it’s color-coding my schedule or making elaborate lists of things that need to get done, I feel really satisfied when I’m able to fully use my organization skills, and this project always provides me with many opportunities to organize to my heart’s content! As we were wrapping up last year’s conference, an attendee stopped me to say that they had never attended a conference that had been as well-organized ours had been. Obviously, that comment has stuck with me!
NASPO STAFF: Any words of wisdom, things you’d like to share with our Procurement Pulse blog community and procurement professionals around the country?
Jessica: The best advice I can give is to make use of the NASPO Trainer Community. While I’m the only person in Wisconsin whose main focus is procurement training, I have access to a whole network of State Training Coordinators through NASPO! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend two NASPO events over the past two years (one in Asheville, North Carolina and the other in New Orleans), and I’ve met several fantastic, knowledgeable trainers who are all doing very similar projects to the ones I’m involved in. They’ve been a wonderful resource and are more than willing to share their experiences, materials, and ideas!
NASPO STAFF: What keeps you up at night?
Jessica: After working in the mental health field for a decade and being a primary resource for clients struggling with active psychosis or thoughts of suicide, there’s really not much that will keep me up at night anymore. I’ve developed a really fantastic ability to leave work at work.
When I first started here at the Bureau though, I was very concerned about coming from a different field and having no procurement background whatsoever – as in I couldn’t have even told you what “procurement” was! Luckily, I have a wonderful team filled with procurement experts who are always happy to share their knowledge with me, and who see value in my skills as well. Now the only thing I have to worry about is whether or not we’re going to get another flood or blizzard! (I still haven’t gotten used to having actual seasons yet!)
NASPO STAFF: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Jessica: I’m a homebody at heart and I love spending time playing games of any kind: cards, board games, video games – you name it, I’ll play it! I also love cooking, especially when I have a house full of people to help me eat it, and I try to get out and travel as much as possible.
NASPO STAFF: If you didn’t work in public procurement, what would you do?
Jessica: My dream job would be providing workshops or keynote addresses on a topic I’m passionate about. Before moving to Madison, I had considered going back to school to get an advanced psychology degree and potentially writing a book of some of the wellness tools my clients found to be most helpful, then touring the wellness community as a speaker. Training, travelling, and getting paid to do something you love? Count me in! (Though, to be honest, I’m pretty happy right where I’m at!)