Our employee spotlight shines a light on one employee at a time. We value diversity and inclusion and welcome diverse thinking. It takes a village — through collaboration, living safely and driving innovation we realize our goals and help our clients achieve mission success. Our mantra is people first, mission always. In June, we’ll focus on Pride Month. Today’s Q&A is with Robin Spotts, Senior Contract Manager.
How did your military service prepare you for a successful career at Amentum?
As a Contracts Professional, my time serving as a Contracting Officer and in other roles providing Operational Contract Support (OCS) in the Marine Corps provided me with invaluable insight and understanding for what our government customers want from their contractors. Although the mission differs between agencies of the Federal Government and even further between the branches of the DoD, the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) are applied consistently to all agencies and branches. To intimately understand the difficulties experienced, and the rules that must be followed on the other side of the table, has led to successful relationships and interactions with the Contracting Officers I have worked with in my time here at Amentum.
Another way my military service has aided me, from a less technical standpoint, is the diversity of people, cultures, education, and personal and professional interactions I was able to experience in 17 countries during my time in the Marine Corps. Whether they were non-combat deployments to Sicily, Uganda, Ghana, and Honduras or combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the time spent in the company of others, sharing both times of joy and hardship, has given me an appreciation of the people I work with, both in the past and presently here at Amentum.
How did you come to join Amentum?
I joined Amentum through the merger with Legacy DynCorp International LLC (DI).
During two of my deployments to Afghanistan in an Operational Contract Support role, I served as the liaison between the operational command and DI, coordinating Commodity, Base Support, and Construction Services at Camp Leatherneck (2013) and Camp Shorab (2017) through the LOGCAP Contract. I was drawn to DI, particularly in my time at Camp Shorab, based on the professionalism of their site leadership and the morale of their people. I left the Marines in 2018 and immediately began working for DI, now Amentum.
What is your professional and personal background?
I was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where my mother is from and met my father (a US Citizen from CA) while he was doing missionary work. My mother is what’s known as a Burgher, small Eurasian ethnic group in Sri Lanka descended from Portuguese, Dutch, British, other Europeans, and Sri Lankan natives. Due to increasing danger from the ongoing ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils when I was about 3, my family (including 2 brothers and 4 sisters) was forced to flee Sri Lanka to the location where we had the most family (on my father’s side), Oahu, HI. From there we spent some time homeless, which I always remembered as camping out, until we were able to obtain assistance and a home in the rural part of Oahu in a town called Punalu’u. When I was about 12, my family moved to Aurora, CO, where I lived until I joined the Marines at 20 years old.
Professionally, I spent my first four years of my military career as an Aviation RADAR Repairman. I quickly found this was not a career I was interested in pursuing and found myself filling my time taking on lateral training and positions including (Marine Corps) Martial Art Instructor, Swim Instructor, and “moonlighting” as a Group Fitness Instructor at the base gym. In search of a career with more personal interaction and already in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, I transitioned to an Operational Contract Support (OCS) Specialist occupation. My first assignment was Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), Kaneohe, HI, where I served in multiple roles as a Contract Specialist, Purchasing Agent, and OCS Chief in support of MCBH and forward deployed. In October 2014, I was assigned to MCB Camp Lejeune where I served as a Contracting Officer and OCS Chief, most of which was forward deployed OCONUS.
In December 2018, I left the military to broaden my experience and, most importantly, to be in Ft. Worth, TX, where my daughter (now 10) lives. I accepted a position with Legacy DI / Amentum as a Subcontracts Manager, as it most closely mirrored Government procurement and acquisition, until an opportunity was presented for the Contract Manager position on a new program, Aviation Command and Control Operation and Maintenance (ACCOM) Services. After DI / Amentum was awarded the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Aviation Maintenance and Logistics (NAMLS) Contract, I once again made a transition and accepted the position as Contract Manager Sr. where I currently am grateful and proud to serve with a team of true professionals. I have been blessed with sound and wise leaders, mentors, and colleagues during my time here and look forward to the growth of this organization.
Describe the work you do and how you think it makes a positive impact.
As a Contract Manager, I ensure our compliance with acquisition regulation-based requirements and customer requirements. This can take many forms, but for the most part it requires intimate understanding of the applicable regulations (FAR, DFAR, Etc.), the contract, and any supplemental documents. In doing so, I can efficiently advise our Program Management personnel, effectively engage with our customer, and decisively seek additional counsel when necessary.
Additionally, sometimes contracts are awarded that are not entirely fair and equitable to all parties. I work to balance these scales for my Program as well as our customer to maintain a positive and transparent relationship. As the saying goes, every contract is one modification away from being perfect.
What are some of your accomplishments and/or what has been your proudest career moment?
When I look back over the tangible accomplishments of my career, they are overshadowed by a few moments in time that would probably never make it on a resume. The most significant moments in my career are all centered service to others and being a mentor, in part I believe because mentors are chosen by the mentee. To be a mentor in any capacity is a blessing, but especially in the moments when someone is at the end of their ropes, as I experienced more than once in the Marine Corps, are by far the proudest moments of my career.
What do you enjoy about working for Amentum?
Coming from Legacy DynCorp, I knew very little about Amentum when the merger was under way. I have since learned that Amentum places a keen focus on training, safety, and employee perspectives on a level I have never experienced. I appreciate this value of people as well as the overall culture around improvement and change within our organization.
What are you passionate about?
Equality and helping others. I firmly believe everyone deserves fair and equal treatment, but that not all of us have the same privileges or strengths and it is important to help each other out in this life.
What’s your career advice?
Welcome learning from others. Whether they are peers, leaders, or subordinates, everyone can teach you something you didn’t know before.
Leave competition at the door and avoid comparing yourself to others.
Ask others if they need help when you have the time and space for it, for you never know when you will need a hand.
What does safety mean to you or do you have a favorite safety tip?
My favorite safety tip is, if you see something, say something. Safety is a responsibility for everyone equally and all too many times it is the case that incidents occurred because someone was either afraid to speak up or didn’t feel like it was their place. To that end, I believe that leadership at every level needs to foster an environment which employees feel safe to speak up.
What’s the best invention in the world and why?
I would have to say it’s probably the internet. It has brought the world to our fingertips, allowing us to access people, places, and knowledge in minutes that would have taken years to obtain before. It has also brought visibility to injustice and given the marginalized populations a place to be seen and share their experience. Like any tool, it is only as good as the person using it.
Anything else you would like to share from a personal or professional perspective?
Growing up in rural Oahu, HI, I experienced quite a bit of torment from other kids, adults, and even a few teachers based on the color of my skin, race, and being a foreigner. In moving to Colorado, the bullying continued and, although it wasn’t nearly as bad, it was no longer about race, moreover it seemed to be focused on being poor and different culturally from the other students. In retrospect, what seemed to be valued in one location was irrelevant and meaningless in the other. Where I lived in Hawaii, nobody cared if you were poor because everyone was poor and vice versa in Colorado.
I share this experience because I truly believe that our “differences” are only as important as we allow them to be. By grace and diverse shared experience with people from so many different walks of life, I have resolved that we are not very different at all on the inside, but that can be difficult to see from an outside perspective. I would challenge anyone to spend time with people from a different culture, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, and / or gender and ask questions. You may learn that you have a lot more in common than in difference.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Pride month to me means promoting diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies. I am aware of the privileges I have been granted and know they are indications of inequality. As a proud Ally with friends and family in LGBTQIA+ community, I want to do what is in my power to help bring about positive change in this company, my community, and the world.
I’ve always enjoyed working at Amentum, but I can’t say I was “proud” until I got the email from our CEO, John Heller, Celebrating Pride Month. During my time in the Marine Corps, I watched the organization mature through blatant sexism, racism, and homophobia, through the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and left around the time they gave transgender people protection under “Equal Opportunity” only to have it repealed a few weeks later. Change by nature is always met with some level of resistance, but I believe that support from leadership at all levels for equal opportunity and treatment of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues is essential for growth and improvement as a company.