Sade: I learned to love the FAR
GSA leader got hooked on procurement as a college student in a co-op program
Michael Sade faced hardships in his college days. He saw his friends living a better life — with new cars — while he spent his days attending college full time and his nights pumping gas. When he compared his life to that of his friends, he saw no tangible benefits from what he was doing.
“I figured, you know what, I’ve had it. I’m tired of working this hard. And I decided I was either going to go to school full time or go to work full time,” said Sade, who is now the Federal Acquisition Service’s assistant commissioner for acquisition management at the General Services Administration.
He talked to his father about his decision, and his father put him in touch with a friend in the personnel office at the Agriculture Department. His father’s friend suggested trying to broker a co-op program between USDA and the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, in which Sade would work for a semester and then go to school for a semester.
Sade was trying to decide between going to school full time or working full time, and he wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of extending the length of his college
However, he did, finally, take his father’s friend’s advice. Sade began work in June 1982 at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
As a new contract specialist, he was handed a copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulation to read. “I had no clue what I was reading,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sade made his first purchase for the government, which was for 100 nonpregnant ewes for a research farm in Beltsville, Md.
“I'm a good old boy from Baltimore,” Sade said. “I didn’t know anything.” So he asked a seasoned worker at the research farm, “How do you know they’re pregnant or not?” and the worker replied, “Boy, you've got to test for that.”
Now an experienced member of the federal acquisition community, Sade uses his own life story as an example of the cooperative attitude that he found in government as a young man and that he said still exists today. The federal government has a lot of people willing to help newcomers and guide less-experienced workers through the tough learning curve of buying for the government, he said.
The full-time employees that Sade worked with at USDA as a college student gave him opportunities to try things, and they sent him to a four-week training course to get a better sense of what procurement was. Although employees might have had more time back in the early 1980s, Sade said, he sees the cooperative attitude even today in the acquisition community.
That community faces a dilemma these days because of a steep decline in the workforce because of retirement eligibility. Sade is in charge of a program dealing with career management in FAS.
As his mentors encouraged him, Sade encourages new procurement employees with whom he works. Mentoring has taught him many things, he said. He is learning how younger federal employees view the world, what interests them and what technologies they want. Sade said he gets excited about the new generation of federal employees because they are highly motivated and unafraid to try new things.
GSA’s leaders see a similar quality in Sade. “I have known Mike for many years as an exceptional senior procurement executive and government leader,” said Jim Williams, FAS commissioner. “GSA has the biggest acquisition challenges, and we are very fortunate to have Mike as part of the great team here.”
Lurita Doan, GSA administrator, said Sade shoulders tremendous responsibility in helping GSA reach several major goals, such as meeting GSA’s new benchmark of awarding GSA schedule contracts within 30 days.
Sade also has been instrumental in encouraging state and local governments to use GSA schedule contracts in times of disaster to get things done quickly, Doan said. In that way, she said, he has made it easier for governments to protect citizens and ease suffering in the wake of disasters.