Sharon Mazur

Responsibilities: Mazur is acting executive director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) Modernization Office, which is overseeing a $2.2 billion project that will turn a paper-based system tracking imports and exports into an electronic one linking all U.S. ports.

What makes her a good program manager: Mazur, who has been working in the customs arena for three decades, can translate complex and often controversial project objectives into easily understand and attainable action plans, according to her boss, Charles Armstrong. "I think she does a very good job of bringing together the business leaders from our organization and the contractor that's developing the system" to hammer out what they are trying to accomplish, Armstrong said, adding that Mazur has done an outstanding job of putting the right processes in place to oversee the acquisition of those systems.

How she ended up in the job: Mazur replaced Armstrong in November 2003 when he was named CBP's chief information officer. She originally came from the business side of the community, starting as an import specialist at the Port of Baltimore, where she assessed the correct duty on imports and determined if an import was prohibited. She is well-known for her work as program director for the U.S. Customs Service Year 2000 program.

Best advice she's received about program management: In her training as a program manager, she received this advice: Feel pain early and feel pain often. This means to be prepared early on to deliver any bad news. Feel the pain, make it better and move on. "I've lived by those words," Mazur said. "Don't try to massage the message in any way. As soon as you know the information, deliver it."

Best lesson learned on the job: "What works for me works for them, too," Mazur said. "Be forthright; deliver the message when you know it. Trust the process...[and] always keep in mind [the] triple constraints of program management: cost, schedule and scope."

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