2016 Government Eagle Winner
Mary Davie: GSA's great communicator
- By Mark Rockwell
- Apr 08, 2016
Managing a workforce that oversees 7,000 contracts and $3.5 billion in federal spending, Mary Davie sits in the catbird seat of the government's vast IT acquisition operation.
Her current post is assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services in the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service. But whatever the role, Davie has made a career of improving the way the government buys products and services -- not just for IT and telecommunications but for everything from office supplies to motor vehicles -- through a dizzying array of blanket purchase agreements, governmentwide acquisition contracts and other initiatives.
And it all started with a surprise presentation.
Davie came to GSA in 1989 when she was fresh out of college with a business degree from Virginia Tech. Like many new college graduates, she said, she hadn't thought about a specific career path.
Fortunately for the federal government, she was spotted by managers who saw potential and cultivated it. One of her first managers brought her along to all of his client presentation meetings -- so often that she could recite the presentation details from memory.
On the drive to one of those meetings, the manager, Rick Davis, told Davie she would be handling the presentation herself that day.
Davis already knew what others in the agency would discover in the coming years -- that Davie could put together complex information, see a solution and use her interpersonal skills to get people to listen and collaborate on good ideas.
And although that presentation alone might not have been the catalyst, Davie was quickly hooked on GSA's mission.
"The people were engaging [and] super-smart. They made me one of the team and explained what they were doing," she said of those initial days at GSA -- echoing what she often says today about her colleagues and partners.
Those colleagues -- at GSA, across government and in industry -- say similar things about Davie. Engagement and discussion are always central to her leadership efforts, and they were front and center in 2015 as she tackled NS2020, revamps for Alliant and Schedule 70 offerings, and development of GSA's Acquisition Gateway.
"Our biggest role is to bring people across government and industry together" to work on the best solutions for users, she said. Therefore, the gateway is central to GSA's mission because thousands of federal buyers "have to have someone to reach out to."
Davie extends that attitude beyond her day job. She has long been a leader at the American Council for Technology -- the organization that works with the Industry Advisory Council in a public/private collaboration to solve difficult federal technology issues. She served as ACT president from June 2011 to May 2012 and continues to play an active role with ACT-IAC.
Such consensus-building and commitment to cultivating good ideas are among her greatest strengths. Yet Davie's peers say her ability to work with people, understand them and win their trust and respect also belong at the top of the list.
Davis, the manager who brought her along on all those client meetings, retired 15 years ago. Not surprisingly, Davie still talks to him on a regular basis.
Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.
Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.
Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.
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