ECBC bids a fond farewell and best wishes to Nan Ramsey, Associate Director of Engineering and ECBC-Rock Island Site Manager, as she retires after 30 years of government service. She reflects on her career and gives some final advice to the workforce:
What inspired your career in engineering?
Economics was actually my first love. I double-majored in economics and business because it was practical. After graduation, the job prospects at the time convinced me that an engineering degree would be valuable. My dad was an engineer, so I think that influenced me as well.
You worked in industry prior to the government. What were your jobs in industry, and how did you end up working for the government?
First, I worked as a management trainee for Caterpillar Tractor Company, but the plant was moved to France and eventually closed down. Then I went to work as an engineer at J. I. Case, but there was discussion of closing the Rock Island plant where I worked. It was by coincidence that a supervisor at Rock Island Arsenal Industrial Engineering Activity called me and asked me to apply for a job there. Since the J. I. Case job looked tenuous, I applied with the government and got the job.
What are some of your favorite memories from your early government career?
My best memories are of friends and co-workers who helped make our various projects go smoothly and made me feel like part of a wonderful team. There is great satisfaction from working with great people and getting the job done right. I had the privilege of working with all the Research, Development and Engineering Centers on various issues with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and we had a tremendously proactive, helpful team. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) G6 group worked very closely with us and we made great strides together. That was a very rewarding time.
Early in my career, I had the honor of briefing the Army Chief of Staff on an industrial base study. I got to ride over to the Pentagon in a staff car with the Deputy Commander of the AMC at one point. It was very exciting for me. I wouldn’t have had the privilege if not for all the hard work of the industrial base team back then.
What made you decide to take a position with ECBC?
I was looking forward to working for Larry Light, the site manager at ECBC-Rock Island―he had a great reputation. I was barely here a few months when Larry decided to retire. When AJay Thornton became the Director of Engineering, he asked me to move into the Associate Director position. Moving up the ladder was never an objective of mine―I was always focused on projects. I really enjoyed working with the entire management team at ECBC. It was very much like a family and everyone was very easy to work with. I wanted to do the most I could do for ECBC and the Army.
What were your first goals as Associate Director/ECBC-RI Site Manager? What were the immediate challenges?
Under the direction of Rick Decker, one of my first goals was to resolve any issues we were having with support to DLA. From a strategic perspective, I knew this was important to a successful future, so I spent a great deal of time working the issues. This work with DLA kept me very busy and away from the office, and I did not get much chance to know all the folks in the workforce. When I look back, I wish I had made it more of a priority to connect with the RI workforce.
Also, since we were ISO 9000 certified, all our processes were documented, and we surveyed our customers for feedback and wrote corrective action reports when we deviated from our goals. One of my challenges was to show the management team and workforce that the ISO 9000 system could work for us, and that we would reap great benefits from it. I felt in some cases, the actions were performed without real buy-in. I think over time, most everyone has come to see that the effort has real payback, and we understand our customers better and can react to their needs more effectively.
As a leader, what has been your biggest “change of mind”?
I used to take on every single issue, large and small, and try to ‘fix’ it. It took a while, but I figured out I needed to spend more of my time leading and thinking strategically.Also, I always believed that if I put my mind to something and did absolutely everything I could, I could make positive change happen. In this role, I learned that sometimes there are things outside our control, and I would be better off accepting them and moving forward.
What are your thoughts on bridging the gender gap in the science and engineering fields?
I think we’re doing better than when I first started in the field, but we need to keep working at it. We need to promote STEM outreach to schools at the youngest ages. Parents need to do what they can to encourage young girls, as well.
What is your advice for those who are interested in advancing their careers at ECBC?
When you say you’re going to do something, do it. This develops trust with your colleagues and management. Volunteer for challenging assignments, and don’t turn down any opportunities management might present. This helps to increase your own skill set and network; it can also help you better understand the bigger picture. Always remember that this is about serving the Army and our customers.
What are your plans for retirement?
I plan to spend more time with my 88-year-old mother, and spend more time keeping fit. I am going to try stand-up paddle boarding, and do more kayaking and running.
What will you miss the most about working at ECBC?
Isn’t it always the people? The people are ECBC.