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Acquisition Workforce Spotlight: Maria Swaby, GSA

Maria Swaby
  1. How long have you worked with the GSA, and what was your background before your current position?

I have worked for GSA for 13 years. I started in GSA’s Suspension & Debarment Division and eventually became the GSA Suspension & Debarment Official and the GSA Agency Protest Official. I worked in that Division for 10 years until I moved on to become the GSA Procurement & Task & Delivery Order Ombudsman & Industry Liaison in 2019. Prior to working for the federal government, I started up and ran the government business sector at a large corporation and prior to that, I was in private practice at a large law firm.

  1. What are some of the major efforts you (and/or your team) are working on with GSA?

We are working on industry engagement, outreach, and awareness initiatives for several Administration and GSA priorities: Cyber Security, Climate Change, Racial Equity, and the Federal Acquisition Advisory Committee, to name a few.

  1. Tell us about one of your biggest successes achieved by you/your team/agency.

One of the biggest successes achieved by me, my team, and GSA was helping both other federal government agencies and foreign governments establish suspension and debarment programs to fight corruption and preserve the integrity of the procurement system. One example is when GSA allowed me and another Suspension and Debarment team member to help the Republic of Tunisia, a country in its infancy as a democracy, establish a suspension and debarment regime to fight corruption in their public procurement system. The program has been up and running successfully since 2016.

  1. What is the biggest challenge in your position supporting the AWF?

I think the biggest challenge is bridging that gap between industry and the AWF in how some members of each group view each other.  There is still a sense of an us versus them mindset between some members of both groups. The challenge for my job is to facilitate a change in perspective so both sides see each other as equal partners in a mutually beneficial relationship.

  1. What skills do you think are most critical to successfully perform your job?

I think the most important skills to successfully perform in the Ombudsman position are soft skills rather than subject matter expertise. It requires skills such as a willingness to learn new things, collaboration, listening well, showing empathy, and bridging gaps. These skills are crucial because there are always new rules and regulations that industry needs to know about which requires collaboration both internally and externally. Additionally, the Ombudsman’s office is often contacted as a last resort after the contractor has been unsuccessful in reaching out to someone at or resolving an issue with GSA contracting personnel. By the time they get to the Ombudsman’s office, they are understandably emotional, and they need someone who will listen to their concerns, validate them, and help them find solutions.

  1. What words of wisdom would you offer to your fellow acquisition workforce members?

If you want to be truly successful and satisfied in your career as an acquisition professional or any other profession, do not chase after outward expressions of success such as money, title, power, prestige. Instead, take the time to do the inner work and find out who you are, what you want, and what moves you. This requires moments of solitude where you ask yourself these questions, write them down, and start paying attention to the answers that come to you. Write down those answers too. This discovery is hard work, and it takes time and patience with yourself. However, you will find the answers. Once you do, go for it with all you have got, and you will thrive and be happy in your career.

Comments

Submitted by Shene Commodore (not verified) on Wed, 09/21/2022 - 11:21

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I have reached out to Maria several times and she is always kind, prompt, and responsive.  Maria's willingness to help as well as make sure the right people are aware is vital to the success of GSA and industry collaboration. Thank you for your service, Maria.

Submitted by Lori (not verified) on Sun, 10/02/2022 - 13:10

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Loved hearing about Maria's work.  These kind of stories are helpful and inspiring.  Please continue to spotlight employees!

Submitted by Bruce Wayne (not verified) on Sat, 10/08/2022 - 01:07

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3

Submitted by Zenaida (not verified) on Tue, 10/25/2022 - 13:50

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I enjoyed Maria's interview. She is an asset for GSA and the AWF. When I need help, I know Maria would always point me in the right direction. This speaks of her level of commitment and passion for what she does. Thanks Maria, you are much appreciated and admired!

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