Meet the Community Managers for Acquisition Open Opportunities

Chendra Conklin, Contracting Officer (DOC/First Responder Network Authority) and Kelly Lael, Contracting Officer (NIH/NITAAC) are both communicators. With little or no prompting, each describes the great satisfaction she gets out of helping people and providing services to federal departments through AOO, and each is happy about expanding the program. Perhaps this is the reason they were chosen to be the community managers for AOO this past spring.

As soon as they accepted the community manager positions, they reached out to each other and began a close collaboration that both believe is crucial to accomplishing goals for the program. Chendra points out that collaboration is also part of the philosophy of AOO. Kelly notes that collaboration forms the platform for AOO, and AOO, in turn, attracts people who like to collaborate. AOO is a community.

Through AOO, people who need help with temporary projects can connect with people who want to assist on short-term projects outside of their regular job tasks. The obvious benefits are that projects are completed, and staff have opportunities to expand their skills within the acquisitions field. Chendra and Kelly also appreciate that the professional development opportunities AOO provides are hands-on; staff who work with a new team of colleagues engage in active learning, instead of the isolation of online courses (Kelly describes it as: “Not clicking, connections”).

Although they had a hard time deciding which of their many projects are most satisfying, Chendra is particularly excited right now about developing a partnership with the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) that will expand the AOO program to new groups of federal acquisition professionals. Joanie Newhart (Associate Administrator of Acquisition Workforce Programs within OFPP) and Anne Reinhold (Procurement Analyst at the Federal Acquisition Institute) are also both involved. Chendra enjoys working with a range of agencies – for instance, she has recently written details for temporary positions within the U.S. Forest Service, and the Census Bureau.

Kelly is creating a guide to help people understand the requirements for using the AOO community in completing market research. The brief guide will help people know what steps to follow when they need to acquire new materials, like computers, scanners, or software. Her agency, NITAAC, is also developing a Who, What, When, Where, Why guide and template for market research that will answer some basic questions about how to begin a market research project. The AOO community contributed to both guides, and NITAAC intends to post them at Ask Kelly for draft copies.

Having recently interviewed them, I can confirm that Kelly Lael and Chendra Conklin are both approachable and easy to talk to – please contact either of them at  if you have any questions or needs. They want to hear from you.