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It’s 1987. Gary Cubbage, fresh to the firm from the University of Virginia, has just left a message asking a fellow named Skid Masterson what he knows about superconductivity. Why?
“My first assignment was for a study about the Department of Defense’s Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars program,” he says. “They were interested in superconductivity and I didn’t know jack about it.”
He’d overheard somewhere that this Skid person was an expert. When Gary proudly reported his progress to his task leader, his boss responded with a look of horror.
Turns out Skid Masterson commanded Booz Allen Hamilton’s entire defense portfolio, about two-thirds of the firm’s business at this time. Imagining he’d committed a career-ending breach of protocol, Gary leaped for his phone to cancel the message. Before he could, it rang.
Skid was on the line. He brushed off Gary’s apology and gave him a list of additional experts. He asked him about his interests, background, and aspirations. By conversation’s end, Gary had made his first connection with Booz Allen’s senior leadership.
“I vividly remember that first 12 months with the firm,” he says. “It was daunting. It worked out for me, but more by serendipity than structure.”
Thirty years later, and Gary’s a senior leader himself and he sees these secrets to his early success—that connectedness—given structure in a firm initiative called The Graduates Community.
“Anastasiya began working on The Graduates Community during her very first year at the firm. It sprang from something simple: a desire to help her fellow junior employees succeed.”
The Graduates Community began in 2013 when Anastasiya Olds, then a consultant, took a critical look at the firm’s existing approach to junior employee integration. It consisted of little more than a series of happy hours. Seeing white space, she mobilized her networks.
Anastasiya convinced colleagues and executives from all sectors of the firm to spend unpaid nights and weekends planning and hosting a series of development-focused events—think talks with capability leaders, volunteer opportunities with local not-for-profits, and workshops centered on core consulting skills. They would start with a September kick-off designed to draw in the year’s college recruits and begin the process of cohort formation. A website with a calendar, online courses, and a social component tied it all together.
When Gary heard about the project, he was impressed not only by the initiative on display, but by the desire to illuminate a path to shared success. Anastasiya and her colleagues “wanted to make a difference,” he says, “and not just for themselves, but for the broader community.”
Before long, he signed on as The Graduates Community’s sponsor.
To see the positive outcomes of The Graduates Community’s approach, just attend one of its events, which offer junior employees the opportunity to get to know more than their own teams. They meet people from other offices, other projects, from all over the firm. “Access to people like themselves and to senior leaders who really care about them, that’s the most valuable thing that The Graduates Community provides,” says Gary.
That value is apparent in stories from people like Staff Technologist Jeff Young. During his entire first year, Jeff felt a bit isolated at his client site. On a tip from a Graduates Community email, he attended a hackathon at the firm’s Innovation Center in DC. When he met Principal Steve Mills at the event, he asked him what skills he should develop to further his career. He pursued a cloud developer certification on Steve’s advice, and since then Jeff’s been able to compete for more advanced roles on a broader range of projects.
“The Graduates Community has been a crucial part of rounding out my experience,” Jeff says.
Anastasiya began working on The Graduates Community during her very first year at the firm. It sprang from something simple: a desire to help her fellow junior employees succeed. By embracing her vision, Booz Allen is empowering a new generation to build a better world.
Gary, meanwhile, remembers what kept him on course. As one of five new hires on his team, he had a built-in cohort. He worked with a senior associate who deliberately made himself a resource. And, of course, there was that priceless guidance from Skid. Thanks to those circumstances—and a little luck—Gary was infused with his new employer’s purpose-filled approach to client service and its people.
“People will stick around the company if they feel a connection,” he says.