Camille Asaro graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a minor in law. Shortly thereafter, she was hired at Northrop Grumman as a contract administrator and has been with the company for nearly three years.
To achieve her goal of gaining a better understanding of the contracts process, and to stand out among her peers, Asaro enrolled in the Contract Management Certificate Program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies. She shares how the program impacted her career since her graduation in 2014.
What are your primary duties as contract administrator?
I’m responsible for preparing proposals, negotiating contract terms and pricing, administering contract execution, and communicating with the customer.
How did you hear about the SDSU College of Extended Studies’ Contract Management program?
My professional mentor at the company suggested I complete the program in order to expand my contracting knowledge and accelerate my opportunities at work.
What did you hope to gain by taking the program?
I wanted a deeper understanding of contract management and related industry practices so I could better prepare myself for situations at work and stand out among my peers.
How specifically did the program meet your expectations?
Each class thoroughly covered various important topics in the defense contracting industry and I learned many useful things that I would not have learned in my daily work. One example is that at my company, people often use acronyms and reference topics that a young professional wouldn’t understand without having had a lot of experience in the field. By learning these concepts and processes in detail during class, I was able to quickly understand and contribute to the discussions.
Do you have an example of where your new-found knowledge helped you recognize and remedy a potential contract problem?
I was working on a proposal where our company was going to be refunded by the government for the costs associated with the proposal preparation once the effort was awarded. During negotiations, our team discovered that our incurred proposal costs were greatly underrunning compared to what we had originally submitted in our bid. I raised the issue that, according to the Truth In Negotiations Act (TINA), we were obligated to report any changes in cost or pricing data to the customer. My management was impressed that I had the background knowledge and ability to connect ideas like this as a new contract administrator.
How long did it take to complete the program?
I took two classes at a time and completed the program in 11 months.
Were the evening and online courses instrumental in your ability to be part of the program?
Absolutely – I have long, busy work days and my only free time is in the evenings. I also took two online classes during the program which made it more convenient to balance work and school. The timing of coursework was flexible and I didn’t have to deal with traffic!
How important was it that the instructors actually worked as contract managers in local companies?
It was very important because they were able to relate the class material to specific job experiences. It was beneficial to have instructors who shared similar work environments and who were familiar with San Diego’s defense contracting industry.
Did the program lead to any networking opportunities with fellow students or instructors?
Yes, I met a few people who worked in my company that I later connected with to leverage project opportunities. I also still stay in touch with several classmates and instructors at different companies via LinkedIn.
Would you recommend the Contract Management program to others?
I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in this career path. All of the teachers were helpful and the diverse students brought different experiences to every class. In addition to the benefits of learning, the certificate itself helps you stand out among your peers.