In every industry, contracts are the vehicles through which all essential work is performed. Having an acute understanding of the contracting process – and how to effectively work within it – is paramount to the success of any organization.
Stephen Hill, program advisor for the Contract Management Certificate Program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies, noted that “Some of the largest employers in San Diego require their contract management personnel to complete the Contract Management Certificate Program. Many of our students start out as assistant contract administrators, and the program provides them with a base education, allowing them to immediately apply what they’ve learned.
“A smaller segment of our students are those looking for a career change, and I’m proud to say that upon completion of the program, many of these students have had great success in securing positions and promotions in the contracts field.”
Hill knows the program benefits firsthand. He completed the Contract Management Certificate Program in 2003, and has been an instructor since 2006. (He previously completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at SDSU.) Hill has more than 20 years in the aerospace and defense industry and has held management positions at Kyocera and Cobham. He gives us a look at why the future of this industry is brighter than ever.
What trends in contract management are creating new opportunities?
The Budget Control Act, known as sequestration, will reduce federal government spending by about $1 trillion over a 10-year period. Reduced government spending provides risks and opportunities. Some government contractors have already reduced staff due to cancelled or scaled-back projects, but on the positive side, the government will look at subcontracting necessary services to the private sector in order to save money and remain flexible.
Risk mitigation is today’s corporate obsession. As an integral corporate component, contracts professionals are needed to identify and assess the levels of risk associated throughout the life of a project. Risks could positively or negatively affect a company’s financial bottom line or reputation. Before a company bids a contract or administers a subcontract, teams containing a contract professional review and analyze potential risk to the company.
Why are contract management personnel important?
They’re important because they’re instrumental in the bid process, risk assessment, costing process, managing customer changes, and contract closeout. They’re integral in almost every stage of the contract. Contract professionals work with others to ensure successful contract compliance, and that schedule and budgetary requirements are met.
In many instances, contracts professionals are a focal point of contact in the customer/supplier relationship. They review contracts and agreements that often contain complex requirements, as well as obligations and commitments that need to be managed effectively in order to optimize the maximum value from contracted relationships.
What are the program highlights?
Our courses are taught by industry professionals and each instructor gives a good cross-section of what core competencies a person needs to have to succeed in the profession – such as attention to detail, “industry best practices,” and the ability to work on a team. I like the fact that our instructors are down-to-earth and approachable.
Most of the classes use group activities where you not only learn from doing the exercise, but you also learn from your team members. This interaction prepares the student for how contract management professionals really interact in the workplace.
I’d also like to add that many of the program classes give students skill sets they can apply in their everyday life such as analytical reasoning, negotiations, and confidence to handle complex situations.
Why is this profession exciting?
Most contract professionals will tell you that their work day is not boring. They’re given a high level of responsibility, and utilize skills drawn from a number of disciplines. Contract professionals solve problems and get things done.
In San Diego, contract professionals may play an integral role in the launching of new commercial aircraft, assisting in large-scale construction projects, developing and bringing to market telecom and biotech products, and in some cases, secretly working on black projects (highly classified and unacknowledged publicly by the government, military personnel, or defense contractors) for the U.S. government.
International trade is at an all-time high, so contract professionals with knowledge in this area are extremely valuable. In many cases, they’ll travel internationally to negotiate, finalize contracts, and audit subcontractors to insure compliance.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled globally as a representative for many of my employers – I can definitely say that you’ll go to places and see things that the average tourist will never experience.
After the long hours of factory tours and negotiations with Japanese management, I was able to visit prefectures in northern Japan that were picture-book scenic and had previously been ruled by Samurai for centuries. These prefectures had some of the freshest sushi and tastiest sake I’ve experienced.
From my perspective, Hong Kong had to be the most exciting city – I was fortunate to have spent almost two months there managing Chinese suppliers. I’ll never forget jogging through Kowloon at 4 a.m., the outdoor markets, the beautiful emerald bay, constant heat and humidity, fast Cantonese language, and the mass humanity made it feel almost like living a Jackie Chan movie.
What do contract management professionals need for the future?
Companies are doing more with less, and there is the expectation that each employee brings something extra to the table. Since the SDSU College of Extended Studies’ slogan is “Never Stop Learning,” I recommend that contracts professionals continue their studies, and supplement it with Project Management and Lean Six Sigma coursework. These disciplines are complimentary to contract management and will add value to what you do as a contract management professional.
For more information on the Contract Management Certificate Program, please visit neverstoplearning.net/contract.
Contract Management Student Successes
“I enrolled in the SDSU Contract Management Certificate Program to better prepare myself for a job in contracts at Northrop Grumman. 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. By the end of the program, I was quickly advancing in my job due to the enhanced knowledge. 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.”
— Camille P. Asaro, Contract Administrator, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
“I took this program because, as the operations manager of the company I work for, I handle all our government contracts and learned what I knew from trial and error. I wanted to have some proper training in doing the right thing and understanding the contracts system better. I enjoyed this class; there were parts that I totally understood and other parts that helped me better understand just how I should have been handling things. Our company is moving into the commercial pump world after 18 years of nothing but government contracts and this program has helped me show my employer that I have the ability to handle both government and commercial contracts as we grow.”
— Roger George, Operations Manager, Eddy Pump Corporation
“I earned my MBA more than 20 years ago and spent most of my career in accounting and finance. About eight years ago, I switched my career path to contracts administration. The SDSU CES professional certificate in Contract Management provides a current credential to give employers confidence that I have the understanding and knowledge to manage contracts. In an increasingly competitive job market, the certificate in Contract Management provides a compelling reason for employers to choose my resume over similar resumes that do not have additional certifications.”
— Barbara Hubbard, Senior Contracts Administrator