Mentoring for Equal Employment Opportunity

EEO Works At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – Just Ask Cynthia Dekle


A Personal Success Story

If the Office of Small Business and Civil Rights is ever looking for a poster person to advertise the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Programs, Cynthia Dekle of the Office of the Chief Information Officer could be the perfect candidate. Her radiant smile reflects her feelings about herself, her job and the agency.

If SBCR or the Office of Human Resources is ever looking for a spokesperson for these programs, Cynthia could again be the perfect candidate. Her words quickly affirm listeners “faith in ìthe system.”

To a skeptic, Cynthia’s story may sound too good to be true. But true it is. She has followed standard agency advice, and she has taken advantage of the opportunities that the agency offers. The results speak for themselves.

A Clerical Employee Sets Her Sights on Chief Information Officer

Cynthia came to the NRC, barely out of junior college, as a productive typist. Today she is a professional (GG-13) in the Office of the Chief Information Officer, and her master’s degree in computer science is just a few courses away. If her plans continue on track, she sees herself earning a doctorate and becoming a Chief Information Officer, here or elsewhere.

She’s done it by the book:

  • She has a mentor.
  • She has an Individual Development Program and keeps it up to date.
  • She’s made good use of agency-funded training classes

First Steps Toward Growth

When Cindy started as a typist in the old CRESS centralized typing unit in 1985, business was booming, with day and night shifts to keep up with the work load.  “CRESS was always
the first to get new automated equipment,” Cynthia says. She found that fascinating.

“So, when the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation needed a systems administrator for its 5520 system, I thought that might be an opportunity for me,” she says.  As applications advanced, so did Cynthia. She moved from the 5520 into PCs and the LAN. Change created opportunities and Cynthia took advantage of them

Need for Guidance and a Plan

She says, “I moved right along with the changes in technology. But I didn’t really know where I was going or what the agency offered to help me, until Beth DeWoody became my

“Once I got into the mentoring program, I became focused on how to use this new technology to my benefit,”  Cynthia says. “I knew I wanted to become involved in the systems area, so then I knew I had to go to school. Hands-on training doesn’t take the place of in-depth learning.”

Cynthia also learned from Beth that the agency would help; so far the agency has paid all her tuition and book costs.

The Mentor Gives Her a Challenge

Cynthia had her associate’s degree from Prince George’s Community College, and in 1994, with Beth’s urging, she enrolled in the University of Maryland. She earned her bachelor’s degree and in January 1997 started work toward her master’s in computer system management.  She also changed jobs, moving to OCIO and a position in the Information Technology Infrastructure Division.

That job was strictly customer support. She enjoyed it, but her master’s program was opening her eyes to many other aspects of the computer world. When the opportunity to move into Applications Development came up, she was ready. It tied in well with what she has been studying, and it was a promotion too.

While taking a master’s program and holding down a full-time job isn’t easy, Cynthia says the program and her job complement each other very well. What she does or learns in one is readily transferable to the other.

New Opportunities for Growth

Cynthia is enthusiastic about many things, but she is particularly enthusiastic about ADAMS, the agency’s new document management and distribution system. Since December 1999, she has been a computer systems analyst in the Applications Development Division of OCIO to assist in the implementation of ADAMS. The ADAMS systems administrators handle technical and technical configuration issues as well as calls from individual employees who have a question or need support.

The system may sound complicated at first, she says, “It’s a very basic system. All people have to do is just point and click. People don’t have to be programmers to use ADAMS. Anyone who is used to games or surfing the web will have no problem using ADAMS.” Cynthia finds her work with ADAMS particularly exciting.

“This is the first time I’ve worked on a project from near its beginning through implementation,” she says. “It’s opened my eyes as to how computer applications are built and put into use.

The Individual Development Plan

Throughout her professional development process, Cynthia has found her Individual
Development Plan of great value.

An IDP is:

  • a plan that is worked out with a supervisor
  • incorporates input from a mentor
  • details where an employee wants to go
  • describes how the employee is going to get to the goal. The “how” includes both appropriate training and developmental assignments. It’s a road map to success.

Recommendations From the Protégé

The first step Cynthia would recommend to most people is: “Find a mentor. Sit down with your mentor or your supervisor and map out what you want to do and how you can get there.

” Then, get on your way. The biggest step toward reaching your career goal will be the one you take when you sign up for your first course.”

Going back to school was easier than Cynthia anticipated, but, she concedes, “The work load is heavy. I seem to spend all my time working or at school, and I think I spend more time at the Grad School library than I do anywhere else. I’m tired, but I can’t see myself slowing down. So, once I have my master’s, I’ll probably go for my Ph.D. Eventually, I can see myself as a CIO, somewhere, maybe even here.”  Quite a change from the typing pool!

Acknowledgments and Giving Back

Cynthia is grateful for the help she received from Beth; from ADD Division Director, Arnold “Moe” Levin; from Information Management Team Leader, Dan Graser; and others. To complete the loop, Cynthia now serves as a mentor to several other employees who are now in school.

“When I came here, I really didn’t have any direction,” Cynthia says. “I know how valuable a mentor can be.”

Cynthia is very happy with all that has come to pass in her career and when you talk to her, her good feelings are certainly contagious.