Bringing "Can-Do" to Government

At the Labor Dept., Karen Rigby is helping Uncle Sam adopt a business-oriented approach

After I completed my MBA at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2001, I went to work in the nonprofit sector in Washington, D.C.

In 2003, I joined the U.S. Department of Labor MBA Fellows Program and completed rotations within the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Civil Rights Center. I also worked in Atlanta for three months, managing the Atlanta Regional Civil Rights Office.

The MBA Fellows Program (see BW Online, 7/11/05, "How the Labor Dept. Hires MBAs") is open to graduates of accredited MBA programs. It admits about 15 applicants annually. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, a Harvard Business School alumna, launched the program in 2002.

Rotational assignments are a key component of this program. Fellows may work in budgeting, financial management, human resources, information technology, and procurement in the department's national and regional program offices.

My job responsibilities at the agency have varied over the past two years. Within the Office of the Chief Information Officer, I worked with the capital-planning and investment-control group to review major IT budget submissions, carry out departmentwide IT project-control reviews. I also help complete internal e-government scorecard reviews, which track how well the department ensures that the public has access to government information through the Internet. I also served as the project manager during an upgrade of the agency's library information system.

I currently work on online training programs for the Civil Rights Center and am also often involved in a number of special projects including the development of systems for the evaluation of diversity management within the department, planning of the Civil Rights Center's annual conference, and creation of an information system to track class complaint respondents.

The following is a snapshot of a typical day in my work life:

6:15 a.m. -- I'm a morning person, so at this time I am off to the Metro station in Maryland to commute into Washington. My total commute time is about 45 minutes.

7:00 a.m. -- Arrive at work and begin to check e-mail. My boss arrives shortly after I do, and we chat for a few minutes before he begins his day.

7:30 a.m. -- Prepare for afternoon meetings with co-workers to develop online training about civil rights. I work on drafting content and revising the format of the application used to publish the training.

9:30 a.m. -- Walk across the street to a café to get a bottle of water and a snack.

10:00 a.m. -- Attend a meeting to discuss details of an out-of-town civil rights investigative assignment.

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