Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

KerriLaine Prunella serves as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Administration. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview:

MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today?

KP: This past October I finished my 11th year in the Federal sector. I started my Federal career in the former SCEP program (Student Career Experience Program). I was in graduate school, working full-time and attending school part-time. I finished a graduate certificate in Organizational Development and an MBA, as well as some graduate level public policy classes. It was really exciting to be able to take what I was learning in class and immediately apply it on the job.

My first Federal position was in Employee Relations and then I did a rotational program, where I learned all facets of human resources, such as– staffing and recruitment, and development. From there, I transitioned to an HR business partner role which was essentially an internal consultant and allowed me to work with the highest levels in the agency. I then accepted a supervisory role and I have been a supervisor for the last six years.

In 2014, I went on a special assignment as a senior advisor to a deputy assistant secretary, which was really fascinating because I was able to see how a large Federal agency worked and the direct connection between the mission focus areas and policy. Today, my primary responsibility in my current role is oversight of human resources, facilities management, and executive resources.

MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?

KP: I grew up around public service. My father was Mayor of my town. My mother was Vice President of the school board so it was always a part of my life. I was in the private sector for the first few years, but I didn’t see the direct connection of what I was doing to the larger business results. I reached out to career services at my alma mater, Penn State, and I jokingly said I had a quarter life crisis (at 25) and I wanted to think about the other ways to use my talents.

My advisor had suggested a transition position where I worked for a trade association, while attending school and seeking a Federal job. I found the SCEP opportunity and I applied the day the announcement was to close. At the time, I worked close to my house, so I was able to go home at lunch get my transcripts, and I had a fax machine– so, I faxed in the requested documents. I received a call a few weeks later, interviewed and then started on October 29, 2006.

MC: What is one of your biggest achievements?

KP: I’ve had a diversity of experience over the past 11 years working in large and small agencies. I have been able to rebuild and rebrand HR as a true partner in at least three of the jobs that I’ve held. I remember hearing the stigma, “Well, this happens because of HR, or “I don’t have a vacancy so, do not need to talk to HR.” I made breaking down those barriers and myth busting a priority. HR is more than recruitment and benefits. It’s a full service strategy, advising, consulting, as well as operational and a lot of times individuals only knew it from the recruitment lens. I thoroughly enjoyed when a hiring manager called my staff and me into a meeting to strategize ideas of getting entry level staff into the Federal service. In the past, staff would have received the request without any pre-planning.  I am also proud of my work throughout 2014 and 2015, as a member of a government-wide workgroup for the SES Reform initiatives. The agency I worked for at the time piloted a few programs and I worked closely with the senior staff and executives across the agency. In 2015, Penn State (my undergraduate alma matter) recognized my professional accomplishments with an alumni achievement award. I did not know I was nominated until a Dean called me to congratulate me. As part of the nomination process, former supervisors provided insight to my leadership and accomplishments throughout my Federal career.

MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government?

KP: If they are passionate about a subject, they should bring their talents to government. I valued the diversity of experience and moving around to different organizations to broaden my knowledge. I tell others that are thinking about applying to Federal service not to believe the stigma about public servants – it’s not what you read. Many times the issues are front page, but there are many worthwhile programs and services, that are under the radar.

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