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Gaining a New Perspective through the Critical Talent Cohort Program

January 13th, 2022

Qun Zhang, Principal Software Architect, is a current cohort member in GDIT’s Navy Marine Corp Critical Talent Cohort (NMC CTC or CTC) program. Not only is she learning to step outside her technical day-to-day role through the program, she’s also finding ways to leverage GDIT resources to lead her customer through critical digital transformation.

Disruptive innovation redefines learning platforms

As the leader of the Innovation Center for the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) for the Department of Defense, Qun’s responsible for finding and testing disruptive technologies that will help the university better meet the needs of their faculty and students. “The big challenge right now is the workforce themselves are changing because of technology advancements,” said Qun. “How DAU as a corporate university adapts to that—and makes a more engaging learning environment for the Defense Acquisition workforce—has become the challenge for them to solve.”

Qun and her team are using technology and innovation to help modernize their learning platforms using things like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. “We do sentiment analysis of their user feedback, we use digital assistants. And then we also use virtual reality and augmented reality for them to enrich their user experience.”

A dream conversation

Qun has big dreams, one of which is aspiring to a leadership role like a Chief Technology Officer. The NMC CTC program is enhancing her skills and helping her build a network to support her career goals. Her favorite experience in the program so far has been participating in what’s called Dream Conversations. Each cohort member requests a “dream conversation” with a leader at GDIT and Qun was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with GDIT’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.
“He shared—without any reservation—how he grew from a pure technical person to a VP and CTO, overseeing a lot of business units within GDIT,” shared Qun. “I learned a lot from him. It’s not just about getting your job done and satisfying the needs on a checklist, but you need to look up, down, right, left, and really think about how to better serve your customer and grow their business.”
After that conversation, Qun did just that. When the DAU Vice President approached her about how artificial intelligence could help DAU in the future, Qun not only responded to him, but also connected with the GDIT Center of Excellence to help think through the best AI and machine learning recommendations for the customer.
“Before the cohort program, I didn’t know there were such amazing business units supported by the CTO office. We had a conversation with them and they’re going to have a workshop session with my DAU customer.”

Learning from peers and leaders

The CTC program is helping Qun grow professionally, while also providing greater access to the wider GDIT community. All of which is helping her serve her customer in new and more effective ways.

Through monthly cohort activities, Qun is continuously exposed to GDIT leaders and external subject matter experts. Her cohort group includes members from senior management, finance, and other technical professionals. They work through hypothetical problems and situations together. “We share our perspectives and we complement each other’s videpoints, and that really resembles the real world,” Qun shared. “This is an amazing program to broaden my knowledge and skill set.”

Her advice for future cohort members? “Try to think out of the box, beyond your current scope or job description, and always think of the bigger picture,” she said. “You never know when your dream might come true.”

Qun Zhang, Principal Software Architect, discusses her experience with GDIT's Navy Marine Corp Critical Talent Cohort (NMC CTC or CTC) program.

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