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May 8, 2023

Kristen Mackey, Administrator of Arizona Department of Economic Security- Rehabilitation Services Administration; Jacy Wilmes, Managing Analyst Financial Services Administrative Team supporting the Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services, and Morgan Harmon, Senior Financial Analyst, for the Finance and Business Operations Administration, joined Carol Pankow in the VRTAC-QM Studio.

Kristen, Jacy, and Morgan explain how they have navigated and managed the fiscal support services consolidation at Arizona VR. Learn about the solutions and lessons learned that make Arizona's synergistic approach work for everyone.


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VRTAC-QM Manager Minute: How to Survive a Move in VR support services and Come Up with a Solution that Works for Everyone- Arizona VR



Speaker1: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for Quality Management, Conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host Carol Pankow.


Carol: Welcome to the Manager Minute. Kristen Mackey, Administrator Arizona Department of Economic Security- Rehabilitation Services Administration, Jacy Wilmes Managing Analyst Financial Services Administrative Team supporting the Division of Employment and rehabilitation services, and Morgan Harmon, Senior Financial Analyst, for the Finance and Business Operations administration are joining me in the studio today. Holy cow, I can barely say all of that, big crowd. So thanks for being here. Kristen, how are things going in Arizona?


Kristen: It's going well. We are settling into a routine of hybrid services and just getting to be really nice time of year here in Arizona. The weather's beautiful.


Carol: Well, you go, girl. I wish it would have been nice when we were there in January. It was not. It was raining. I'm like, What happened?. And Jacy, how are you doing?


Jacy: I'm doing great. Have a baby on the way right in the middle of July. So, you know, perfect time to have a baby in Arizona when it's 120 degree weather.


Carol: Oh, wow. Well, congrats on that. That's pretty cool. And Morgan, I got to see you out at CSAVR. How are things going?


Morgan: Yeah, it was great being out there. Great seeing everybody. Things are going well from my end. Got some vacations planned that I'm really looking forward to.


Carol: Excellent. Excellent. Well, thanks for being here today, guys. Really appreciate it. Kristen, you were actually on my very first podcast back in May of 2021, talking about how VR is going to look post-pandemic. That cracks me up because it seems like a decade ago and so much has changed since then.  For our listeners, our fiscal team at the VRTAC-QM have been working with Arizona combined under an intensive agreement, and we've gotten to know Kristen and her team so much better and are also working with both the DSA fiscal staff and the Division Administration fiscal staff. It is a really complicated setup, but we're going to get to that in a minute. So coming off the recent CSAVR conference, I thought it was really fitting to talk about how to survive a move in support services and come up with a solution that works for everyone. And I was talking with so many different VR agencies and folks are struggling with this movement of support services. I'm talking about, you know, moving your fiscal team, your HR, your IT from under the VR purview into more of a shared services model or up at the DSA level or sometimes even a move where it's going to a statewide entity.


Carol: And that is really common with IT. Now, you can't stop the DSA from consolidating services since it's happening everywhere. So let's figure out how we can work through this to make it work for VR. So when we were on site with Kristen back in January, we saw how this consolidation was working firsthand and we got to meet some pretty terrific people that are very committed to learning and understanding the VR nuanced pieces of the work. And so I wanted to break this story of what happened in Arizona. And I think you all can be of help to some other states. Now, I need to make one more disclaimer. No state has a perfect system and everybody struggles still, but they have really taken a great approach in Arizona to get this into a workable situation for all. So let's dig in. So Kristen, kick us off with a little information about Arizona VR. Like how many staff do you have, How many customers and how long have you been with the agency?


Kristen: Thanks, Carol. Arizona is a combined VR unit, and we have about 326 staff members right now that are just in the VR world. And then we have our support services that also help manage the madness as we say. We serve just under 11,000 clients right now. Our numbers are slowly starting to trickle back up, but we're still about 30% less than we were prior to the pandemic. I have been with the agency for 15 years. I started as a brand newbie transition counselor and had worked my way up and was in the policy unit when WIOA came into fruition. So that was a great place to be at that time and then moved on into the administrator role a couple years after that.


Carol: Well, it positions you very well being in that role with WIOA coming into play for sure. So Jacy, why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and current role?


Jacy: Yeah, I graduated from Iowa State with a degree in finance back in May 2020, right when the pandemic hit is when I graduated. This was my very first job out of college, and I started off and I was actually supposed to be the WIOA and Employment Administration analyst, but we had someone leave and I got swung into the RSA role. There was a lot of learning. So I was a financial analyst fresh out of college, really just got thrown into this position a ton of learning for about a year and two months on that program. Got it in a pretty decent spot and in the Financial Services Administration world and then got switched over to the unemployment insurance program. So I became a senior financial analyst over there. I worked on that program for about 9 to 10 months and think for everyone in RSA, just be glad you're not in UI. So yeah, and then I took over the management analyst position on the team, which is kind of just the workflow manager for the team. So we have a supervisor who's a senior managing analyst and then I'm right under him, so I just manage all the workload on the team. I review all the Fed reports. I review everyone's documents. I kind of get the whole team in the same groove with our actual workload.


Carol: I like it. I like that you used groove. You can tell you're all in a good groove for sure. Appreciate that. How about Morgan, Over to you. The same question.


Morgan: I graduated from ASU, got my degree in economics, and right after graduating I went the personal finance route where I started off as a broker for Charles Schwab, got my series licenses, talked with clients, place trades all day. I enjoyed it. But I had a friend who worked for the state's Department of Economic Security, actually over UI who would reach out to me like every few months is like, Hey, you should come work with me. And so about a year and a half ago, I took the leap. I left my job with Charles Schwab and came to work on public finance for the government. And I really haven't looked back since. I've really enjoyed my time here. I enjoy the people that I've been working with currently on a financial planning and analysis team with a great group of people. But being placed over RSA has definitely come with its challenges. It feels like the previous analysts in my role have all found pieces of a puzzle that they've been putting together and then when they leave, it's like they move that puzzle and things are still somewhat in place, but other pieces have moved and then it's just trying to put it all together. And I've enjoyed that challenge. I've enjoyed learning the program. And yeah, we've got a great group of people here.


Carol: Yeah, very cool. We saw that when we were down in January. That's why I just thought, I've got to talk to this group because you guys really have a unique setup and I think it will be important for other people to hear about that. So, Kristen, why don't you talk to us about the overall structure of the organization, like the DSA you live under, what services are under the big DSA and kind of that how this all lines up?


Kristen: Yeah, The Department of Economic Security is one of the largest agencies in state government. We serve more than 2 million clients every year, more than 40 programs to address all of the social and economic needs of those that we serve. DES is employees. We really have more than 8000 employees across the state. So we're a ginormous state agency. Seven program divisions such as adult Protective services, child Support services, developmental disabilities, and then our division, which is employment and rehab services, all of the DOL programs are also within our division. And so we work closely with the WOTC and UI and our local workforce development areas. All of that is under our division. So we are one of the largest divisions within the department as well. Then there's six operational divisions that help keep the lights on and everything that happens to, you know, keep the programs moving. Yeah, as Sarah would say, it's a big dot deal.


Carol: It is a big dot deal. That is a big group. And as Jesse said, we can all be happy we're not in UI.


Kristen: So yeah, we see that firsthand every day being part of our division, the UI madness.


Carol: Oh yeah, absolutely. So, Kristen, when did the change occur for you with this movement of the fiscal team from under your direct purview? Kind of describe what happened at that time.


Kristen: Yeah. You know, the department had been doing some of the shifts and kind of had you had talked about, you know, IT training. What are those services that support the divisions but kind of do the same thing for all of the divisions and all of the programs. And so about 5 or 6 years ago, we had the shift in contracts, training, fiscal, policy. All of those were moved to a shared services model. And under that shared services, you may have a single administrator or a single point of contact for the entire division. And as you just heard, our division is really large and very different in the services that we provide. And so we found that it's not always super helpful to have one person that is spread across all of those different programs. So previous to that, we had the fiscal staff reported directly to the RSA administrator and that fiscal person had a team of individuals under them. We had very tenured staff in those positions. We had people that retired from their positions. And so the work then became, you know, it was a unit. They all learned from each other. They had been through monitoring. They had known all the fiscal people and federal RSA. They had done all of the work. And so I think we're not immune to what business is now, right? People retire, new people come in, people leave, people shuffle. And we found that we just had staff that didn't have as much knowledge of our RSA programs and didn't know the technical side of the work either.


Carol: Gotcha. So this new structure, it's kind of a little confusing still to me. A little bit. If we could like go through what does this exactly look like? And Kristen, maybe you talk from the highest level and then I'm going to go to you because you have like the next chunk and then Morgan can talk about like, how does this all fit for the fiscal?


Kristen: Yeah, it is complicated. The department has the operational division, which is the division of finance operations or financial operations. That's where Jacy is housed. So they do kind of the big bucket activities under the grants management portion of the work. And then within our division we have the Finance and Business Operations Administration. So that is where Morgan and team are housed. And Morgan and Jacy, they work very closely together to manage the aspects of the work. And then, you know, I'm a pest and throw myself in there every once in a while, more often than they probably wish to understand, you know, how do we manage the work and what needs to get done and when.


Carol: That sounds good. So. Jacy, you pick it up from where Kristen kind of talked about it, Like, how does this flow between you and Morgan?


Jacy: Yeah, if I use acronyms, Financial Services Administration, we call FSA. That's where I'm housed. So an FSA, we kind of like Kristen was saying, we manage the big buckets of things. We do the big Fed reports, we do all of the federal drawdowns, we manage the payment systems, we manage the budgets in our accounting system. So when we get new award letters, Kristen sends them over to us. We load them in, match everything up to what the feds have sent us. We reconcile the revenue we receive to make sure that we're actually spending it down. We do a lot of analysis that are kind of more higher level and the way we work with Morgan and team, I would say they're more in the weeds of things. They see a lot of the actual invoices where we just see an expenditure into a category. So we'll see personal services, employee related expenditures, while they may see the actual documentation for that cost. So the way we work with Morgan is we just really rely on their knowledge of the program itself because like Kristen said, in division of financial operations were moved around a lot. So I'm the managing analyst on the team. I'm over our employment administration. I dabble in a little bit of childcare so we don't have a vast knowledge of each and every program. We try to become a subject matter expert in each one. When I came on, I was actually a subject matter expert for FSA in RSA because that was the one I spent the most time on. And then I'm also a subject matter expert on UI. I don't have the most expertise in the other areas and that's where other people come into play and that's where we utilize them. It's an interesting setup. Whenever we do an analysis specifically for our spending down our match. As everyone knows, spending down match is very complicated with RSA just having to meet a 15% pre-ets and also 21% state match. We work with Morgan and team to kind of utilize the client system they use and also our accounting system to come up with, okay, how much have we actually spent, what are we authorized? And then also just utilizing them for any questions we have when we see expenditures or anything on the federal report that just looks a little off from what we think we should be reporting.


Carol: Gotcha. So I was thinking and you just graduated from school in 2020 and look at all the buckets that you are over or impacting. That is a lot. Good for you. Good for you.


Jacy: Thank you.


Carol: So, Morgan, tell us about like, okay, now you're the weed guy, so you're the weeds. How does this I shouldn't have said it that way. So sorry. How does that all work? How does that work? Being the weed guy.


Morgan: It's fun. I say that with air quotes. Jacy explained it really well. Kind of our relationship there. What I would say a lot of my job is working with the programs like the various nuances that each program has, how they work with clients. We take, like the Transition School to Work program, where the ones that approve the budgets, we send out those invoices, we make sure that we're collecting that money and if necessary, we'll do an expenditure correction and a pretest, which would then send a Jacyso that he manages that at the grant level. I'm looking at it all on the program level. So my main deliverable that I provide each month is a budget packet, looking at each individual program that all feeds into like the Section 110 grant or independent living. We look at each of those programs, how they're performing, how they can improve and then go from there.


Carol: Yeah, I have to say, your budget packet was really impressive because you guys had showed us the reporting that you do and I'm like, Oh wow. I had told Kristen, I'm like, You are actually very fortunate that you have these fine gentlemen who really get at a lot of great information about what is exactly happening with the financial position of the program.


Kristen: Yeah, I'll give credit to Morgan, too. I mean, like I said, we had tenured staff and, you know, I think we all thought we were doing it just right. And as we dig in, we learned that maybe we weren't just doing it just right over the years.


Carol: Right.


Kristen: And so just having that fresh look into what is actually happening and are we doing it the right way. Morgan and Jacy and the team have done a really great job at reevaluating our processes and making sure that we're heading in the right direction.


Carol: Well, and since you brought that up, Kristen, you would let us know there was quite a bit of turnover, and that has seemed to now stabilize. Like that core group that is around now seems good. And you've all been around for more than six months, which is really, really nice. So Kristen, how do you keep that momentum and knowledge alive with this turnover that's been happening?


Kristen: We think we're still working on it, right? Recognizing and know that the teams have folder structures in the background that we look for access to. But all of the reports that. Morgan. And are working on. And I'm amazed at the work they do in their Excel spreadsheets and books in the macros and the databases and everything. I don't understand all of that. And so you see these documents are housed in folders and it's really up to them to try to figure out like, what is this? You know, they can push a button and it'll pull things forward. But is that really the right information? So I'm really fortunate that both of the teams, I think, are working towards memorializing what is it that we're doing and how does it work and what is the actual behind the scenes work that, you know, what are we pulling into these documents? It's not just relying on a preformatted sheet and having it just pull what it's always pulled. So just trying to just be aware and think. My role is I poke quite a bit. Is this right? Do we know what that's pulling? Can we identify what that means? So just allowing some space for additional questioning versus just assuming that what's been there and always there is right. Because think we love the people that worked with us before and nothing against them, but we need to make sure that we're doing it the right way at this point in time.


Carol: Yeah. And love it, Kristen, that your team is always really willing to say don't understand what this report means. I love that. I think it was Jacy and Morgan were handing you some stuff and we were all in a meeting and you're like, Okay, what does this mean? Can you guys walk me through this? And I love that because then Morgan and Jacy have a really nice way, a good style of talking in plain language to us non-accountant kind of people or whatever, and could explain the process really well. It was cool.


Jacy: Yeah. So I think there's a few things I could add to that just because, like Kristen said, there's a lot of files we use. So I think one thing that we've really been working on as an agency in general is just standard operating procedure. When we create a file, we also create the steps to update the file. What we're looking for in the file. When I came on, it was my third month was when the RSA17 dropped. That's when it became a brand new report. So I had to create the entire template in Excel. I had to create all the backup documentation that goes into that report. And it was very confusing. And I think every quarter it's still a work in progress of like the deeper understanding of that report. And now they come out with new kind of technical assistance for it and it's really helpful. So we kind of update our ways of how we update it. We talk a lot with Patricia, our RSA liaison, and she's very helpful on telling us, Oh, like this is what you should be doing here. So those are the kind of things we do on the finance side of things is we create a standard procedure, we create actual templates so that way it doesn't have to be redone. It's just the next quarter someone can take my template and add on to it and then also see the standard procedures of like, okay, this is how I would update this. We also specifically for everything we do, we go through a multiple step review process. So for federal reporting on the team, three people review it and those three people could all have a different experience with federal reports and they could ask very good questions. And then the last thing I wanted to mention was Kristen mentioned that me and Morgan have been really good at supporting, but to be honest, we couldn't do it without the advice or what Kristen and the team wants. At the end of the day, we're support services. We provide what the program thinks is useful. We try to just update whenever we have our monthly projections meeting, and that's when Kristen kind of mentions like, Hey, I don't think this is as useful as it can be or hey, like I think this is really good. Please keep this in there. And we constantly are updating our packet to meet those needs of our divisions.


Carol: Yeah, that's what I loved about you guys most because there is this really back and forth and this fluid flow and it isn't super rigid. Like, well, we developed this report and this you get what you get. So that is like one of my favorite parts. I know when I was working with your person that does a contract monitoring and just was able to review that standard operating procedure on that, which was super well done. And there were just a few little pieces to include in with current reg changes and things like that. Super responsive. Like I thought the work that you all are doing with those standard operating procedures is just you're nailing it. It's really good, really good. So I know our team was super impressed with the work of everybody, but I really wanted to go into a little more about that work Morgan does. So as I'm understanding, he is still on your side of the house, at least. Kristen, within the Finance Administration, within your division, and he has this colleague Zach. And so I got a chance to do some initial training with Zach as he first onboarded because of course VR is a big, interesting topic with lots of weird terms and acronyms and trying to get him grounded. But Morgan, I was wondering if you could walk us through a little bit more about the work you do for the VR program. And you got a little more in the weeds and you were starting to do analysis on some different things for folks. So can you talk a little more about that?


Morgan: Of course, the way that we used to be structured is our team had about three or more analysts that all worked under RSA, but back during COVID, that was cut down to two analysts. And then when I accepted the job, I was the only analyst doing the work that I do, which was working directly with the programs. Mike would meet with the various program heads over Behavioral Health Services Transition school to work, meet with them. We'd talk about the programs, figure out what kind of work they needed or adjustments they needed from a financial perspective, and then would take that information, roll it all into our budget packets, and then go present that to Kristen. The hard part of the job is it felt like I was routinely just turning a wheel. I was looking at the previous work that the analysts were doing, trying to piece together what they did, but then I didn't want to break anything, so I just kind of kept it in their same process. It's been a learning and growing process, trying to piece together RSA from the training that I received. And then about three months ago we were able to bring on another analyst to help support RSA as well. And I feel like the knowledge and the core that we have around this program is growing significantly to the point where I'm now able to work with Zach. He's able to handle a lot of the day to day tasks, making sure that we're getting these invoices sent out, that we understand the numbers that are in Libra or System seven, what we're reporting for the account balances and making sure that we're actually properly tracking where our dollars are being spent, if they're going into the correct program or what reports might need to be adjusted because we might be over reporting on a grant, especially if we can't understand where that money is coming from.


Carol: Want to ask you a follow up question on that, Morgan because I had seen it on site. You were starting to dig in and you were doing this analysis. Have you had any kind of aha moments as you've been looking at the data, as you're putting information together for Kristen and have some things like just jumped out at you about what you're looking at?


Morgan: Absolutely. And I think the biggest one recently was understanding Match and how match plays into everything that we do, where that money is coming from, how much we're receiving, how the state dollars are matched with federal dollars and how we're reporting that. And then have we been reporting that properly between projects being 100% fed? Have we been mixing state in there and found past reports that that's been happening? And so now we got to go through and correct it and feel like building a foundation of the program has really helped me understand what needs to be done from a financial perspective. Understanding the grants, where this money is coming from, how match plays into that, and then spreading that out across the programs. It was really eye opening to understand that this is what we are managing and this is what we need to fix.


Carol: Yeah, I love that. I do. I love that. Kristen, I just wondered back to you, how is this work of Jacy and Morgan really impacted you in your ability to manage?


Kristen: Gosh, like having the line of sight into the budget and the projections and the out years. What's our reversion potential? What do we have like managing and seeing all of that nearly on a monthly basis is the point we're trying to get to. I remember thinking previously we got these budget packets are beautiful, but wasn't sure like what grant your money is, is coming from. Is this what where does this go? How did how am I. So at a month to month glance it was fantastic. But from an overall big picture of managing the grants over multiple years was a challenge for me and preaches a very specific example. What is being applied? You know, how far am I away and how much is that going to detract from the overall grant? So having some of those conversations and I think as a group, we've said these things out loud and we've tried to figure out, okay, how can we have documents that help all of us understand what's happening? Because not only do we have ourselves right and we are involved in, you know, usually daily, from at least our perspective, you know, probably as well. But we have a line of leadership that's also that we have to report to that doesn't understand and won't ever understand all of these nuances. And we need to be able to say to them in a very clear picture, this is what where we're currently at. And so that building those documents not only for ease for me and my team to understand, but for us to also be able to communicate that up the chain very easily, given all of the strange nuances that we have.


Carol: Yeah, I've really liked your approach because you have included your leadership team in so you know, you've had Brandi in there and your other folks and then how you communicate with your boss Lynn. Like, I love that. And she was participating in parts of our trainings when we were out. And I love how you kind of grabbed this whole group of people because you're all better if everybody understands what's going on.


Kristen: Absolutely. And I'm big on if we don't know, we just need to ask. Nobody's going to get hurt feelings. Let's just be open and honest and try to understand what's happening. And am an over communicator will probably see everybody and their dog on something. And you know, if they get it too many times, that's fine. I'd rather people have it and be aware than not be aware.


Carol: Yeah, that's good stuff. So Jacy, I remember back to our meeting in January and I remember thinking, oh my gosh, this guy is really kind of at the DSA level you were super engaged. And really I felt like. You are so on top of things. How did you get up to speed on your role working with VR? I mean, like in a short amount of time. Think about it. You graduate in 2020, you did UI, you've done all this other stuff and now the VR world. And I feel really confident in your abilities and your learning. How did you do that?


Jacy: First, I just want to kind of say the culture of the Financial Services Administration is a lot of overachieving. We have a lot of smart people in FSA who are just very passionate about the work they do. So when I came in, it was really I wouldn't say there was like downtime or chill time. It was like, we got to figure this out, we got to figure this out. So it was like we in FSA are just very passionate and also our culture is just overachieving. Like we all are striving to be the best version of ourselves, and I think that pushes each other to that limit. Sometimes I work really late, sometimes my boss works really late and sometimes it's not even necessary. Sometimes we don't even have to work late. We're just really passionate about what we do. Yeah, so I'll kind of give you the rundown of when I first started, when I first started and came on like I mentioned, I was supposed to be on a different program. The person in RSA had taken a position in California and left, so I was in a day's notice. I was moved over to RSA and started doing the drawdowns, started doing transfers, started doing loading budgets. So I was really thrown into it. There wasn't a whole lot of training for me. I was just kind of told like, Hey, I need you to load this in our accounting system, or Hey, can you please process this transfer from a different state agency? And I was confused. I was really confused for my first month, probably I was trying and trying to understand, but there was just so much going on that I just had no idea what I was doing. But I was still processing stuff. And then I would say one of the things my boss at the time, I was a financial analyst, he was a senior manager and also a few positions higher than me. He told me like, Hey, we don't have a subject matter expert over VR or RSA and FSA. And at the same time, our counterpart who had been in the position for over a year had just left too. So then Morgan's boss got thrown into the position. So it was two new people with no resources on VR essentially for finance side of things. So obviously the program has people who are very knowledgeable, but the finance side of things, we were two people brand new. So one of the things my boss told me was, okay, you're going to study the regulations every day. That's your daily work. So I would literally go on to the CFR, the Code of Federal Regulations, and I would read it. I would go to VR and I would read, okay, so we need to meet a 15% match requirement. And I would also read about our 21% match requirement and all that's included in there. And then I would go into our kind of reports and stuff and I would say like, okay, so we have appropriation for the entire division, but we use it mostly for VR.

We also have a VR appropriation that match and that only takes up half of match. So where's the rest of the match coming from? And we get these different revenue sources and there's just a lot to piece together. And so at the same time, you know, Trevor was asking me questions, I was asking him questions. And I think that really pushed us both to learn. Like we were like, okay, they don't know. And I don't know, like someone needs to know. It was a long process. I wouldn't say I knew anything in my first month. I barely knew anything in my second month. By the third month, I probably had a little bit better understanding, but I'd still go into meetings and be asked questions and I'd say I'd have to look into that. I have no idea. I would literally have the code of federal regulations on for every meeting, and I would literally be typing in code words, trying to figure out like, how do I answer this question? And then eventually, after about six months, I understood those regulations really well and I could explain them. And I think that also really helped me with my reporting because now I knew, okay, this is what I need to look for in our accounting system to pull into this report. I need to pull in these different appropriations. I need to pull in what we call program code in our accounting system. I need to pull these in to get the revenue for our match. I need to get the expenditures. So it took a long time and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still learning. I'm still like, I think when you guys came, it was eye opening for me. I was like, okay, there's some stuff that we could update or some stuff that we can improve. And I spent a lot of time on RSA still, you know, just trying to get the analysts that we hire on up to speed, but also just trying to understand all that I've learned on that program and try to communicate that to the analysts. And it's not easy and it doesn't work in a day. It doesn't work in a month. It takes multiple months of studying and multiple months of working through problems and issues that come up. I think another big thing was changing how we like we just changed our packet. We present to Kristen every month to include different things and we're still we're trying to work on updates for our fiscal year 2024, trying to get rid of, you know, we had this page and I think it confuses everybody. I don’t think it’s helpful. So we’re trying to fix it so that it’s like it just makes a lot more sense. So we’re still updating daily and I think that helps my understanding of the finance side of it. You know, when I update these files, when I create these analysis and create these views, it’s like, okay, now I understand like what this is actually showing.


Carol: I love that you’ve done that because like, it’s so key. I’ve told other folks as we worked in other states, part of it is understanding and I’m glad you go to the Electronic code of federal regs. I mean, that’s the place to go. Because it’s always the most current. There are other versions of things out there, but the eCFR is the best. But you take in just a few minutes every day to read and learn. That's how you learn. I mean, that's how we all learn. You just have to go at it a little bit at a time. You're not going to you know, it is like drinking through a fire hose. You aren't going to absorb it all in one, you know, one day or a month or 2 or 3. It takes time as you're working through the pieces of this program. But you started somewhere, and I think that's such a critical message for folks because I think people get so involved in the transaction or I'm doing the thing I'm doing whatever event, I'm putting the thing together. But you're doing it in abstract because you don't understand what you're putting together. You're following the motions, but you may not have all that deep understanding behind it. And that comes with learning. And so good for you. I mean, I'm really impressed about that. So, Kristen, what do you think is fundamentally made, this whole situation work for you?


Kristen: Well, you just heard the dedication of Jacy and Morgan really been blessed to have individuals that care about the program and wanting to do right and do well because the mission of the program is so important. And so I think we've been blessed in that. We haven't always had people that have been so invested. And so having that and really building that team, feeling a sense of team, like we're all in this together, we're all learning together, it can't be really a us versus them type of thing, which I think is easy to do. And I know that even from program side, it was really hard when my folks got taken, right? It was like, Oh, I kind of took that a little personally. Oh yeah. And it was hard for those team members too. And so how do we continue? How did we keep people together and organized around the work that we do? It's not us, them, it's the people that we serve. And so I think that's been a really key and critical element and everybody can join together in that vision. Again, I said it before, I am a past. I don't know what I don't know and I don't have a problem asking questions. I don't have a problem kind of poking and saying, Well, what about how about I'm kind of more of a vision kind of person. So if I've got something up there and I tell the team all the time, like don't fiscal speak, don't have it. So I'm just going to kind of say what I'm thinking and would this work or how does that work? Have we considered? And so just having the opportunity for those conversations is, I think, really helpful and just setting the culture of no questions, a bad question. We're not here to attack each other. We're just trying to figure out how do we do this better. And I really believe that everybody on the team has that mindset of how do we get better at what we're doing so that we can ultimately better serve our clients?


Carol: Yeah, it's been a great approach. So I want to get to some lessons learned because I know we have listeners and we have them from all over the country and there's folks in the similar situation to you. You know, people have lost their teams that were under the VR purview. They've been moved up to a DSA level. They don't have maybe as intricate levels as you guys all have. But what would you say are a couple lessons you learned that might help people in a similar position in another state? Is there 1 or 2 things and Jacy, I'm going to go to you first on this.


Jacy: Yeah, I think from the finance side of things, federal reporting is not the same agency to agency, program to program on our team. We manage every program for the state or for our agency, which is 90. So we do 90 reports and we get kind of this groove of reporting and just, Oh, this makes sense. The RSA17 is different. It's a different beast. It is not at all similar. The program is not similar to anything Department of Labor. So I think as a support services shared services team, really getting away from trying to manage all your grants the same way, I think we really learned we have to do this differently for each of our programs. We can't have the same process because it just won't work. That's one lesson we really learned and we've been really working on trying to not separate it, but just manage it differently. Another lesson I think I've learned is, you know, I was really shy, quiet when I started. I didn't like reaching out to people. I just felt I was young, just graduated. I felt like I was going to annoy people who've been here a really long time. They're going to be like, Why doesn't he know this? But now that I've been here a while, ask questions, communicate. Like Kristen always says, she thinks she's a pest. I don't think that's being a pest at all. I actually appreciate meeting with people and talking through things because then I learn something, but also problems just get solved so quickly and you communicate. I think problems just grow and grow and grow when they're not mentioned or caught. And even if it's not an issue, but if it's brought up, then we can explain it and then, okay, everyone feels comfortable with this. Now. I really just think those are the kind of two big lessons I've learned.


Carol: I cannot imagine you being shy. I just have to say, I always see you as a person that's very willing to talk. So those are great lessons. Morgan How about you? I'm going to go to you next. Any lessons learned that you could share with other folks in a similar position?


Morgan: I 100% agree with what Jacy said, especially when it comes to communication. Communication is key. Being able to ask questions, being able to know who your points of contact are for different programs. Being able to reach out to them for support, asking them questions just so that you have a good understanding of what you are doing is big. I would say, especially for the first few months I was there with Jacy. I was shy. I didn't know who to reach out to. I heavily relied on the analyst who was in my position prior. And it wasn't until I was able to break that mold and start acting on my own and start reaching out to people, even if it wasn't the right person to reach out to. I now knew the answer to that question and could then sort through problems on my own. Well, not necessarily on my own, with the support of who I needed and the various points of contact are. And the next is take your time. Take your time to learn what we're working with. Take your time to look through the numbers of the budget, to share what questions you have on the numbers. Even if something doesn't quite make sense. I frequently reach out to Jaycee to understand what this program code is and why are we reporting it in this way, and are we missing something if we're not reporting it properly? And so I would say those are my two biggest lessons and something that I try to instill in Zach as he's coming up through the training process as well. Ask the questions that you don't know the answer to and take your time to think about what you're doing.


Carol: I love that. That's really good. You guys are all super good mentors as the new folks come in too. I really appreciate that. Kristen, I'm going to let you have the last words and a couple lessons you've learned.


Kristen: Be involved. Didn't realize the impact as an administrator that I needed to know on the fiscal side and again, coming from program highly involved in what changes do we need, what do we need to do to programmatically to do better. Think fiscal was more of an afterthought. Like the money comes and the money goes and we'll just continue to do our program work. But really understanding what the impacts of the fiscal and the behind the scenes fiscally also advocating, as you heard, I mean, there's just a ton of work. So while there's shared services, but advocating for those direct supports. So Jacy is spread across several teams. But I'm fortunate that we have a direct support team in Morgan and Zach and their upline leadership is apportioned directly supporting. So I think that's given the capacity and the bandwidth for Morgan to be able to understand a little bit more, for Zach to be able to understand a little bit more jargon, ask those questions versus just plugging along to keep the daily lights on. I feel like that's really been super helpful for us. Finally, just, you know, again, both of us have said communicate. We just need to be able to ask the questions of each other and try to get the answers we need and plan forward. Right. It's a continuous improvement. So nobody's expecting it all to be done tomorrow, but continuous improvement and then I will plug the VRTAC. We've never had an opportunity where we can bring on an analyst and have an analyst have, you know, kind of a quick one hour, two hour meeting. Right. You know, never have that opportunity to understand and just get those words out there. Period of performance, you know, grant management, all of those things that as a program person don't understand, I can't really convey very well. So very appreciative of the work and opportunity to have you all help us in expanding our knowledge there.


Carol: Yeah, we appreciate that. We really want to get folks started on the right foot. So well said. Kristen, I really appreciate you all being on with me today and thank you so much. And I'm looking forward to your continued good work. Have a great day.


Kristen: Thank you. You too.


Jacy: Thank you. You too.


Morgan: Thank you.



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