Professional development and training

This post provides information about mandatory (OLU) and professional development training opportunities.

Leadership

Pia Scott is TTS’s Director of Training and Development. She is based in Washington, D.C.

Marshall Brown assists with the review of training and conference requests when Pia is out of the office.

Communication

Find us in Slack:

Or via email at:

Book time to chat with the training and development team during the office hours listed here


There are many training and professional development opportunities available to you: You can take a course, attend a workshop, and leverage on-the-job training. Here’s an overview.

Mandatory training

All General Services Administration (GSA) employees are required to take mandatory training courses through the GSA’s Online Learning University (OLU) which provide critical information about how we work in the federal space.

For more information, reference the OLU page.

Professional development training

Our work at TTS takes us in new directions every day. In many cases, taking additional training can help everyone on our team better realize our organizational mission. Because external trainings benefit both individuals and our organization, 18F has a training budget.

If you’re interested in taking a training related to your role at TTS, you’ll need to complete the process outlined in this section to get your request approved. When you find a training opportunity that interests you:

1. Make your request

The review and approval processes can take a bit of time, so it’s best if you make your training request as early as possible. Here are some basic guidelines about how far in advance to request training:

  • Two weeks in advance: If you’re interested in a training that costs less than $3,500, is not at a conference, doesn’t require travel, doesn’t involve more than one individual from TTS, and doesn’t involve an outside source of funding. Requests like these must be made in C2 (Step 4) at least one week in advance.
  • Three to four weeks in advance: For trainings that are less than $3,500 altogether, don’t require an outside source of funding, and are either at a conference, require travel, or involve more than one person from TTS attending. Requests like these must be made in C2 (Step 4) at least two weeks in advance.
  • Five to six weeks in advance: For individual or group trainings (or conferences) that cost more than $3,500 altogether, anything involving an outside source of funding, or international travel. Requests like these must be made in C2 (Step 4) at least four weeks in advance.

Requests that don’t make it to C2 (Step 4) in time will not be approved.

2. Create your Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Employee’s Guide to Individual Development Plan

After you’ve made your request, you’ll need to create an IDP related to the training or conference that you want to attend. The IDP helps you articulate how a given training contributes to your longer-term professional goals. Create it in Salesforce. See the GSA Guide to IDPs for policy information.

To get some IDP inspiration, you can browse some examples from your TTS colleagues, including the approved IDPs of Leah Bannon and Emileigh Barnes for General Assembly classes. Gray’s TL;DR on IDPs is well worth a look.

Here are a few hints for creating a top-notch IDP:

  • How to Successfully Create an IDP Presentation
  • In the Series field, select 0301 - Miscellaneous Administration and Program Services.
  • Leave the Procurement specialization field blank unless you are on the operations or acquisitions team and have taken or are pursuing a training in a procurement specialization.
  • As you’re writing about your long- and short-term goals, include a few sentences about what the training is about and how it connects to your work at GSA/TTS as well as a few sentences about how it will contribute to your overall professional development.
  • Add a related objective, an activity (this is where you list the name of the conference/training you want to attend), and a competency.

Once you’ve completed your IDP, submit to your supervisor for review.

If you need to edit your IDP, you’ll want to make sure to clone it, revise it, and place it in “resubmit status.”

3. Meet with your supervisor

Supervisor’s Guide to Individual Development Planning

Once you’ve submitted your IDP, you’ll meet with your supervisor to discuss it. Your supervisor will want to make sure your IDP aligns with TTS’s organizational goals and your professional development training needs. Once you’ve responded to any feedback your supervisor has provided, ask them to approve your IDP in Salesforce.

TTS’s training and travel budget is allocated for each fiscal year based on a projection of our total team size. Allowed annual expenditures for each business unit and chapter are determined by each business unit or chapter’s size relative to TTS as a whole; in other words, larger business units will have larger budgets.

That said, TTS will consider all requests for training, but it’s the responsibility of heads of chapters and business units to plan spending accordingly. If a particular business unit or chapter exhausts its budget before the end of the fiscal year, the director of operations may have to deny certain training requests.

4. Submit an event request in C2

Once your IDP is approved, you can create an event request in C2. If you’ve never used C2 before, or the link looks like it’s not working, ping in #c2-purchase-questions and someone will add you.

If you are set up right in C2, your event request form should look something like this. Go ahead and start filling it out. Make sure you complete all required fields and attach your IDP before submitting– you can do this by going in to Review your IDP and then clicking Print at the bottom of the page, which will open your IDP in Print Preview and allow you to export a PDF version of it.

You must provide all of the required information in your C2 request, otherwise there will be process delays.

For a training/conference that involves more than one person at TTS, it is required that one C2 request be made for everyone attending. If you are not sure if anyone else from TTS will be attending your event, please check in with your supervisor. If a group request is not made, there may be process delays, and it is possible that attendance will have to be limited to the first requestor.

The initial requestor can name who all will be attending in the “Instructions to Purchase” field and, after submitting, add the additional people as observers to the request. Each additional person attending is responsible for uploading their own required documents (IDP, SF-182, etc.) accordingly.

To facilitate review, when uploading documents, please also include your name and the type of document in the filename (i.e. Your Name SF-182).

What happens next?

Pia Scott will review your request for red flags during her office hours between 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday or 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM Eastern on Friday, and you can book time during those hours here if you have more specific questions.

The office hours are subject to change each week, but these changes will be reflected on the calendar. Marshall Brown backs Pia up when she is out of the office.

5. Resolve any red flags and finalize all approvals

Before your request can be approved, it needs to be free of red flags. During her office hours, Pia will review your request and identify red flags in the comments section of your C2 request.

Some of the most common red flags include:

It’s fairly common for a request to have multiple red flags. Pia will recommend your request for approval and purchase during her next office hours once she verifies that all red flags have been addressed.

What happens next?

Once you have remedied all red flags and Pia has recommended approval, the TTS Director of Business Operations Amy Lawson will verify that your request is within budget and recommended for approval by Pia before approving as well.

Purchase, travel approval, and logistics

Once Pia and Amy have approved, your request will move on to TTS Purchasers. Then, one (or two) of three things will happen:

  • If your request didn’t require anything to be purchased and there were no travel expenses, it will be marked as “purchased” and resolved with no further action required on your part.
  • If your request requires that something be purchased, read on here for more.
  • If your request requires travel, read on here for more.

Does the training or conference require payment?

You’ll need to complete an SF-182. The SF-182, in addition to being the document that authorizes TTS to pay for the training, is also a contract between you and the government. If you leave before terms of this “continuing service agreement” are met, then you are required to pay the government for the cost of the training.

To get this started, you’ll need to create an SF-182 request in Salesforce. Link it to your IDP and also provide your position level.

Then, you can go ahead and Add new training request to existing SF-182. Here, you’ll need to provide a little more detail, including:

  • Link to SF-182 request that you made above
  • Link to Activity created in your IDP
  • Vendor
  • Course Title
  • Training start and end dates
  • Training duty hours (# of hours of training taking place during the regular work day)
  • Training location
  • Training type code, purpose type, delivery type, designation type, and source type (fill in what seems right to you here).
  • Tuition and Fee (Direct Cost)
  • Books and Materials (Direct Cost)
  • Travel Cost (Indirect Cost)
  • Per diem (Indirect Cost)
  • Supervisor
  • Approver 1 (your supervisor’s name again)
  • Approver 2 is Dave Zvenyach, but only for trainings costing over $3,500.
  • Purchase card holder is Ethan Heppner

Save your SF-182 request when finished. You will be notified automatically when it is approved.

Does the training or conference cost over $3,500?

There are a few special rules for trainings of conferences that cost over $3,500:

If registration for an individual training or conference costs over $3,500, the 18F executive director (Dave Zvenyach) must be listed as a second line approver on the SF-182.

If total registration fees for an individual or group training or conference cost over $3,500, you must also get an invoice from the vendor and attach it to the request in C2, as this exceeds the maximum that TTS can pay via credit card. Pia will also add Ethan Heppner as an observer to your request. Ethan will verify if the training/conference vendor has a valid and active DUNS number, which is also required when the federal government makes a purchase over $3,500 from any vendor.

Are you attending a conference or training at a conference?

Conferences and training at conferences require Salesforce approval. Pia will create this Salesforce Event Approval request, so no action is required on your part. You will receive two notifications via comment in C2: submission and approval. Further instructions will be provided, based upon the training request type.

Does the training or conference require travel?

For requests involving travel, you must complete and attach a PDF copy of your budget to your C2 request using the template provided here.

Once your request has been recommended for approval by Pia, approved in C2 by the 18F Director of Operations, and marked as purchased, you may begin booking travel in Concur. The operations team will add tts-travelauths@gsa.gov as an observer to your C2 request once it is fully approved, so you do not need to get an email of approval from your supervisor unless you anticipate that you will exceed your attached budget by more than 20%, or you need to travel to or from a city that is different from your home of record. Feel free to reach out in #travel or to tts-travel@gsa.gov for guidance. Don’t forget to stamp and submit your authorization so it gets reviewed and approved by the TTS travel team!

If this is your first time on government travel, you have some preliminary work to do. To complete the necessary steps before travel, follow the steps to get set up in Concur. You will also need to apply for a travel card. It is the required payment method for your government travel expenses, such as lodging, transportation, etc.

Does your request require international travel?

International travel requires additional approvals. As mentioned above, make sure that you’ve submitted your request 6-8 weeks in advance.

Similar to requesting any sort of training involving travel, Pia will review and identify any red flags and steps for remediation, and then submit a request on your behalf in Salesforce.

International Salesforce Event Approval Requests require extensive review prior to approval, and must be reviewed and approved by your first and second-level supervisors, the HSSO, OGC, OGE, OAS and the GSA Administrator. Pia will assist you in coordinating this approval process. You must include justification for international travel in your training request. For example, can this training be obtained in the United States? If so, why do you need to travel outside of the country? This question will be asked at every level of review. Be sure to provide a comprehensive justification (such as professional development, collaboration, information gathering, recruitment, etc.).

Once the international travel has been recommended for approval by Pia and approved by Josh and Jackie, the procedure is the same as above

Does the event cover registration, lodging, or food free of charge?

If the event host is paying any expenses (transportation, lodging, meals, etc.), then you must complete a Non-Federal Source Gift Form. and attach it to your C2 request.

6. Attend your training

And now, the fun part: It’s time for you to attend your conference or training! Once you get back, share what you’ve learned with your teammates. Consider leading a Learn Teach Learn session or a brown bag. You might also draft a blog post to share your learnings with a broader audience.

Speaking at conferences

If you’re interested in speaking at an event — even if you’re doing so in your personal capacity — please follow this guide.

Mentorship

Mentorship at TTS is available, currently we are running a pilot program for folks, who got it started. If you would like to learn more and/or participate, please see the Mentorship page for more details!

Self-directed study for engineers

Engineering Chapter members: Would you like to pursue a self-directed training option? Would you like to teach yourself a new programming language, read the latest book on software development ideology, or take an online course? You totally can! Please include the request as part of your Individual Development Plan (IDP). If there is any type of cost associated with your training, you will need to also submit a supervisor-approved (i.e., signed) Standard Form 182. Once you’ve submitted your IDP your Supervisor will usually approve the request within 72 hours, and you will be good to go! Please coordinate with your project to carve out the time, and with your Supervisor to determine the duration, goals, and success markers of self-directed study. Please talk with your Facilitator or Supervisor with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Self-directed study for designers

Experience Design Chapter members: You can use some or all of your yearly training time for independent study. To do this, you should:

  • Work with your lead to define an independent study in your Individual Development Plan (IDP) that includes your desired measurable outcomes for your studies.
  • Tock your time to 71 - Training / Prof Dev - Non Billable with a note in the description field. Example note: “I used 4 hours of my yearly training time towards my independent study in JavaScript.”

If you’ve Tock’d 32 hours to your assigned project, you can use the remaining 8 hours for whatever else needs to get done at TTS, including training, without using your yearly assigned training hours. To use some of this 8 hours for training, you should:

  • Work with your lead to define an independent study in your Individual Development Plan (IDP) that includes your desired measurable outcomes for your studies.
  • Tock your time to 71 - Training / Prof Dev - Non Billable with a note in the description field. Example note: “After completing my project work, I used 2 hours of my remaining time this week toward my independent study in JavaScript.”
  • Consider putting co-work time on the calendar at a few hours a week with a colleague or group of colleagues, even if you’re not working on exactly the same skill.

Remember, this all only holds true if you’ve Tock’d at least 32 hours to your assigned project. If you’d like to use some of that ‘32 hours’ time for training (for example, to go to an all-day conference, or go heads-down for a few days working on your independent study), you have up to 4 days of time per fiscal year toward this.

And finally, there are a a few weekly tasks that should come before training: design huddle, your discipline’s huddle, critique group, and required GSA trainings (OLU). After those, you have flexibility in how you spend your time. Options include: guild work, independent study as per this guidance, and other internal projects.

Other training resources

As a TTS team member, you have access to additional online training resources.

  • GSA’s Online University (OLU) offers training, and many of its courses are mandatory for new employees.

  • DigitalGov University holds webinars and in-person events about all things digital government. See the DigitalGov calendar of events and video library for more information.

  • Safari Books Online provides online access to 30,000 books and videos about programming, UX design, leadership, project management, content strategy, agile development, and more. To request access, email 18fsoftware@gsa.gov.

  • GSA offers free, individual coaching for employees. Any of us can tap them any time, at no cost. The coaches are all certified by the International Federation of Coaches. They aim to help with more or less any workplace challenges you face–managing your manager; dealing with a colleague whose communication style is very different from yours; positioning yourself for a different kind of work within the agency; balancing urgent vs important requests; etc. Some of the coaches also specialize in leadership and executive issues. For more details, please contact Nicole O’Brien in GSA Office of Human Resources Management.