I attended an all girls vocational public school in Washington, DC. During high school, I studied Secretarial Science, and in the 11th grade, I was asked by the Guidance Counselor to assist with after school office duties. I duplicated documents, organized and filed papers and reports, and typed reports from rough draft. In the 12th grade, I met the graduation requirements and earned a cooperative education (co-op) assignment with the Federal government. My 11th Grade Guidance Counselor recommended me for the assignment at NASA, where I worked half days while earning my diploma. My first day at NASA was very exciting and scary. I worked as a student aide to the Space Science office where I was mentored by the lead secretary. She groomed me to be the employee I am today. She was very exacting in her expectations and frowned upon anyone who made excuses. This began my work ethic training.
I learned early that if you work diligently, the impossible can happen. If assigned an unusual task, try to complete it even if you are not familiar with it. In every experience, you learn something and gain recognition as a productive employee, without expecting anything in return.
I am most proud of how far I have advanced professionally and developed personally. I began my journey as a shy person, and I realize I have accomplished so much. I started as a student aide in the co-op program and today I am a manager in the Logistics Division. The happiest moment of my career occurred after my maternity leave. My supervisor recommended that I be promoted to a para-professional position, managing $2.2 million of Resources and Program Management (R&PM) funds. To be promoted, the Personnel Office audited my work to justify the promotion. I presented the auditor with all of my duties and the result was this challenging new assignment.
My saddest moment was when a manager offered me an assignment within a Program Office but then retired shortly after I began. I felt abandoned because I accepted the detail assignment to work for him in this new environment. This experience, although uncomfortable, actually turned out to be good for me. It forced me to depend on myself, my knowledge, and my strength, while being flexible enough to accept change.
My life is much different than I imagined because I never envisioned being in a position of leadership, in part because of my challenges with public speaking. Public speaking has been my greatest fear. My current supervisor met me when she first joined us and asked “Is there anything thing that you do not want to do in your current position?” I immediately responded with my desire not to speak in a group of more than two people. To my surprise, she scheduled a meeting and I was on the agenda to present an informal two-minute talk! This was a difficult challenge for me, but she helped me develop this key skill and overcome a fear that I thought impossible to overcome. She helped me tremendously in my career, by building and improving my self confidence.
Recently, I led a team developing a unified Agency Supply system. Although this idea had been discussed for at least 10 years, my team implemented a new system in 14 months. Even though this was a difficult task, I am very proud of this achievement because it will benefit all of NASA. This system has been operational for six months, and I still serve as the Agency focal point.
I remain extremely grateful for every experience. I am also thankful for every person who helped me along the way. I am proud of my two children, whom I raised as a single parent. They are productive, respectful, and decent citizens. I consider them one of my greatest accomplishments.
My greatest influence came from my parents, especially my mother. She always told me that I could do anything and not to be afraid to try. She often said, “So what if you make a mistake? You would not be the only person to make a mistake.” My mother was my biggest supporter and provided encouragement in everything that I have done in my life. She always made me feel as if nothing was impossible to achieve.
I am not sure what the future holds. However, I am confident that I will be helping people along the way. Since 2009, I have volunteered with a service organization and currently serve as the Chair for Community Partnership. This organization provides volunteer services to youths, senior citizens and beautification to the community. This is something I enjoy doing, and I am positive that I will continue to contribute with my time. My practice in public speaking and leadership are assets for me in this job.
I encourage you to not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zones. Make getting an education a priority. Never feel that something is too big or too small to achieve. Never stop having the desire to learn. Set high goals to always have something to reach for in life and never settle for less than they are willing to give.
When I look back on my life, I would like to be remembered as a person who always went the extra mile, who worked hard no matter what the task, who gave back to others, and who was always willing to help. My greatest gift would be to be remembered as a person of integrity and high morals.
For Darlene Y. Boykins, her path to NASA began as a cooperative education (co-op) student for NASA. Ms. Boykins was born in Washington, D.C. and is a native Washingtonian. She received her early professional training from Anna Burdick Vocational School in northwest D.C. She credits excellent guidance from the school counselor for her co-op position, which eventually landed her a full time position at NASA. She remarks, “I hear that people often say, ‘If you are looking for someone who is a team player that is not afraid to take on new challenges, Ms. Boykins is the right person for the assignment’. I often say that no job is too big or small to accomplish.” Beginning her career 36 years ago in the Federal government as a Clerk Typist, Ms. Boykins has worked her way up through the ranks and currently serves as the Lead Supply Logistics Manager in the Logistics Management Division located in the Office of Strategic Infrastructure. Ms. Boykins is a true humanitarian who believes strongly in family bonds and helping others. She has a true passion for helping people from youths to senior citizens. She has mentored several entry-level employees throughout her career in the Federal government. Ms. Boykins has adopted several senior citizens that she communicates with on a weekly basis concerning their well being. She also dedicates herself once a week to two youths (ages 13 and 18) that suddenly lost their mother in 2008. Ms. Boykins makes sure their homework is completed, grades are successfully maintained, and social skills are utilized. She attends all of their school events, plans weekly outings with them, and serves as their mentor. Ms. Boykins also has a daughter and a son.