Cory Churches

Project Manager

Years with MIL: 5

1. What were you doing before joining MIL?

Prior to my time with MIL, I was a 15-year federal employee within the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ITA), which happens to be the client our contract supports. My last role was in the Office of Public Affairs where I created content for a blog and created a monthly newsletter. I took a buy-out from federal service in 2012 and went to cooking school for about one year. While job hunting, I worked at a food stand in Union Market in Northeast DC, making delicious breakfast burritos, tomato soup, grilled cheese, and from scratch macaroni and cheese. Carter Raines, Vice President of ITS, was a frequent guest and he asked me repeatedly if I’d consider re-joining ITA as a contractor. I eventually agreed and the rest is history.

2. Why did you decide to join MIL?

I was looking for a good opportunity to put my communication and organizational skills to work and had a few discussions with Carter Raines over a period of time. He let me know that the client at ITA needed my skill set and was interested in bringing me onboard. My first meeting with the client went twice as long as expected and it was clear to me that the MIL team assembled were what I like to call “walking swiss army knives” meaning they all have a variety of skills they can pull out at any time.

3. What are you working on now?

I currently oversee several projects, including a new employee directory for our client that allows users to indicate their expertise, job skills, certifications, and find their colleagues by the same information. Our teams are also working on deploying an application allowing steel and aluminum importers to apply for mandatory import licenses, another application to manage Foreign Trade Zones within the United States, and a dispute resolution mechanism for the soon-to-be enacted U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, the replacement for NAFTA.

4. What is important about your work?

I enjoy delivering high-quality consistent applications across all of our teams. This consistency is a source of pride, not just for me but for the MIL team as a whole. It is also something our client recognizes by nominating the deployed applications for peer awards and recognition from Department-level executives.

I enjoy getting to know my teammates both on a personal and professional level so I can help them develop more skills and they have an opportunity to share non-work achievements.

5. What are the best aspects about your current job?

The people. I love working with all the people within MIL and on our client side. I’m also able to see across a variety of teams and projects, see similarities, draw connections between them and recruit and support talented people from across our contract to create cohesive and bonded teams. I absolutely love engaging my co-workers in open discussions around problems they’re facing, sharing solutions and expertise, and creating self-directed teams.

6. Why do you enjoy working at MIL?

In my career, I’ve never felt more supported by a team of smart and driven co-workers, given the opportunities to develop and deepen my skills through training opportunities and given leadership opportunities. I always feel well-supported by my co-workers and by the people around me.

7. What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on at MIL?

In 2018, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security came to the then CIO, Andre Mendes, and proposed that he help the department launch a modernized version of an application that allowed importers of steel and aluminum to claim refunds of very high tariffs on products from specific countries. It was a highly political and visible project, eventually launched in June of 2019. We pulled together developers from our entire SharePoint / Office 365 practice, worked through a 35-day government shutdown and deployed the resulting application without any major bugs, deficiencies, or errors. The fact that it wasn’t on the front page of the Washington Post and to date has processed more than 80,000 submissions, allowing three separate Federal agencies (BIS, ITA, and CBP) to process their work and received multiple Commerce Department awards, is a testament to team work, good design, and excellent support and delivery not just from the MIL team but from across the client stakeholders too.

8. What is the best piece of career advice you can offer someone in your field who is either applying to or beginning a career at MIL?

Look for areas where you can make a difference, fill a gap, or learn a new skill to add to the collective compliment of your team. Seek out the advice of those who are doing things you’d like to do, look for training opportunities that give you more than some certification letters to add to your signature but really give you an edge when serving customer needs. Take initiative and be curious about what’s going on around you. Show your colleagues that you can handle high expectations under a great deal of pressure.

9. If applicable, please share a memorable/significant experience that has occurred during your time with MIL.

I recently received a promotion [September 2019] and I thought a great deal about the environment that allowed me to be successful. I wrote thank you notes to the two supervisors who I felt created a conducive environment for me to be successful and felt that I could not advance without their support and wanted to be sure that they understood that their efforts are recognized and acknowledged. I am truly honored to be recognized for my small contribution to the overall work we do at the International Trade Administration.