Leadership Spotlight: Purnita Howlader, Presidential Management Fellow

A look at the work of a young Presidential Management Fellow working with DHS and FEMA.

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Purnita Howlader is a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) completing a six-month rotation with the State Department, but her true loyalties lie with her home agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where she manages several interesting and complex projects.  At DHS, Howlader is employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has worked on such programs as the FEMA Think Tank.  The Think Tank is a monthly conference call hosted by FEMA’s Deputy Administrator that Howlader coordinated so that the public could interact with and learn from government experts.  The online format allows citizens to submit questions through Facebook and twitter to an expert from the field who can answer their queries and discuss the topics in more detail.

Most recently, Howlader coordinated the call in Joplin, Missouri, which featured a discussion of the recovery efforts by the local community following the devastating tornado in May of 2011.  The event was a success with approximately 500 participants calling in from around the nation.  You can find out more information about this project at www.fema.gov/thinktank .

As a Human Resources Specialist, Howlader enjoys working with both internal and external stakeholders at her job.  She works with programs in career development and local outreach, including working with social media.  One of her favorite projects has been the State/Local/Tribal Detail Rotation Program, where she helped coordinate three- to six-month rotations for FEMA employees to go out in the field and work in local offices at the state, local and tribal level.  Recently, FEMA also added on the opportunity for an individual at the State/Local/Tribal level to participate in the program by taking a three- to six-month rotation to FEMA headquarters.  Howlader feels that this is a rewarding program because it increases the collaboration between FEMA and its emergency management partners and improves the relationships between the offices while providing career development for FEMA employees.

During her own rotation at the State Department, Howlader is working on policy for the Bureau of Counterterrorism, a new bureau which was part of the Bureau of the Secretary, but recently stood up on its own.   She is also in charge of the Bureau’s Awards Ceremony, where she is doing everything from putting together the selection committee to setting up the actual event.  It is an exciting project for her to get to know people throughout the State Department and see an event develop from conception to completion.

Howlader has a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin.  She worked for the private sector for five years in Human Resources before coming to government because she was looking for more challenges and ready to further her education.  In the private sector, she felt like she reached her ceiling at her current employer early on when she was the Corporate Human Resources Manager in a company of 35,000 employees.  Therefore, ready for new challenges, she applied to the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program during her last year of law school and was hired by DHS.

Howlader says that there is a big difference between the cultures of the private and public sectors, mainly in learning different procedures.  In the private sector, she found that she was given much more freedom to move her programs in any direction she saw fit, as long as it supported the business’ mission and bottom line.  In government, she has felt the weight of the red tape when she develops new programs and policies, but she enjoys that federal service is much more versatile and finds it rewarding to serve a larger mission.

Howlader enjoys interacting with each new PMF class and also providing networking opportunities for others through her position on the Young Government Leader’s (YGL) Executive Board as D.C. Events Chair. She calls herself a connector and can be credited with linking up groups which normally hold their own meetings, such as the PMF, YGL, and DHS Emerging Leaders (DEL) groups, into events where they can intermingle and share ideas.  If you would like to discuss your thoughts and ideas with creative and enthusiastic individuals like Howlader, please check out the YGL website at http://younggov.org/ and see what new events we have coming up in your city!

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(Image via SkillUp/Shutterstock.com )