A member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District achieved a unique milestone as a government employee recently.
Amy Burke, workforce management specialist, celebrated 50 years of federal service in a ceremony hosted by Col. Damon Delarosa, district commander, at the agency’s headquarters on June 24.
Burke joined the federal workforce in 1970 as a telegraph operator for the Air Force and worked on the graveyard shift. Since then, she has held many positions that include secretary and realty assistant before working in human resources at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, California.
The critical moment in her career arose when the office was short-staffed.
“My boss gave me the opportunity to do audits and learn classification,” Burke said.
Not only did she expand her skillset and gain valuable experience, Burke forged a path toward filling a critical niche within her profession.
Burke described classification, a role in which she determines which pay grade a position should be on the standard government pay scale, as the most interesting role she has held in the government.
“Classification – that is my first love,” Burke said. “I have done a little bit of everything, but that is the one I love most because it is a lot of reading, research and analytical thinking.”
At McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, California, she watched mechanics test aircraft in cold warehouses to determine the effect of those chilly conditions. Burke appreciated the opportunity to see other people’s roles and learn about their work through her job.
At the Alaska District, she has helped many supervisors with reclassification actions and devoted the necessary time to answer their questions.
“Since my first day in the district some eight years ago, Amy Burke has been a critical member of the human resources team,” said Mark “Rock” DeRocchi, chief of the Engineering, Construction and Operations Division.
Burke has helped DeRocchi with more than 40 reclassifications and an estimated 75 hiring actions.
“Whether it be her helping to coordinate with CPAC (the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center), conducting a reclassification action or any other human resources matter, she has always brought a smile to my face during our interaction,” DeRocchi said.
When Burke began her civil service career one-half century ago, she and her husband had just moved to Alaska.
“I needed a job and it was about the only one open up here,” Burke said. “It was only going to be temporary, but it turned into a lot longer than that.”
Eventually, she relocated to California and Washington to work in various roles. In the early 2000s, Burke returned to the Last Frontier as a classifier.
“After 17 years, we moved back to Alaska – our true home,” she said.
When Burke reached 35 years of federal service, she retired from government employment, but wound up back on the job soon afterwards.
“They had an opening at the Corps in November 2009, and I have been here ever since,” Burke said.
Though her service has been longer than many of her coworkers have been alive, Burke commented at the ceremony that she believes her role has stayed constant.
“Classification really hasn’t changed much,” Burke said. “We get new standards, but it is still doing the research, talking to people and figuring out what they do for a job, and then applying the standards to that information.”
However, technology around the office has transformed the most since she started.
“When we first got computers, they took up rooms and rooms and rooms,” Burke said. “We used to type SF-50s (notification of personnel actions) by hand. There were five copies, and if you made a mistake, you would have to correct all of them by hand and get dirty from the carbon paper.”
Over her 50-year career, she learned about the importance of wisely picking battles in the workplace.
“Some are worth fighting and some are not, and you have to determine which ones those are,” Burke said. “If you feel like something is wrong, you need to bring it up to management and have them do something about it. If they do not do anything, take it up the chain of command to get it changed to what it needs to be.”
Her advice to people entering federal service is to be passionate about their job, find ways to improve their position and work smarter, not harder.
“If you don’t love what you do, you need to find something you do love to do,” Burke said. “Taking a promotion does not always mean you will be happy and remember, an interview is not just for them, but for you, too. Whatever you do, you need to be happy with yourself.”