Managing up and moving up

How the Excellence in Government Fellows program helped one federal employee lead at the State Department

Managing up and moving up

For more than 30 years, the Excellence in Government Fellows program has helped federal employees develop the leadership skills to solve government’s biggest challenges. Today, EIG is the premier leadership development course for career civil servants working in GS-14 and GS-15 positions. Offering a rich curriculum, personalized coaching and ample networking activities, the program instills in government leaders the core competencies and values of our Public Service Leadership Model, the new standard for effective federal leadership. Manuel Medrano is one of thousands of government leaders who have enrolled in—and benefited from—EIG. Read more below to learn how the program helped Medrano become a leading cybersecurity expert at the State Department.

Manuel Medrano realized he wanted to become a public servant during a family vacation in Washington, D.C. Impressed by the grandeur of the city’s federal buildings, Medrano—then a college student—pledged that he would one day work in one of them.

Today, Medrano is on the cusp of a 10-year federal career that has taken him from working as an information technology specialist at a USAID outpost in Kabul, Afghanistan to serving as a supervisory cybersecurity specialist at the State Department’s Cloud Program Management Office in the Bureau of Information Resource Management.

In this role, Medrano oversees, directs and monitors cybersecurity programs that protect the office’s enterprise cloud assets—tools that store and process data, such as servers, databases and data storage architecture. The office has been critical in helping State Department personnel work abroad safely and effectively, supporting “mobile diplomats” who work overseas and regularly need to share and communicate information electronically with foreign organizations and individuals.

Medrano’s career might have evolved differently had he not enrolled in the Excellence in Government Fellows program. The program—or EIG—offered Medrano top-notch executive coaching, practical curriculum and new network contacts that enabled him to become the leader he is today.

Manuel Medrano, supervisory cybersecurity specialist, State Department


Initial skepticism

Before Medrano joined EIG, he viewed training programs as obligatory commitments that did not help him do his job better.

“To be honest, I was very skeptical when it came to training. I was like, ‘Oh, here we go, another check-the-box training,’” he said.  

Initially, Medrano carried this attitude into the EIG program. He missed the first session due to a work commitment and did not expect anyone to notice until his coach called to follow up. When Medrano insisted he had to miss the first meeting, the coach warned him that he would have to work doubly hard to catch up and encouraged him to keep an open mind about the course.     

Medrano called the conversation a “game-changer” that illustrated how direct and honest communication could resolve sticky situations. He has drawn on this lesson to be a more communicative leader.

After that, I felt more confident to be open-minded and actually have those crucial conversations. That’s important to become a better leader,” he said.  


Managing up

This confidence enabled Medrano to deliver change and earn promotions at State. When he joined the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in May 2018, for example, he pushed his supervisors to begin collaborating with the private sector to beef up the bureau’s threat intelligence. They initially rejected the idea.

Medrano credited the EIG program—and a book it assigned called “Crucial Conversations”—with providing him the communication tools to get his bosses to buy in.   

“I was able to manage up and get my boss to support me and the director to support me,” he said.

Managing up eventually helped Medrano become the deputy division chief of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Cyber Threat Analysis Division. He believes that the EIG program played a critical role in this promotion by making him a stronger communicator and more confident innovator.

Medrano’s coworkers noticed the change. When he left the bureau, they gave him a spoon as a going away present in recognition of his ability to “stir the pot.”

“My director said that he had noticed a transformation that I went through while doing [EIG],” Medrano said.

“My director said that he had noticed a transformation that I went through while doing [EIG].”

Manuel Medrano

Moving Up

Even though Medrano graduated from the EIG program in August 2019, it has continued to serve his career. Before moving into his new role at the Cloud Program Management Office, Medrano contacted his EIG coach for support and advice. She provided critical guidance that helped him land the position and jump into the GS-15 pay scale—the highest level in the job classification system, the General Schedule, used by a majority of the federal workforce. By the end of fiscal  2018, only about 4% of General Schedule employees worked at the GS-15 level, which typically include those in supervisory, specialist and advanced degree positions.  

“She played a big role in getting me ready to go through that process of getting promoted,” he said.

Today, Medrano wants to pass along the lessons he’s learned to others.

He said the program enabled him to develop the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence necessary to communicate the value of cybersecurity and IT modernization to State’s mission and help employees adapt to the agency’s ever-evolving technology needs.

He has also mentored others in the field, enrolling in and then co-coaching IT Leaders—now part of the Partnership’s Mission Support Leadership Program—and advising participants in our Cybersecurity Talent Initiative, a new public-private partnership that helps fill the government’s cybersecurity talent gap.

Medrano tells his mentees to enroll in EIG the first chance they get.

“In order to achieve your mission, you need to have the interpersonal skills that a leader needs and the change management skills that a leader also needs,” he said.

“EIG helped me continue to ‘stir the pot’ and use these skills to enable others to become strong leaders who get their teams to see cybersecurity and IT modernization as critical to their agency’s mission.”

Medrano added, “I want to continue to make sure that we provide the IT capabilities and the security in order for federal government employees to perform their work and continue to make a difference. That’s what drives me.”

Continue reading for information on how to enroll in the Excellence in Government Fellows program.

“EIG helped me continue to ‘stir the pot’ and use these skills to enable others to become strong leaders who get their teams to see cybersecurity and IT modernization as critical to their agency’s mission.”

Manuel Medrano