A Talk on the Wild Side.
January Myers at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in Washington. Photo by USFWS
Sometimes you are completing a circle without even knowing it, and no one more so than Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program graduate, January Myers, whose path to full-time Service employee unknowingly ended in a reconnection with her roots.
January “Jana“ Myers grew up on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She attended a Native American high school, which she found very rewarding, with exposure to a diversity of cultures, as many of the more than 500 federally recognized tribes were represented. This appreciation of diversity would serve her well in the years to come.
She had always dreamed of joining the Army and enlisted right after graduation. She served more than eight years as an ammunition specialist while deploying to Afghanistan and rising to the rank of sergeant.
After finishing her military career, she continued to work with the Department of Defense while earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business. She believes in the idea of serving the public through government service, and she wanted to both return to public service and continue developing her leadership skills. She found a program that would do just that: PMF.
The program is government-wide and designed to give graduate students and recent college graduates a unique leadership and career development opportunity through an entry-level placement, training and developmental assignments. At the end of a two-year assignment, fellows have an opportunity to be converted to a career appointment. For Myers, this seemed like an ideal opportunity.
Myers was one of about 500 finalists eligible to apply for a federal placement, and after a long search, she found the Service’s Duck Stamp Office, housed in the Migratory Bird Program. Although she was not familiar with wildlife issues, she thought it would be a good fit with her background in managing inventory.
“It was hard to leave behind my family in North Carolina,” she says, “but I was really excited to continue my career of service and develop my skills.”
She started work as a program analyst in November 2014. She also served a six-month developmental assignment in the Ecological Services Office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Myers had a special opportunity to work on developing a tool to document and manage collaboration with landowners. “I can’t imagine a better development opportunity.”
Myers had several other assignments during her development phase, including a stint in the National Wildlife Refuge System Budget Office. However, it was the unexpected one that had the most impact on her. Myers was invited to participate on a call that included several tribal members and Service Native American Liaison Scott Aikin.
That invitation changed her life.
“I had no idea something like that existed,” she says. “But once I found out, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
She was able to spend more time with Aikin, learning more about the Service’s involvement with tribal consultation. At the end, she was more determined than ever to make this part of her career path, and she did not let the fact that there had never been such a position in the Migratory Bird Program deter her. After many discussions among Service leaders and Myers’ completion of the PMF Program, she joined the Service as the first-ever Migratory Bird Program tribal liaison in November 2016.
She has worked closely with the Native American Liaison Office updating the Service’s Tribal Consultation Handbook and taking training for liaisons.
Myers also serves as the program’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator. Her FOIA work covers the entire spectrum of the Migratory Bird Program’s activities.
Assistant Director Jerome Ford of the Migratory Bird Program had nothing but praise for Myers. “She brings a strong sense of discipline and regimented approach to accomplishing her work,” he says. “Her military background and leadership aids her in our program by making sure a plan of operation is always clear and then executing that plan accordingly. January’s work ethic is one of her greatest assets.”
As for Myers, not only did she end up connecting back to her tribal roots, but she is fulfilling a dream of her father’s. “I never knew, but he studied fish and wildlife in school, and was connected to that world. He couldn’t believe it when I told him where I was working!”
As Myers’ path comes full-circle and she embarks upon a new stage in her life, she has some words for those who would consider following in her footsteps: “If you can dream it, you can do it. If you want it badly enough, you can work hard and make it happen.” With a drive, vision and ability like that, Jana’s journey is just beginning.
CHRISTOPHER DEETS, Migratory Bird Program, Headquarters