A veteran’s secret weapon: connection

How a program management specialist builds relationships to meet customer needs

April 15, 2022 in Defense

Marcie Purser is a program management specialist at Boeing.

Photo credit: Boeing

"I broke the most important Army rule: Don’t volunteer."

Boeing employee and U.S. Army veteran Marcie Purser ignored the old saying and instinctively raised her hand. All she had heard was a team within the Missile and Weapon Systems, or MWS, portfolio in Fort Greely, Alaska, needed assistance. That was enough.

“After my hand went up, my next thought was, ‘Well, I better tell my husband,’” Purser said, laughing.

As a program management specialist for the MWS Division in Huntsville, Alabama, Purser’s organizational skills help her manage multiple projects, calendars and customer needs. But her greatest strength lies in her ability to make lasting connections.

“When you really listen and observe, you notice all those potential connection points — a mention of kids, an award on the desk,” Purser said.

When one particularly task-oriented customer struggled to communicate his needs, Purser made it her personal mission to find a point of connection.

“I finally saw it: a degree on the wall,” she said. “So I asked him about his college experience. From that point on, he’d request me by name when calling and we’d get whatever he needed figured out.” When Purser raised her hand in 2012 to help the Fort Greely team organize its meeting and testing schedules, her desire to get to know them and their priorities made her a perfect fit for the job.

With most of the team away from home on temporary assignment, making connections and boosting morale was key. So when two weeks’ worth of 24-hour tests were added to the calendar, she got to work.

“In Alaska, there is no running out for a quick bite to eat. The nearest McDonald’s is two hours away, and the local grocery store has limited hours,” she explained.

Taking matters into her own hands, she learned and supplied the team’s favorite snacks and even prepared home cooked dinners for the overnight shift. Word quickly spread, and soon Purser found herself adding breakfast casseroles to the menu for the morning crew.

“We had Chopped-style cooking contests, regular barbecues and even a logo design contest for T-shirts,” Purser said. “What could have been a lonely experience ended up being really fun.”

Purser enjoyed the beautiful Alaskan scenery, like this view on the drive from Fairbanks to Delta Junction, while on temporary assignment in Alaska.

Photo credit: Marcie Purser

Subzero temperatures aside, she never regretted answering the call.

“It’s who I am. When there’s a need or an opportunity, I’m willing to take it on.”

She attributes much of this can-do attitude to growing up in a military family before joining up herself. She was born in Germany with both parents serving in the Army. After college, she joined the family tradition, serving as a Tactical Control Officer in a Patriot battalion with responsibility for one of the units, or batteries, of that air defense system.

“My mission was clear then and it’s clear now: I help keep people safe,” Purser said. “I did that while operating a system that protects our soldiers, and I do that now by working on a system that protects the United States.”

Originally joining Boeing as a contractor, within six months Purser was a full-time employee. To continue growing her career, she took advantage of the Learning Together Program and graduated with a master’s degree in business management, working her way to program management specialist.

“During my time in grad school, I came into my own as an MWS team member,” Purser said. “With encouragement from my manager, I realized that even though I didn’t have a technical role, what I bring to the table is highly valued.”

Especially valued is her ability to seek, listen and connect.

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By Sarah Flowers