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Terra Birsen

Departmental Technician

Detroit, MI

I believe every position is vital to an agency, no matter how big or small.

As a teenager, my parents stressed the importance of higher education as the key to advancing in the workforce. They also instilled strong work ethics and values in me and my siblings. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up,” but I did know my parents were right. I worked my way through college, earned my Master’s degree in business, and did whatever I could to obtain work experiences that would help me to get ahead.

One position in particular offered the experience I needed to advance while allowing me to be noticed in a field usually dominated by men. I learned about it through my boss, who offered me the opportunity to learn a new software program. In return, along with a few of my peers, I would then train the agency using my newfound knowledge. I jumped at the chance, but secretly knew I would face certain challenges if I took on this special assignment. I decided not to let that thought bother me as I quickly began to learn the software. I soon began assisting the instructor, and we were soon on our way to teaching the new programming to police officers from other local law enforcement agencies.

When the initial phase was complete, I began working with a small team of my fellow co-workers to develop training schedules, guides, policies and procedures for the agency. This is when I knew I would face some challenges, as many of the officers were not open to the idea of a lowly female clerical person telling them how to do their jobs.

On the first day of training, I walked in with my head held high. Although some of the officers were resistant to learning the computer program, I was able to train 500+ officers of all ranks without issue. I found I had the patience and ability to teach various types of individuals, allowing each person the opportunity to let his or her guard down for a moment; I worked hard to make the training as easy as possible for them to absorb. I offered extra training to those who needed it and also provided my personal cell phone number in case any remaining questions came up.

All of my hard work and efforts paid off: I was nominated for and received Employee of the Year. The notoriety of the award provided me with opportunities to advance my career and I was able to finally do something that I truly enjoyed doing. Although the economy has recently taken a toll on my career and I find myself back in an entry level position temporarily, I still have the determination and drive to succeed in the workplace. I believe every position is vital to an agency, no matter how big or small.