DVIDS – News – Lea Adams takes over at Hydrologic Engineering Center

Meet Lea Adams, appointed director of the Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) on April 1, whose career trajectory reflects an steadfast commitment to growth and leadership. As a senior hydraulic engineer in the Sacramento District, Ms. Adams recognized the need for new challenges and embraced opportunities in management. She transitioned into leadership roles, including head of Water Resource Systems at HEC, navigating the complexities of leading teams with diverse expertise. Notable experience included leading the National Non-Structural Committee, where Lea honed her ability to influence and collaborate effectively. With a passion for continuous learning and dedication to her profession, Ms. Adams embodies the values ​​of integrity and excellence that define HEC’s legacy. The following interview explores the journey and insights that prepared her for this crucial role at the forefront of hydrological engineering and what she envisions for the future.

Q: How do you think your leadership will impact HEC’s mission and goals?
Lea: We have a great team of employees and managers at HEC. I was very fortunate to inherit such a high-performing organization from Chris Dunn, the former director of HEC. My immediate goal as the new director is to work with the management team to identify a five- to 10-year vision for our organization and then develop a plan to execute that vision and move forward. The details have yet to be finalized, although both management and staff have expressed many initial thoughts. My goal is to help us navigate the potentially challenging process of defining and gaining support for a shared vision for the next generation of HEC excellence.

Question: Collaboration often drives innovation in hydrological engineering. How do you plan to foster partnerships and collaboration within the center and beyond?
Lea: I completely agree that collaboration is a force multiplier – I learned this through direct experience and studying leadership approaches. And I think it has the added benefit of making the job more fun; for me there is nothing more beautiful than achieving a common goal with a team. HEC has recently emphasized greater internal collaboration, an initiative that started four years ago. I strongly support this direction for the Center and will encourage the team to further expand internal collaboration efforts where possible. HEC already has an extensive network of external collaboration partners, and I will strive to maintain those existing relationships and expand our partner network. One aspect of successful partner relationships is the power of interpersonal connections, and HEC employees excel in this area.

Q: In what ways do you think the Hydrologic Engineering Center can adapt to emerging technologies and methodologies to stay at the forefront of the field?
Lea: We strive to support a culture of innovative problem solving at HEC – innovation is a fundamental part of our mission. Many of our employees were attracted to work at HEC because they are naturally curious and creative, and we have a large group of innovative people.

Several years ago, staff provided feedback that they wanted management support to conduct small, independent research projects. These internal projects are intended to investigate methods and tools that hold promise for improvements in our software and engineering approaches.

The part that is most exciting for me is the translation of an innovative idea into a practical application. I love great ideas, but even more I love great products and practical approaches. One of the most challenging aspects of innovation at HEC is the need to limit ourselves to only the highest priority items; we always have more interesting and promising ideas than we have time and money to work on.

Q: The Hydrologic Engineering Center has a rich history of impactful innovations. Are there any areas, programs or projects that you would like to explore or improve during your term?
Lea: Exploring what is possible for the next generation of software development is at the top of my list. The current versions of many of our software tools are more than 20 years old. HEC can best serve our customers by applying useful industry practices and creating tools that are increasingly powerful and intuitive. We have been modernizing our software development processes for four years, and I want us to keep pace with innovations in the industry as much as possible. This includes evaluating web-based applications, managing big data and the hot topic of the moment, Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence. The goal is to leverage relevant technological developments to create new tools and workflows to respond to USACE and the nation’s most pressing needs.

The other area of ​​focus for me is working with the management team to find ways to keep our workload manageable and reduce stress on our staff. In many ways, this is a more difficult goal than continuously improving our software development methods and products. There are multiple factors involved: workforce levels, matching workforce skills to needs, sustainable funding sources, not overcommitting to the volume and timing of work products, multi-year workload management strategies, and more . Our careers are a marathon, not a sprint, and I want to ensure that HEC has an environment that supports our employees to contribute at a high level over the long term.

Q: As the new director, what are your thoughts on fostering a supportive and inclusive environment within the Hydrologic Engineering Center for diverse perspectives and talent?
Lea: As a former deputy chair of IWR’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Council, I have learned a tremendous amount about diversity and inclusion in an organizational setting, including the many reasons why they are valuable organizational goals. I’m a big believer in investing in finding and hiring diverse candidates, although I’ve recently learned that promoting inclusivity is as, if not more, important than diversity in hiring. Employees with a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds need to feel welcome and accepted so they can get the best out of themselves. The good news is that HEC executives have been on this path for a long time. In my former role as division head, I saw my colleagues making efforts to increase diversity in HEC’s workforce. Can we do more? Yes, it always has, but HEC’s staff and management have demonstrated their commitment to diversity and inclusion and it is my goal to continue those efforts.

Q: Looking ahead, what are your ambitions for the Hydrologic Engineering Center under your leadership? How do you hope to leave your mark on the center’s legacy?
Lea: 2024 is HEC’s 60th anniversary and we have a tremendous legacy of excellence. Part of maintaining our reputation for excellence into the future will depend on our ability to adapt to change. At HEC we are entering a period of change, and one of my goals is to ensure that the organization emerges even stronger on the other side.

I hope to leave my mark through the people and the culture. I want the organization to embrace the values ​​of mission focus, teamwork, integrity and kindness. I believe that the staff are the heart of HEC and that they deserve the best working environment that we can create as a team.

Finally, Lea Adams’ journey and insights provide a glimpse into the dynamic leadership shaping the future of the Hydrologic Engineering Center, based in Davis, California. Her unwavering commitment to continuous learning, collaborative innovation and fostering an inclusive environment underlines her vision for HEC’s continued success. As she takes on this vital role, Ms. Adams’ passion and dedication sets the stage for a transformative era, one in which HEC’s legacy of excellence is not only preserved, but elevated to new heights.

Date of recording: 05.02.2024
Date posted: 05.02.2024 13:30
Story ID: 470138

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