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Blogrige

The Official Baldrige Blog

The Baldrige Program Says Good-Bye to Jackie DesChamps

Happy Retirement, Jackie! Enjoy Your Next Adventure.

Jacqueline (“Jackie”) DesChamps—head of support services for the Baldrige Program for more than two decades—knows how to run a process well. She is proactive. She is precise. She is persistent. And she is always professional.

But after she retires this month, I think she will be remembered less for how she managed processes and more for how she managed people. 

A strong advocate for those she supervised—and for many others who faced hardships and lacked advantages. A motivational mentor of employees trying to advance their skill sets and careers. A supportive and loyal friend. I’ve witnessed the strength of her caring in each of those roles over the nearly 20 years in which I’ve worked with her.

What’s more, I’ve seen and heard her demonstrate skills as a masterful public speaker and even as a talented singer. (While she performed mainly for her church community, on rare occasions, she could be heard belting out a tune at work, particularly during her “birthday month.”) 

As Jackie is preparing to retire this month, we invited her to share some parting thoughts with the Baldrige community. Her reflections on her work with the Baldrige Program, as well as earlier times in her career, follow. Readers are welcome to comment below the blog.

Would you please describe a few of your most memorable experiences working at NIST’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP)? 

Jackie Deschamps dances with a resident of a senior adults center.

I can think of so many memorable experiences during my 25 years with BPEP, but three stand out. The first is the time when the BPEP staff decided to do a community service event and spent the afternoon at a local center for senior adults. One of our staff members who played the piano selected songs that she thought the seniors would enjoy, and we copied the lyrics to the songs so the seniors could follow along to sing and dance. We had a wonderful time singing, dancing, and interacting with the seniors. They were so happy to have us with them. 

One of the seniors couldn’t speak, and a few of us noticed that he used a pencil to tap each word of the lyrics so he could participate in the singing. The expression on his face was one of happiness and gratitude. A staff member at the senior center told us that it was the first time that they saw him interact and participate in an activity. It was extremely touching. That moment made me so proud to be a member of BPEP. 

Another memorable experience is when I was assigned to escort the late Letitia Baldrige (author, White House social secretary during the JFK presidency, and sister of the late Commerce Secretary and rodeo star Malcolm Baldrige) at the Baldrige Awards ceremony. I was her escort for the day. I was very nervous because she was an expert on protocol and etiquette. I wanted to ensure that I said and did the right things while in her presence. I went to her home in Washington, DC, to bring her to the ceremony. To my surprise, she made me comfortable from the moment that she stepped into the cab. She was interested in learning about my background, where I grew up, my interests—you name it. We talked about “girlie” things and our likes and dislikes. It was a magical day. 

Because I was Letitia’s escort, I got to go into an exclusive reception room and meet and take a picture with President Bush (George W.). That was a highlight, as well. At that time, one’s political views, preferences, or political party didn’t seem to matter when given the opportunity to be in the presence of the president of the United States. At the end of the day, Letitia and I exchanged contact information. 

I thought that she was just being polite. But within a few days, I received the most beautiful thank-you letter from Letitia, highlighting the positive impression I had made on her. I wrote back a reply, and we exchanged letters a couple more times. I would not have gotten this opportunity or indelible experience had it not been for my work in BPEP. 

Of course, among my most memorable experiences with BPEP, I have to mention assisting the Baldrige examiners during the three or four consecutive weeks of annual, in-person examiner training sessions. BPEP’s support team and I were responsible for the examiner training logistics. Each training week, we, along with other BPEP staff members, would meet the examiners at a hotel each morning to register them for training, ensuring that 100 or more examiners boarded buses to come to NIST (where BPEP is based) and providing them with information about the course of their day. 

It was great seeing the examiners each year. And I’ll never forget when examiner training occurred during my birthday month, and I let the occasion be known to all of the examiners. As many people know, I make a pretty big deal of my birthday, observing it during my entire birthday month. It was so special when, during one of the training weeks, 100-plus examiners stood outside of the hotel and sang “Happy Birthday” to me. 

Would you please share highlights of your previous work before you came to NIST? 

I once described my career as a bowl of spaghetti noodles. I said there was no specific path and seemingly no connection or relationship from one position to the other. Boy, was I wrong! You see, when I worked in my family’s floor cleaning business as a teenager, I had aspirations of being a corporate executive, flying around the world in my corporate jet, making world-class deals. Cleaning carpets and waxing floors was the furthest thing from what I aspired to do. However, what I didn’t know at the time was that working in my family’s business was the foundation for all of my career success. 

I learned the importance of providing exceptional service to customers, developing my communication skills to gain the ability to effectively communicate with frontline workers to senior management, as well as learning about workforce planning, strategic planning, inventory control, and process management. My father was practicing the Baldrige Excellence Framework® and didn’t even know it. 

Later, as a young adult, I worked with an electric utility company, which was awesome. I held positions from cleaning toilets to repairing turbines and generators. There were no instructions on how to repair the equipment. It was mostly trial and error. I could be creative in finding solutions to repair the equipment, and I loved working with my hands.  It was quite gratifying when I would figure out how to fix the machinery. That job is where I developed my love of operating power tools and large equipment. 

Next I worked in a Fortune 500 company as a manager for environmental and food services. That was my first management position. I was responsible for about 80 hourly employees—employees who were seldom noticed until a person’s trash can wasn’t emptied or their food order was incorrect. My staff was multicultural. I had to learn to communicate effectively with each one of them. My speaking tone had to be different when communicating with a staff member from Guatemala than when providing instructions to a staff member from Haiti or Sierra Leone. One thing that I tried to do every day was to make them each feel important, that their work contributed to the success of the organization, and that I cared for them, not just as employees but also as people. They could have made more money at other organizations, but when I asked them why they stayed, they said they did so because I treated them with respect. To this day, I make sure that I always acknowledge the work of people in support services, whether janitors, wait staff, security personnel, or others. 

That was a very challenging position. My average work day was 12 to 14 hours each day. I would go to work before the sun rose and often returned home after the sun had set. When my first day of work at NIST ended and the sun was still shining, I said, “I’m going to like this job!” 

I never experienced being a corporate executive, flying around the world in my corporate jet, but my experiences, good and challenging, and the wonderful people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with—some of whom I’ve created life-long relationships with—far exceed the satisfaction that any world-class business deal could have given me.

What are you most proud of during your career? 

Jackie (left) and former BPEP staff members Faith Harper and John Jackson attend the 2007 Baldrige Awards ceremony.

I am most proud of my work ethic and being a fair and compassionate leader. When my staff tell me that they appreciate me as a leader and thank me for creating a positive work experience, it’s quite gratifying. My parents instilled in me the value of doing my best no matter how menial the task. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to do my best with each task and responsibility that was assigned to me.

What advice or parting words might you have for your coworkers? 

Baldrige staff dressed in formal wear stands for a photo after an awards ceremony.
Baldrige staff members pose for a group photo after the 2018 Baldrige Award ceremony.
Credit: Mark Hamilton

I want to thank my coworkers for all their hard work and commitment to BPEP. Our staff are some of the hardest-working people that I have ever worked with. If you were to look up the word resilience, you would see my coworkers. Each of them have contributed to my professional and personal growth. Thank you so much for making me a better person leaving NIST than when I arrived 25 years ago. I would like to leave my coworkers—and all the Baldrige community members—with this quote that a radio broadcaster in Pittsburgh used to end his show with: “Put everything you have into whatever you do, or you will be ashamed for the world to see what you have done.” 

What do you most look forward to doing (or not doing!) in retirement? 

I look forward to not setting the alarm clock and instead sleeping in for a while. I also look forward to volunteering at a few community organizations and at my church. I will be spending quality time with my family, travelling, and sitting on my deck doing absolutely nothing but listening to the birds sing, relaxing on my chaise lounge, and sipping a sangria.

Anything else you wish to say? 

A group of people greet each other at a reception outside an auditorium.

I’d also like to thank NIST staff who took the time to teach me about the NIST culture and the important work of the agency. I’ve met wonderful and impressive “NISTers” who are making a significant difference in the world. NIST has many challenges, but its people are what set the agency apart from other federal government agencies. I don’t know too many people who can say that they’ve eaten lunch with a Nobel prize laureate or who’ve met and worked at the same agency as world-renowned researchers. These people have shared their knowledge and time with me, and for that I am forever grateful.

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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Comments

Jackie,

I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for the Baldrige Program and NIST over the past 25 years. BPEP, NIST, and the Baldrige Community will not be the same without you! We will miss you terribly, but will also be so very happy to know you are "putting everything you have" into your well earned retirement!

With eternal respect, admiration, and fondness,

Bob

Jackie is such an INCREDIBLE person, and I have been so very grateful for the opportunity to experience her grace, her professionalism, and her love of people on a number of occasions. I think the word "inspiration" gets thrown around a little too easy sometimes these days but getting to hear from her personally about her story coming up through her career, Jackie is genuinely an inspiration to me. Thank you for doing this story to celebrate her, we'll all miss Jackie very much, but know that she will still find a way to impact the lives of those around her in her retirement.

I loved it when you hopped on the bus each morning during training and yelled, Good morning Baldrige Examiners! Your beautiful smile made it a joyous beginning to each day. Enjoy your retirement and btw not setting the alarm clock is divine.

Congratulations Jackie! Welcome to the Third Act crew! I'm sure you'll shine! Huzzah!xeac2

Congratulations Jackie! Thank you for your contagious enthusiasm that brightened our first days of training (and site visits) and carried us through the times when energy dwindled. Enjoy that deck!

Hi,
I haven't been a Baldrige Examiner for a number of years, yet Jackie's attitude and competencies remain with me. Everything ran smoothly when Jackie was around, and I always appreciated her wonderful, warm smile. It was great to read about her experiences. Best of luck in your next phase of life! It is the best! Warmly, Barbara Davis (Denver, CO)

Jackie,
It has been a true privilege to be your colleague for 25 years. Time sure does fly by! We knew from the start that you understood and were dedicated to the customer experience and customer engagement. We learned quickly that you are warm, caring, dedicated, and enthusiastic. I will miss working with you, seeing your smiling face, and singing "Happy Birthday" with and to you!

All the best to you and Floyd on your next adventure!
Harry

Dear Jackie, your contributions are numerous. You will be missed by many. Enjoy the next chapter of your life. Retirement is like being a kid again, without your parents telling you what to do. I’m sure I will see you and Floyd around town. Congratulations dear friend and colleague.

Congratulations, Jackie, on all you've accomplished and all your future plans. I've been retired 10 years this month, and it just keeps getting better. During my two years at BPEP I thoroughly enjoyed working with you and admired your outstanding work ethic. I wish you the best in this next stage of your life. You have earned it!

You are a shining star! I recall fondly, how well you took care of me when I got ill during examiner training. You picked me up and took me back to the hotel and made sure that I had everything I needed. Yes, you were kind but you were more than that. You were concerned. I’ll always remember your kindness and the fond memories I have of you orchestrating the wonderful events as we arrived and went off to examiner training. Best wishes in your retirement.

Congratulations, Jackie, on all you've accomplished and all your future plans. You have truly learned the importance of providing exceptional service to customers, developing outstanding communication skills to gain the ability to effectively communicate with frontline workers to senior management, as well as learning about workforce planning, strategic planning, inventory control, and process management, the foundations of the Baldrige Excellence framework. All the best to one of the best!

Jackie, What I remember most about you (other than your infectious smile) is that you always celebrated your birthday with a month-long festival during the month of Examiner Training. You would have to explain it during the afternoon bus rides back to the hotel. I guess happiness can't be contained to just one day! Best wishes for a very enjoyable retirement. Maybe that's another festival tradition.

Dear Jackie or (Action Jackson) as we annointed you on one of the site visits I was on - you are an extremely beautiful person. Your attention to detail is without question a quality we all should try to attain. I remember many wonderful staff members at NIST - but don't tell anyone Jackie you were my favorite. It's your "smile" and infectious laughter that brightens the room. I know you will be missed by everyone at NIST and the Baldrige community. Nevertheless, remember the best is just around the corner - retirement is great, as long as you don't retire from living and following your dreams. I have no doubt in my mind that you will never stop doing both.
Best Wishes Action Jackson,
Thom

Jackie,
I will always remember the very positive presence you brought to every training session I attended! You were my go-to resource; so knowledgeable, respectful and genuine! Thank you for all you did to make sure we were each okay!

Have a wonderful retirement!

Jackie, what an impressive and impactful career! Thank you for always making each of us feel so welcome and supported as Examiners.

I will remember my colleague Jackie as (1) the backbone of and role model for the staff and (2) a warm, wonderful friend with a great sense of empathy and humor. Here's to a happy and fulfilling retirement!

Thank you to the Baldrige community for extending well wishes on my retirement. Serving in the Baldrige Program to delight our customers and stakeholders has been a highlight of my federal government career. I consider it a privilege to have worked with each of you and to have gotten to know many of you on a personal level. All the best!

Jackie - I learned so much from you about how to make sure that we understand that the people that are doing the work, no matter what level they are in the organization, are the people in the best position to improve that work, and we should make sure we honor that. Best wishes for your next chapter.

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