Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District install a 23-foot-tall concrete shaft enclosure weighing approximately 120,000 pounds as part of the guard wall at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 2023.

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Developmental assignment offers growth, connection for USACE employee

Published July 7, 2021
John Allis and his family on a Florida vacation.

John Allis and his family on a Florida vacation.

DETROIT - He cannot get enough of the Great Lakes; some might say he’s hooked.

By day, John Allis is the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office Chief and by night, he enjoys being in, on or around the Great Lakes with his family.

Allis’ office in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District handles a wide range of activities supporting the International Joint Commission, including water level forecasting, flow regulation and monitoring hydroclimate conditions across the Great Lakes.

The Corps of Engineers has a reputation of success through skill development and knowledge gain. By design, district employees often have opportunities to do just that through developmental assignments.

John recently completed a three-month developmental assignment as Chief of Water Management Division with the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division where he had much broader responsibilities.

“The best part of this experience for me, by far, was building relationships with the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division staff,” said Allis. “I was also very connected with other senior leaders and was able to build relationships with the regional business director and his senior staff. It was great getting to routinely interact with that team and get to know them better.”

At the Detroit District, John’s attention focuses on the Great Lakes. During this developmental assignment, John’s attention was on more regional water management topics across the Hydraulics, Hydrology and Coastal Community of Practice. He was responsible for managing a staff of 10 while coordinating the water management and hydraulic, hydrology and coastal programs across the entire Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.

“John’s pursuit of continuous learning demonstrates his commitment to organizational success,” said Engineering and Technical Services Division Chief Marie Strum. “This assignment benefited John personally, but it also benefited our organization by strengthening relationships, bringing back best practices and increasing our understanding of water management challenges across the region.”

Throughout his 21 years with the Detroit District, John has completed several developmental assignments. “I’ve enjoyed each developmental assignment I’ve been on, and I’ll certainly keep my eye open for other opportunities in the future,” he said.

These developmental opportunities offer John a balance between getting comfortable with his current position, while still taking opportunities to get outside his comfort zone and get other experiences. 

“USACE really does a great job providing opportunities for career growth,” said John. “Most leaders I’ve worked with are very happy to find ways for you to grow, either through developmental assignments, training or other opportunities. As you work through your career, never hesitate to talk to your leaders about what interests you may have.”

John’s advice to anyone contemplating a developmental is to “Think about what some of your career goals are, and think about whether or not an assignment will help you develop in ways that might help you reach those goals. Definitely don’t be afraid to try something new and get outside of your comfort zone a bit.”

Until John determines his next developmental assignment, you can find him enjoying the Great Lakes and providing hydraulic, hydrologic and coastal engineering support to projects across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District. 

To find out more information about career opportunities with the Detroit District, please visit:


Chick Lock

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