“I didn’t realize how good I had it.” – Debbie Wheeler on her return to Leidos
When Debbie Wheeler first joined Leidos in 2018, it was after 30 years of government service. While she’d been glad to advance her government career over those years, she began to feel too far removed from her projects.
“The higher up you go, the less hands on you become as a program manager,” she explains, noting that by the time she retired from the Department of Justice, she’d gotten away from her core skill set. “I’ve always enjoyed the telecommunications world and didn’t want to lose those skills or miss out on seeing the results of my projects’ installation in the field.”
So Wheeler made a change. Moving from government service to government contracting would give her more opportunities for the hands-on work she craved in her career.
Wheeler’s first role at Leidos — and why she left
Wheeler’s first non-government role landed her on a contract at Leidos. As a voice services manager, she performed project and program management for the U.S. Air Force.
“It was a good job at a great company, and I received good training,” she says. “But I was a naive first-time government contractor and didn’t realize how good I had it at Leidos.”
When another company offered her a high-paying job, she took it. Unfortunately, she soon realized why this employer offered such attractive compensation — its cutthroat culture resulted in high turnover rates.
“I realized that even though the pay was good, it’s more important to me to be excited about my work and to love my job, co-workers, and company,” Wheeler says. She stuck it out for a year, hoping to be part of a positive change. When things didn’t improve, though, Wheeler decided to work for a different employer, keeping her eye on Leidos all the while. While her new job was an improvement, she worried she'd lose her Top Secret clearance and still hoped to return to Leidos.
Wheeler’s return to Leidos — and why she never plans to leave
When she saw an open IT project manager role at Leidos that required a Top Secret clearance, Wheeler was surprised by how perfect the opportunity was for her. It would allow her to return to Leidos and work on a program that she’d helped to improve when she was a government employee on a 10-person team.
“Now it’s a large program, and I’m impressed by how it’s grown and matured. It’s exactly as we’d envisioned,” Wheeler says. “And I knew I’d enjoy working for Leidos again. They have their act together — and now I don’t take that for granted.” She has been back with Leidos since January and has no plans to depart.
"I’m happy to stay at Leidos and can even see myself working here until my full retirement," she says.
Here’s what Wheeler most appreciates about rejoining Leidos:
- Supportive culture. Wheeler reports that everyone has been just as friendly and supportive as they were during her first time at Leidos. “We all cooperate, and every person offers their best support when a colleague has questions. There’s only friendly competition between co-workers — we all win together.”
- Personal development. Wheeler is glad to see that training opportunities still abound at Leidos. She especially appreciates access to the Leidos online training portal. “In just the first few months I’ve been back, I’ve updated some of my technical skills, and there are even more things I look forward to honing with help from the online training.”
- Career opportunities. Wheeler notes that the size of Leidos, its breadth of services, and the company's culture allow employees to explore various career paths and follow their interests. “There are many opportunities at Leidos for different types of roles. This is great for employees who are ready to move in a new direction.”
Interested in joining her at Leidos? Check out our open job opportunities on our career site. Or if you know someone else who might enjoy working with us, please consider referring them — you could earn up to a $5,000 through the External Referral Program! Finally, we love staying connected with our former Leidos employees. If that includes you, we invite you to join our Leidos Alumni Network.