Fort Belvoir, Va. –
Mr. Kerry Byrum is a Data Analytics Technical Specialist with the Technical Audit Services Division (OTS) and currently works at an Eastern Region DCAA office. Kerry worked as an auditor at the European Branch office in Germany from March 2018 through February 2023. While a majority of DCAA locations are in the continental United States (CONUS), many DCAA offices are located outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS) and have their own challenges and rewards for employees. Learn about the OCONUS office experience and the unique opportunities DCAA has to offer.
What made you want to apply for an OCONUS tour?
I was always interested in the OCONUS tour in Germany since I first learned about the opportunity and job announcement. My wife and I enjoy travel and I thought the European Branch Office (EBO) would offer amazing chances to see Europe. I was not disappointed.
What hesitations did you have either before or during the transition to an OCONUS office?
Most of my hesitations were related to my home life. Our “traveling family” consisted of my wife, myself, and of course we took our four dogs and belongings. One of the big considerations was if we would sell or rent our house since my tour in Germany was 5 years long. Reflecting on the experience now, I think we made the best decisions we could. We do not regret any of the decisions we made.
As for work hesitations, I was mostly worried about going to a new office and working with new people. I knew everyone in my current office, and I was nervous about what the EBO dynamic would be like. Even with those hesitations, I knew this was a great chance to prove to myself that I had earned this opportunity.
What were some of the unexpected challenges you encountered?
This was my first trip to Europe. I had a few expectations, but I also had some challenges I wasn’t prepared to encounter. Immediately I learned that living in a foreign country is very different than just visiting. Many of the unexpected challenges were related to everyday life. I had to learn how to shop in German grocery stores, learn all the driving rules, and know how to navigate the recycling system. There are different trash and recycling standards in Germany, and it took some adjusting.
The longer I lived in Germany, the easier things became. My experience became much more enjoyable as I learned more words and phrases in German. I could have used a translator to set up my internet, phone, and other daily needs but I wanted to learn more.
I was also in Germany for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, a truly unexpected challenge! There were restrictions on leaving your residence and ever-changing rules and testing during that time. But even with those challenges, I would do it all over again for another tour.
How was your time at OCONUS unique from CONUS?
It was an honor and responsibility to learn the varied customs and norms that are expectations in the international business environment. I had the privilege of traveling to a different country with each audit assignment. This travel exposed me to not only international work products and business systems, but to the local culture as well.
In Europe, each DCAA auditor is expected to concurrently work on multiple audits and travel for those audits. Most of that travel is to locales in remote locations within another foreign country. The types of audits performed at the office vary from month-to-month or year-to-year, but having the exposure to these different types of audits is what makes it a great developmental opportunity.
What are you doing now and how did your tour help prepare you for your current role?
All the unique experiences from the EBO helped prepare me for my current position. I find myself relying on my audit knowledge as the foundation for the work I do for OTS. My workload and time management skills that were heavily developed in the EBO are used regularly in my current position. Open communication and coordinating with colleagues across multiple time zones is a skill I regularly use both here and when I was stationed in Europe. Flexibility and the willingness to pivot or quickly adjust to respond to the needs of my customer are also essential.