906. A Day in the Life: What's It Really Like to Be a Contract and Negotiation Expert?
Eldonna Fernandez is a retired Air Force Veteran with 23 years of honorable military service. She is a contracts management, leadership and negotiation expert who teaches people how to think like a negotiator and leader. Eldonna also works with women in a slum in Kitale, Kenya. She created Baskets and Beads to market their beautiful hand-crafted products. She is author of Think Like A Negotiator and the GoPINK Rules of Engagement, co-author of the award winning Heart of a Military Woman and contributing author in eight books.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
I joined the U. S. Air Force when I was 19 years old. My childhood was pretty rocky—both parents were alcoholics and my mother died with I was 12, so I did not have much guidance or inspiration throughout my childhood years. I dropped out of high school with no real idea of what I was going to do with my life. By pure chance I saw an advertisement promoting the Air Force as a way to advance your education and your career so I signed up. I studied for and passed the GED—the General Educational Development Test—and over the course of my 23 years in the Air Force I also got two associate and bachelor degrees.
The Most Powerful Lessons and Experiences?
1. The most vital part of my Air Force experience of 23 years was the technical training and hands-on experience I got in purchasing, negotiating and doing contracts and buying—the foundation of my entire career.
2. In April 2003, I decided to leave active duty. While there are many assistance programs designed to help you transition to civilian life it is a difficult process. You are accustomed to the tight structure and procedures of the military system and the real world isn’t like that. It was quite tough. I was fortunate to land a defense job with Raytheon in El Segundo, California, shortly after I retired.
3. After a number of years with a company called Sparta that did systems engineering contracts with the Los Angeles air force base—I was a senior sub contracts administrator—I kept getting very positive feedback on my negotiations skills. I decided to test the waters and began giving speeches on the topic, which were equally well received. That led to the writing of my book, Think Like a Negotiator and to the creation of programs that teach the principles and strategies of negotiations.
4. In addition to my work as a negotiator I have another project that I am passionate about and committed to. In early 2018 I joined a group that had been travelling to Kenya, East Africa, for 20 years to offer aid to the indigenous people there. I created Baskets and Beads. I sell the handcrafted work the talented ladies of these underprivileged villages create, and those sales are able to fund vital necessities for them. We began working with 4 women and are up to 34 now, helping them become entrepreneurs and raise their lifestyle and standard of living.
Connecting With Eldonna Fernandez
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