Growing up and getting her college degree in North Carolina, Amanda McAdams wanted to do something adventurous after completing her education as a biologist. She loaded up her car and took a seasonal fire position in California—a career choice that would lead her to eventually work fulltime for the USDA Forest Service.
Early in her career Amanda moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota to work as an Ecologist for the Nature Conservancy. As luck would have it the Conservancy was based out of a Forest Service office enabling her to make career connections, the most important of which was to a local hydrologist named Bill Goodman—a man she eventually married.
What do you like to do for fun on your free time?
My husband and I own a hot air balloon. We fly it whenever the weather allows and take two weeks off every October to travel to Albuquerque for the big balloon Fiesta. It’s fun and we love seeing the faces of people who get to fly for the first time.
What do you do in the Forest Service and when did you start working here?
I’m currently in a detail as the Acting Deputy Director of Human Resources. Most of my career has been in fire, and mostly as a fire ecologist. I’ve served on a hotshot crew, and I’m currently a Type 2 Plans Chief and an Advanced level Agency Administrator. Prior to my detail I served Forest Supervisor on the Modoc National Forest in far northeastern California.
What is your favorite part of your job?
In my role as Forest Supervisor I get to manage wild horses, help restore landscapes, lead through difficult fire situations, and help employees on the forest and beyond develop and grow. I’m proud that I’m a coach for the middle leader program, have played an active role in work environment issues, and am trained as a team leader for the learning reviews for serious accidents. Although I still can’t believe I’m in this job and am still actively learning, I truly care about the people I work with.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
I fell in love with the outdoors, with fire, and the process of fire on the landscape. After my first two seasons I returned to school and got a Master’s degree in Forestry—my plan was to try and find a position as a fire ecologist.
Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.
I was assigned to help lead an event for our workforce that was named the Growth, Respect and Opportunity Workshop. In this role, employees from across all fields came together to network and help create a workforce and workplace where all employees feel valued, are aware of other employee’s needs, and to simply be excited about the work we do. Being part of this allowed me to learn more about empowering others, creating resilience in a larger organization, and how important innovation is as we move forward. It has also been the stepping stone for me to adapt my own leadership profile and grow. We are now working to bring this effort to other units across the agency.
This is Women’s History Month. As a woman serving in an organization which for many years was predominately male, how do you feel you’re making a difference?
In 2005 Bill and I had our daughter, Audrey, and I continued fighting fire throughout that time. I even served on a crew while pregnant—with doctor’s permission, of course! Between my family and the work challenges I often confront, I actively embrace my role in the Forest Service and specifically as a female leader. My job and my own life-experiences have put me in a unique position to drive for real change in the Agency and to be a positive role model for other female employees.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
I truly believe that our mission is one that is worth all the effort we put into it. I love spending time in our forests. I love the resources we are able to produce in a sustainable way. I love that I have been able to go on fires, help round-up wild horses, and had to take a boat to work. I love the teamwork and comradery that comes from a group of employees who really are working from a consistent vision of our mission.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
I never planned to do any of the things I’ve gotten to do—and I feel lucky others have given me a chance. I’ve been fortunate to have others support me during my career and have many role models from all levels of the organization. Everyone should find that person or people who can serve as a mentor and be a role model. I have also learned that when someone gives you an opportunity you need to take it!