Program Director Shows Integrity by Listening and Mentoring Her Colleagues

By Lindsay Emery

Integrity, professionalism and trust of both colleagues and clients have earned Frances Choi recognition as the PAE Values Champion for "Have Integrity." As director of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund program, Choi's work has impacted the 9/11 community since the terrorist attacks 20 years ago.

Choi says her father has always been her leadership inspiration because of the way he treated people with respect. She said he taught her the value of integrity, empathy, honor and service to all. She also credits her accomplishments to the mutual respect she and her coworkers have for each other and the contributions of everyone who helped guide her throughout her 33 years in the business.

"I have built my professional reputation on being a fair and open-minded manager who leads by example," Choi said. "Leading by example strengthens relationships and builds trust. It values the team's contributions and enhances our commitment to our organization, our work and business growth. People seek out those they can respect and will follow leaders who take interest in their development."

Choi joined PAE as program manager for the operations department in charge of supporting Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission contracts in May 2011. She also served as the program director on the Justice Department's MEGA 4 contract and was requested by the customer to oversee the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund under MEGA 4 and MEGA 5.

Choi's team works with the Justice Department to provide compensation to those who have physical health conditions related to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and its aftermath. As a result of the VCF Special Master determination that the available funds would be insufficient to pay all pending and projected claims, the VCF Permanent Authorization Act extended the claim filing deadline from December 18, 2020, to October 1, 2090, and dedicates unlimited funds to pay all eligible claims.

Choi is never prouder than when her team is recognized. In October 2020, a letter from the VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya to PAE leadership complimented Choi's team's performance and congratulated the company's diligent response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help the 9/11 community.

"It would be hard to overstate the commitment, energy and professionalism of PAE's leadership within the VCF when faced with the need to transition a multi-faceted team with a broad array of roles and responsibilities to remote work in a matter of days," Bhattacharyya said in the letter. "Consistent with past performance, the PAE team members expertly figured out what needed to happen and how to make it happen so that the VCF saw almost no interruption of services as nearly 170 people converted to fully remote work."

Choi noted that the pandemic has been very difficult for everybody.

"The PAE team rose to our expectations of excellence, remains totally committed to the work and continues to give it their all," Choi said. "I am inspired by their tenacity, resilience and dedication to support and to serve the 9/11 community. They are undoubtedly our greatest asset."

Whenever an employee asks for guidance, Choi always makes the time to talk with them. She believes respect for employees should be at the forefront of every manager's mind every day. Her peers have identified her willingness to share her experiences as one of the reasons for her success.

"Her PAE colleagues seek her counsel because she exemplifies integrity, ingenuity and innovation," Senior Program Manager Alexandra McCombs said. "She is an outstanding professional and her willingness to coach and guide colleagues makes her a unique asset to the PAE organization."

Choi's contributions to performance excellence, team development and client delivery have earned her recognition as the PAE Values Champion for "Have Integrity."