An awesome, life-changing experience

These stories feature Public Services and Procurement Canada employees who came forward to join the initial emergency effort to procure personal protective equipment for Canada’s healthcare workers as COVID-19 pandemic cases began to climb across Canada in early March last year. Each is a story of different personal circumstance, but all are connected by three common themes: Dedication. Professionalism. Caring.

For more stories like this one, read the story of Alain Dorion and Jonathan Hamel.

Before COVID-19, Amanda Assi was a supply specialist for the Procurement Branch at Public Services and Procurement Canada. In less than a day, on March 12, 2020, her job and life changed completely, and she became the chief of staff for a mighty mite team working day and night to acquire personal protective equipment for Canada.

Amanda Assi, who joined Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) four years ago, had three reasons to volunteer to join PSPC’s Pandemic Response Sector (PRS).

She wanted an opportunity to help front-line healthcare workers, she guessed it might broaden her professional horizons, and she wanted to continue to report to someone she loved working for.

A woman is sitting in a chair. In front of her is a desk with various pieces of personal protective equipment, such as gloves and a mask.
Amanda Assi: It was an adrenalin rush.

On March 11, 2020, her boss, Alain Dorion, was asked to lead the PRS, and he quickly pivoted to building a team of specialists ready to plunge into the chaotic world of personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement.

“When Alain announced the opportunity he had been given, I immediately mentioned to him how this would be an amazing experience,” said Amanda. “So the next day, he asked me to join the team. I thought I had a couple of days to sort my files, but he said: ‘You’ve got two hours.’ The next day, we started to work.”

Amanda went from supply specialist to her boss’s chief of staff, working in tandem with him and his 24-7 work schedule. She helped manage the crazy workflow: a tidal wave of contracts, reports to the Minister, Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister and the Privy Council Office, in addition to the host of other obligations she had to deal with while simultaneously communicating with companies across Canada and overseas about procurement contracts.

During the first two weeks, she figures they worked at least 200 hours. “It was an adrenalin rush,” she said, “and nothing like I had ever experienced before. The whole experience opens your eyes to what’s happening worldwide and the impact the pandemic is having on people.”

“When I started, I wouldn’t have thought that I would be so into it,” she added. “This is giving me more than I expected: a lot of experience, not just for my career, but also for my personal life. It’s a way to help our front-line workers. But for me and my colleagues, it is also a way to serve our country and help our families.”

New recruits

As part of the department’s recruitment campaign for procurement specialists, Amanda was asked to give a presentation about her COVID-19 procurement experiences to some potential recruits.

“They were listening closely and wanted to know more about the work, what it was like working 24-7 and how we managed all that,” she said.

So what did she say to a new procurement recruit? “It’s not the usual life of procurement, but this is an awesome, life-changing experience.” It sounds like she would not have had it any other way.

Date modified: