Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology
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December 2011/January 2012

Diversity/Careers December 2011/January 2012 Issue

Women of color
Pharma & biotech
Systems engineers
LGBT tech pros
Grace Hopper in OR

Asian American BEs
News & Views
Regional roundup
Supplier diversity

Diversity in action
News & Views

DRS Technologies

Diversity In Action

NAVSEA, the Naval Sea Systems Command, seeks techies

Its 60,000 civilian and military people work to maintain the technology of the past and present while developing systems for the future

'The people that prepared me left me responsible," says Jimmy Smith, director for above-water sensors in the program executive office for integrated warfare systems at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). "Now it's my job to make sure those who come along behind us are prepared. I look forward to it every day: I have the best job in the universe!"

Smith feels he's part of a legacy at NAVSEA: maintaining the technology of the past and present while also developing systems that will protect the U.S. in the future.

NAVSEA develops, delivers and maintains ships and systems for the U.S. Navy. Its highly educated, trained and skilled workforce supports sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapons and computer systems. In the next three years NAVSEA expects to fill about a thousand new jobs all over the country, Smith says.

Jack Evans is executive director in the program executive office for submarines. He says, "The job we have, challenging us day in and day out, requires engineers and program managers that meet high standards. The sailors out there are counting on us to do our job, and we will! We can't rest on our past successes; we have to keep reaching more places and different places with the same high standards of engineering excellence we've had for decades."

For example, the USS California is expected to be used at sea for thirty-three years, running on nuclear power with no refueling required. NAVSEA's engineers were involved in the early design of the vessel, working with private yards and responsible for making it affordable.

"Right now we're designing the next submarine to replace current ballistic missile subs, to be in service until 2080! Our engineers design systems that will not only be working, but still be superior in performance for decades," Evans says.

Ships that were designed in the '50s, '60s and '70s go through a modernization process. "On the surface-ship side of the house we have platforms out there using 1970s technology, but they're still highly capable and worth maintaining," Smith notes.

These long-lived vessels are one reason why good succession planning is crucial at the command. NAVSEA has a talent-management system to bring the right people into the right jobs. "I learned the state of the art from the smartest people," Smith says, "and I want to leave my post to someone who can take it over and handle the responsibility."

NAVSEA is looking for MEs, EEs, systems, nuclear engineers and naval architects, as well as people in marine, chemical and biological engineering. "There's also a medical piece to what we do, like caring for divers who need an oxygen-nitrogen gas mixture to breathe. So we're not excluding any discipline," Smith says.

In other words, capable engineers shouldn't overlook opportunities with NAVSEA even if they've only worked in the auto industry, for example. In fact, when autos were in crisis, NAVSEA picked up a number of savvy techies. NASA engineers at all levels who are exiting the space shuttle program have come over, too.

As for experience needed, "We're no different from other U.S. employers," Evans says. "We have people like myself, in the workforce more than thirty-five years, and a fair number with zero to ten years. In between there's an area where we don't have the numbers we'd like."

Generations coming in now are "so much more technologically advanced than I was at their age," Smith says. "We have to adapt, so there's a lot of give and take."

It's important for new employees to understand how to work in the early development part of a program, the acquisition part of the program and the later lifecycle support, Evans says. Mentoring at NAVSEA focuses on all three aspects.

"We advise people to plot their career paths to get varied experience so their awareness and value grows. The next job should always give you a wider view of what Naval system challenges are and how we go about meeting them."

For example, one NAVSEA training program involves visits to ships to "get up close to a large oxygen generation system or a torpedo or a carrier catapult and actually see what we're all about," Evans says.

Every year NAVSEA conducts a diversity accountability survey, covering issues like sexual harassment and age discrimination, to "test the temperature of the workforce" and see which areas may need work. The EEO and recruiting offices work to bring in an inclusive workforce and employee resource groups share the challenges. Employee resource groups at NAVSEA focus on black employees, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics/ Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives, federal women and people with disabilities.

Besides taking care of the current workforce, NAVSEA is working to keep youngsters informed about future careers, with strong emphasis on the STEM fields. Four dedicated teams work on outreach, recruiting, hiring and on-boarding. Smith, on the outreach team, is responsible for nurturing K-12, BS, masters and most recently PhD-level students. "We offer scholarship money and provide co-op opportunities," he says.

Scholarships are offered to technical students at minority-serving schools. Smith works on recruiting at a dozen HBCUs; Evans heads up efforts at Hispanic-serving institutions. "We work with Great Minds in STEM, where we've had a number of Hispanic award and scholarship winners from schools in Florida, California and Texas," he explains."

NAVSEA makes strong efforts to achieve work-life balance with telework, flextime to help with the heavy commuting in DC, and a physical activity awareness program including fitness teams led by a three-star admiral and a senior civilian.

"Every naval facility typically has a fitness center available," Evans says.


Naval Sea Systems Command


Headquarters: Washington Navy Yard,
Washington, DC
Employees: 60,000, civilian and military
Budget: $30 billion
Business: Develops, delivers and maintains ships and systems for the U.S. Navy

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