Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



June/July 2018

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Diversity/Careers June/July 2018

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ONR seeks seasoned engineers to do innovative R&D; work

The bar is set high for engineers at ONR. This DoD branch seeks experienced PhDs to develop and manage projects in emerging technologies

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is an executive branch within the U.S. Department of Defense that provides technical advice to the chief of naval operations and the secretary of the Navy. ONR investigates, researches and supports technology focus areas outlined in the Navy’s current “Naval Science and Technology Strategic Plan.” The plan focuses on autonomous and unmanned systems, information dominance, platform design and survivability, power and energy, and warfighter performance.

Innovation and communication are key skills
“Currently, we have a variety of positions for program officers, including general, electrical and mechanical engineers,” says Margaret Mitchell, director of the civilian human resources office. There’s also a need for specialists in oceanography, physics, mathematics, medicine, chemistry and surveillance technology. Program officers are responsible for the development and management of small and large-scale research and development programs, she says.

“At ONR headquarters, we rarely hire college grads, although lower-level commands hire college grads as well as student interns. Because of the nature of the work we do, we look for engineers with PhDs and ten or more years of work experience in government or industry, particularly if they have skills in new and emerging technologies. When we hire people, we hire them to hit the ground running.

“Communication skills are a must because of the uniqueness of ONR and our high visibility,” Mitchell says. “Our program officers frequently have to interact with people from the undersecretary of the Navy to the White House liaison.”

There are some opportunities for IT professionals, although the need is not as great as it is for engineers, according to Mitchell. “Many of our IT challenges are met by contractor support. However, we do have IT program managers who oversee the contractors, and we require that they have experience in designing systems, performance software testing and programming.”

ONR uses the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s USAJobs website at www.opm.gov to advertise many of its job announcements, Mitchell says. For technical positions, the organization also has authority to hire professionals without advertising for the position, as long as they meet the educational and experience criteria.

A new diversity committee at ONR
ONR started the process of establishing a diversity committee earlier this year. The committee will be headed by one of ONR’s senior management officials. “We are actively working to get this committee created. We’re encouraging the involvement of all senior management, and we’re asking employees within each department to serve on the committee as a collateral duty,” she says.

Each month, ONR pays tribute to a particular diverse group: an ethnic minority, women, people with disabilities and more. The human resources department writes diversity-focused articles that are posted on the ONR website and featured in e-mail alerts. “We also have a kiosk in the main entrance of the building where we advertise upcoming events,” she adds. “During the month, we bring in keynote speakers to talk about the group we’re featuring.

“Our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) coordinator, along with our liaison to the historically black colleges and universities, extends outreach to local elementary and middle schools,” says Mitchell. “The schools want to start early steering youth in the direction of STEM. It’s a worthwhile investment in their futures that could possibly bring them to ONR one day.”

ONR has been ranked as one of the best places to work in the federal government by the Partnership for Public Service (bestplacestowork.org). It has consistently ranked highest among Navy subcomponents.

A satisfying work environment
“ONR has an impressive array of benefits,” Mitchell says, citing telework options, compressed work schedules, free access to a nearby gym and an outstanding recreation program. “But for many, ONR’s biggest appeal is being able to work beside world-class scientists and engineers.

“ONR has a stable work environment,” says Mitchell. “People love it here, so they stay.”


The Office of Naval Research

Headquarters: Arlington, VA
Employees: 1,000+
Budget: $2 billion (approximate)
Mission: Research for the U.S. Navy

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