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    NUWC Division Newport’s Federal Women’s Program hosts panel for Women’s History Month

    NUWC Division Newport’s Federal Women’s Program hosts panel for Women’s History Month

    Photo By Evan Crawley | The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport Federal Women’s Program (FWP)...... read more read more



    Story by Public Affairs Office 

    Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport

    NEWPORT, R.I. – The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s Federal Women’s Program celebrated Women’s History Month with a panel discussion by five female employees on March 26 that focused on insights and experiences as women working for the U.S. Navy.

    The event, which was broadcast to employees throughout the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), kicked off with a video featuring some of Division Newport’s senior female leaders, who shared stories about who have inspired them throughout their lives both personally and professionally. [link:] The video reflected this year’s theme, “Women Who Have Made Great Achievements,” recognizing the countless contributions that women have made towards creating a positive opportunity for a brighter future.
    Panelists for the discussion included Norma Lopez, head, Combat Systems Trainers Branch of the Combat Systems Department; Poonam Aggarwal, supervisory engineer, Undersea Warfare (USW) Platforms and Payload Integration Department; Sally Sutherland-Pietrzak of NUWC Headquarters, who is director of the Naval Engineering Education Consortium; Jackeline “Jackie” Diapis, engineer, USW Weapons, Vehicles and Defensive Systems Department; and Alison Wicks, head, Acquisition Policy and Oversight Division, Contracts Department. Susan Balcirak, supervisory engineer and Federal Women’s Program (FWP) lead, hosted the event and led the panelists with a series of questions.

    Balcirak’s first question was directed to Aggarwal and Wicks: “Why did you choose your career working for the Navy as a federal employee?”

    Aggarwal who’s been at Division Newport for almost 15 years, said that her reason for working for the Navy was based on her love and appreciation for America.

    “I was 14 years old when I came to the U.S. with my family — we didn’t have money, didn’t speak English, didn’t know anyone or anything, but my parents came here to have a better life,” Aggarwal said. “When we arrived, everyone was very nice and helpful. Also, in India, there is no free education, so having free education in the U.S. up until high school took a lot of burden off my parents’ shoulders. I really wanted to give something back to this country, and one way of doing it was coming to the Navy. I wanted to serve our country by any means.”

    Wicks said she applied for a job at NUWC because of her dissatisfaction while working in retail pharmacy leading to an almost 17-year career at Division Newport.

    “I’ve stayed for this long because of all the opportunity that we have in this organization — the upward mobility, the people, the importance of what we do, and the work-life balance,” Wicks said. “I don’t think we can get that in industry, so that’s why I’ve stayed here for so long.”

    Sutherland-Pietrzak and Diapis were asked to share the professional skills that they developed in their careers and to explain why they are important. Both agreed that communication and flexibility is at the top of their list of important skills to learn.

    Sutherland-Pietrzak said that she works best collaborating with team members, holding meetings, and staying aware of everyone’s tasking. She shared a story about her experience as a branch head when she started implementing team meetings.

    “Over time the meetings became very popular, and I remember just a couple years ago, there was someone who retired and said, that time in his career was one of his favorites because he felt like we were a team and all working together,” said Sutherland-Pietrzak. “So, communication, getting everyone to talk and document what they’re doing is really key.”

    Diapis has found that being flexible is a skill that she’s had to develop throughout her 10-year career.

    “You’re not working with just engineers and technicians, you’re working with tradespeople, with the fleet, a wide variety of people and it’s important to understand their priorities too,” Diapis said. “It’s about finding pieces of the puzzle to fit the big picture and help you and your team better understand where you are.”

    Balcirak asked panelists to share some of their career highlights.

    “I started in 1991 and I had many different projects,” Lopez said. When I was on the Countermeasure Set Acoustic (CSA) Launching System, I loved that project because I was working with Washington D.C. on the IA (information assurance) at that time, which is now cybersecurity and I was going back and forth working with industry and other warfare centers — I took the requirements of the CSA, from requirements to design, to looking at the development, more of the TDA (Technical Directing Agent) world and I put my hard hat on, and my steel toed shoes and I was the only woman there when we installed it on the SSGN so that was awesome.”

    Diapis’ highlight was having the opportunity to work at a shipyard on the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23).

    “My top highlight of my career — and I don’t think anything is going to top it — was working in the shipyard with on the USS Jimmy Carter,” Diapis said. “It was an amazing boat, and not many people get the opportunity to work on that particular boat. I have worked on several surface ships and other submarines, and it all led up to that particular boat — never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d be standing there.

    “I was working 12-hour days, seven days a week and let me tell you, it did not feel like it. I loved it so much. It was such a great experience and I thank NUWC for allowing someone like me to go and do this. It was difficult but they believed in me.”

    Audience members asked questions about finding between work and family life.

    “I have two kids, one is four years old, and one is two years old,” Aggarwal said. “It was very tough for me because for my two-year-old, I did not get a daycare in line for about six or seven months. It’s all about people, and people were very supportive, they were very helpful. They helped me telework for a few weeks, so that was helpful to balance my life. Family too — it takes both, your family, and your people at work. When it comes to balancing professional life and work life, it comes from people at work, and it comes from your family. If you get all that support, then it’s easy to balance your life.”

    Emily Pietrzak, an engineer in the USW Mission Engineering and Analysis Department, who is Sutherland-Pietrzak’s daughter, signed in on Teams while at home on maternity leave, to ask a question.

    “Do you have advice for those of us returning to work and picking momentum back up after taking a few months off?” Pietrzak asked.

    As someone who worked full time while raising three children, Lopez offered some advice.

    “My main recommendation is, breathe,” Lopez said. “It’s OK, you don’t have to do it all at the same time. You can be all, but you’ve got time. I had three little girls and we didn’t have the daycare center in those days or the nursing facilities that we have now — it was hard. It takes family and figuring out how to do things little by little. But give yourself a break, don’t feel like you’ve got to do it all at the same time.”

    One of the last questions from the audience asked how groups like the Federal Women’s Program and Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) have helped employees.

    Wicks shared how she’s grown to become more appreciative of the programs that Division Newport offers, as she’s progressed in her career.

    “I don’t think I took advantage of those groups early in my career, but as I have progressed, I have realized how important it is for women to have a voice here — this is a largely technical organization, and there’s a lot of men, and the women really need a support system to show that their voice matters,” Wicks said. “In my department, I don’t think I realized how many up-and-coming women looked up to me until last year, when I was nominated for the Providence Business News Women to Watch in the technical category. I was floored that I was nominated.”

    Wick’s nomination was selected by command leadership for submission noting her “significant impact” on how her work in the Contracts Department supports the mission of the U.S. Navy. She won the elite award, joining eight other women from Division Newport who have won the award in the past 10 years. Read a story about the award, here. [link-]

    “When I found out that I had won that, I was in disbelief,” Wicks said. “But it was all of the women in my department that came forward and said, ‘this is such a win for all of us it’s so motivating and we’re so happy that we have someone to look up to and that has that voice.’’

    NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

    Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continurously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.



    Date Taken: 04.10.2024
    Date Posted: 04.10.2024 14:59
    Story ID: 468272

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