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NEWS | Sept. 1, 2021

Empowering a Diverse Workforce: NAVSEA Inclusion & Engagement Projects Take Shape with the Help of NSWCPD Team Members

By Gary Ell

Two Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) employees – Colleen Westenberger and Alaina Farooq -- are participating on the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Inclusion & Engagement (I&E) Council. Made up of 24 diverse professionals from across the enterprise and four Senior Executives who work with each team, Westenberger and Farooq are dedicated to developing ways to increase employee engagement within NAVSEA and to make it a more inclusive place to work.

In an All Hands Message from April 25, 2021, Giao Phan, Executive Director, NAVSEA wrote, “As an employee-led organization designed to find and overcome barriers to building the One NAVSEA, the I&E Council is allowing NAVSEA to Expand the Advantage in an era of great power competition by ensuring all of us can reach our full professional potential.”

The council creates initiatives to ensure members of NAVSEA can work at peak performance. It strives to facilitate the removal of the social pain of interpersonal rejection or loss, eliminate the concept of insiders and outsiders, and ensure that employee inclusion and engagement in its many forms, is understood, respected, and valued.

Within the council, four teams—Inclusion Team, Engagement Team, Diversity Team, and Communications Team—conceptualized and are now executing creative ways to increase inclusion and engagement across NAVSEA, and after nearly a year of hard work, momentous initiatives are taking shape.

“I personally want to congratulate Alaina and Colleen on their outstanding support and dedication on the I&E Council. Their contributions help create a strong foundation on which subsequent councils can build toward fostering a more inclusive and engaged workforce at NSWCPD and the NAVSEA Enterprise,” said Tom Perotti, NSWCPD technical director.

As a mechanical engineer and the Ship Controls DDG-51 Class Branch Head, Westenberger is serving on the council’s Engagement Team that is developing a Virtual Resource Center for the NAVSEA Enterprise. This will be a “one-stop shop” for training and reference materials, a guest speaker series, and an enterprise-wide point-of-contact listing for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs), and other groups focused on inclusion, engagement, and diversity.

The NAVSEA Employee Engagement Team Wiki page states: “We envision a Virtual Resource Center (VRC) that would house a plethora of informational resources (such as trainings, articles, videos, website links, books, etc.). Included within the VRC there are two repositories: The Enterprise Point of Contact (EPoC) which offers various contacts, per location, for all ERGs within NAVSEA. The second is the Enterprise Speaker Engagement Series (ES2), which allows all of NAVSEA the opportunity to search through guest speakers within a geographical location. One can obtain contact information, a brief biography, a brief topic description and a picture of the speaker. All-in-all, our inclusive initiative is intended for all levels of leadership, from the deck plate to executive management.”

Westenberger has been working at NSWCPD since 2005 after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. She joined the council in September 2020.

Farooq also joined the council in September 2020 and is currently serving on the Diversity Team.

“I joined the council because I had been representing ERGs at my previous places of employment, Raytheon Missile Systems and Boeing,” she said. “Diversity is something that I have always been passionate about. Companies do a great job at hiring diverse people, retaining employees and creating an inclusive environment, factors that I care deeply about and strive to work towards.”

Farooq grew up in Indianapolis and earned her undergraduate degree from Perdue University and a Master’s of Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. She joined NSWCPD in 2018 and serves as a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) for the Propulsion, Power & Auxiliary Machinery Systems Department.

“Since our COR group branch is new, we were able to create a very inclusive environment. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your background is. Everyone works very well together. We respect each other’s lenses and perspectives. Inclusion is about hearing from all voices and perspectives. Everyone in our group has a seat at the table. All voices are heard and it creates a great team. When you add diversity and inclusion to any atmosphere, it creates a great working environment and team,” Farooq stated.

With this perspective and plethora of experience, she joined the council to help make a difference by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, respected, and valued. To facilitate an enterprise-wide project to enhance communications and build diversity, Farooq explained that, “The Diversity Team is creating a video series called NAVSpEAks to educate and empower employees to reach their full potential. The program started off as a ‘TED Talks’ kind of video platform for the NAVSEA community to connect employees to opportunities.”

The video platform bridges employees to programs, resources and opportunities for leadership development and career advancement. By highlighting diverse voices and perspectives, NAVSpEAks educates and empowers future leaders who will represent the community they serve. This series will explore a variety of topics, such as Career Development, Advancement Opportunities within NAVSEA, Code Switching, and Leading with Authenticity. Several videos are already produced and the framework established by the initial series will allow ongoing contributions to expand the scope of topics.

The team has identified many uses for such a platform, such as: on-boarding/new hire training, leadership training, small group training, digital signage, command/ERG events and observances, and special emphasis programs.

The first production of the series, “Pronouns are Important with Jony Rozon” (Naval Undersea Warfare Center-NUWC) has been produced and is now available on Wiki. Other productions ranging from topics such as: Mentoring, Code Switching, Leading with Authenticity and Lifting Others are in various stages of production. The team plans on following up the video series with a NAVSpEAks Tool Kit to allow ongoing contributions to expand the NAVSpEAks library. The goal is to make video production as quick and straightforward as possible for organizations such as ERGs, SEPMs, and other entities with topics they are passionate about.

NAVSpEAks will transition to the office of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) at the end of the fiscal year. The library of videos will be maintained on theI&E Council Wiki page. The managing group will be responsible for updating the library, distributing toolkits, and providing guidance. Groups creating NAVSpEAks will continue to partner with their local Public Affairs / Corporate Communications divisions to facilitate production.

“When you are inclusive and can see through other people’s lenses and perspectives, you are better able to communicate, connect and work together harmoniously to build the best work-force and team,” Farooq concluded.