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NEWS | March 21, 2023

NSWCDD Manager Inspires Others to Maintain Work-Life Balance and to “Have it All”

By Maddie Keenan, NSWCDD Corporate Communications

“Sometimes work wins, sometimes family wins, but things always seem to balance out,” says Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Strategic and Computing Systems Department Business Operations Manager Christa Whaling.

Whaling, a Spotsylvania County native, began her career at NSWCDD in 1988 as a clerk typist. “My dad worked here as an electrician in public works, so that’s why I wanted to work here. And once I got here, I stayed because I loved it,” Whaling said. “I was very happy to be here and to have a position working with the Navy.”

Whaling quickly rose through the clerical workforce. She then transitioned into a position providing financial and administrative support for technical programs. With the encouragement of leadership, Whaling obtained her associate’s degree in business administration in 1998 from Germanna Community College.

Whaling continued her education by earning a bachelor’s degree in professional studies from Mary Washington College, now known as the University of Mary Washington. She is the first person in her family to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

“It took me approximately 10 years in total of taking classes, mostly at night after work, but I did earn my undergraduate degree,” Whaling said. “It was a great program because it was for working adults, so everyone including the professors had full-time jobs outside of school.”

Whaling continued to improve her skill set. In 2011, she volunteered to become an instructor for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). “I wanted to learn how to use the tool, so I volunteered to be a schoolhouse instructor for ERP,” Whaling said.

“I stepped out of my role for about six months, and I learned how to be an instructor. I worked at the University of Mary Washington and we had the schoolhouse there for all of the trainings. I pushed myself to grow and broaden my horizons.”

Whaling maintains a healthy work-life balance by giving herself grace and never missing out on important moments with her husband and son. “We only have one son. It’s our one opportunity, so I take milestones very seriously and make it a priority to be there for those moments,” Whaling said.

“NSWCDD has provided me the flexibility to balance my priorities and to be there for not only my son but my entire family.” Whaling inspires her staff, especially the younger women, to maintain a healthy work-life balance that she was able to find during her career at NSWCDD.

She said at the time she was encouraged to apply for her current position, her son was about four years old. “I told my to-be department head, ‘I have a little guy at home,’” Whaling recalled. “He was very family oriented and understood.”

Whaling uses that same mindset when leading her team. She has 17 employees in her group and many are young mothers. “I understand 100% because I have been there and have done that,” Whaling said. “I think you can have it all. You can have a career and a family and take care of yourself all at the same time. It just takes some creativity.”