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NEWS | Oct. 30, 2023

NSWC PCD chief engineer shines as STAR Award recipient

By Jeremy Roman, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) annually recognizes its SHPE Technical Achievement and Recognition (STAR) Award recipients during their national convention.

This year, Ivan Pereira, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) chief engineer (CHENG), will be among the recipients highlighted and his initial winning notification came as a surprise to him in more ways than one.

“The first email asked all the award winners to let [SHPE] know how to spell their names for the award plaque that we will receive. I originally thought it was spam, but eventually discovered it was a valid email after I went to their website and saw my picture there [among the award winners],” said Pereira. “After the initial feelings sank in, I was honored that the command had put me in for the award.”

This STAR award honors outstanding professionals, students and organizations for their dedication, commitment and selfless efforts to advance Hispanics in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. As the Navy Lab’s CHENG, Pereira is responsible for ensuring that technical rigor is practiced throughout the organization.

“I lead the CHENG Council [competency leads and department chief engineers] to ensure we develop the correct policies, processes, job aids and help to bring the necessary tools and training to the workforce, so that our engineers and scientists can maximize their productivity on our projects. This also involves delivering quality products and services every single time we produce a product or provide a service,” he said. “I enjoy the challenging work we [do here] to deliver capability to the fleet.”

During his 22 years at NSWC PCD, Pereira has served in several roles and several factors have helped him get to where he is today. The first being the past professional experiences that have helped him to excel for the warfighter.

“A career highlight of mine was having the opportunity to serve on a one-year long-term temporary duty assignment supporting the Mine Warfare Program Office (PMS 495) technical director. Another major part of my career was working as part of the Surface Mine Countermeasures In-Service Engineering Agent on several systems as a software developer which also included foreign military work. Delivering new capability to the fleet and then seeing them use it to accomplish their mission is very rewarding,” he said. “In subsequent roles on the division, department, and now command staff level, I have enjoyed learning about the different work that happens daily around the command and being able to cross pollinate ideas throughout the entire organization to implement best practices across the command.”

Another contributing factor has been his upbringing.

“I was born and raised in Miami, Fla. My mom is originally from Cuba and my dad is originally from Spain. They both came to the U.S. as young adults to look for opportunities and they worked very hard to provide for my brother and me, to the point that it allowed me to be the first generation to graduate from college in my family,” Pereira said. “I earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering (with Honors) from the University of Florida, and [my] M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School as part of the first cohort from NSWC PCD to go through a Distance Learning Systems Engineering program.”

As his expertise grew, Pereira understood that best way to make the biggest impact is to share what he has learned by developing his leadership style.

“I have always thought that good leaders need to be good followers first so they can understand who and what they are leading. They need to trust their team members so the team can maximize their energy in being successful,” he said. “Leaders also need to identify their own strengths and weaknesses in order to share their strengths, and continuously work on improving their weaknesses.”

Pereira also discovered how important trying assignments outside of one’s comfort zone can be to gain diverse perspectives and valuable breadth of experience.

“Working on different projects and taking those chances or opportunities allow you to grow professionally because you are exposed to different ways of doing things and can pick and choose the best practices for future assignments. [These sentiments] have helped me since I have always tried to learn as a follower and institute best practices, so I can not only prepare myself for future opportunities, but also help the team I was currently working on,” he said. “You need to have prepared yourself as much as possible for future positions…and you can’t skip steps in the process. If you skip steps or get to the destination too quickly, that will show and you will be less successful than if you gathered more experience.”

There is one final key to success that has helped Pereira excel for the warfighter.

“The people make the difference. We have such a dedicated workforce here that is focused on the mission and at times makes significant personal sacrifices to ensure the fleet gets the latest and greatest we can provide them to do their job,” he said.

The SPHE National Convention and STAR Awards presentation will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 1 - 5, 2023.

“For those that work with me directly, [this award] will hopefully confirm that I am a consensus builder and I am always looking for different opinions on the different topics before rolling them out at large. On all the teams that I have ever worked on, I have valued the team’s thoughts and having such great teams has allowed me to move up in the organization,” he said. “I was surprised to have been nominated for this award and probably even more surprised that I was selected. I believe that it shows that our workforce is recognized for their successes, but throughout my career I have been surrounded by not only excellent teams, but excellent people that are a big part of this award.”