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NEWS | June 25, 2024

Move to shipyard has paid dividends for deputy carrier program manager

By PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Thirty-five years ago, Denise Harrington was a 19-year-old United Parcel Service worker, who was reluctant to join her family members working at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility. Today, Harrington serves as deputy carrier program manager for Code 312, Carrier Program.

Growing up as the fourth generation in a family of shipfitters, Harrington did not want to leave her job for an apprenticeship. For her, it meant taking a cut in pay. When she did finally make the leap to the shipyard in 1988, Harrington soon realized how much she would gain in skill and experience working in a professional environment.

Being one of about a dozen women working in the shipfitter shop, Harrington faced challenges and frustrations finding her place in the shop. However, she worked hard to learn the ins and outs of the shops structure and honed her knowledge in ship repair and maintenance. Her perseverance soon paid off and she developed a reputation as a dependable worker.

Despite the talent and skill she was known for, Harrington said her work ethic wasn’t always the first thing that was brought up when she was introduced to new crew’s on the waterfront. It was disclosed, without her permission or knowledge, that Harrington was member of the LGBTQ+ community; a fact that began to overshadow her work accomplishments.

The focus on her identity created uncomfortable interactions with others, at times, but that began to change when she met her first mentor and ally, Chuck Larsen, who, at the time, was the general foreman II of Shop 11.

“He took me under his wing and helped me develop my confidence,” Harrington explained. “He gave me the chance to grow and expand my career. Whether or not he knew he was actively doing it, he was helping change how others treated me by trusting my ability to do my job correctly without my lifestyle being involved.”

With those opportunities, Harrington’s career has flourished.

She has steadily rose through the ranks at PSNS & IMF. Serving in position such as project material manager, ship safety officer, assistant project manager, the project manager of Code 360 and her current position as a deputy carrier program manager, Harrington has continually demonstrated that her competency and talent are her defining characteristics here at the command. This was further cemented earlier in her career when she was awarded the 2003 Seattle Women in Trades Supervisor of the Year.

As her career progressed, Harrington said she had consistent support from leaders and sponsors who have advocated for her and supported opportunities to expand her Leadership responsibilities.

Harrington’s professional progress has also coincided with PSNS & IMF’s continued efforts to create a professional work place where everyone feels safe and supported. A huge part of how the command is reaching that goal is through PSNS & IMF’s Employee Resource Groups, specifically, the PRIDE ERG.

The group, which meets every second Tuesday during lunch, has seen a steady increase in attendance over the past few years, illustrating one of the many important changes the LGBTQ+ community has seen through the advocacy and allyship of co-workers, leaders and ERG members.

At the most recent PRIDE ERG meeting around 40 people attended to show their support for PRIDE month and listen as members shared their experiences with the group. For Harrington, it is a huge improvement over two decades ago when just a handful of employees met after-hours outside of the shipyard to avoid conflict.

“Support has grown since I’ve been here,” she explained. “I don’t know one leader now that doesn’t support us and what we are doing. That’s encouraging.”

As Harrington and the PRIDE ERG move forward, they remain focused on forging a workplace where all employees feel free to show up to work, without fear of harassment or discrimination, and to be their authentic selves

“I work with an amazing team of people that are creating a path forward for others to follow,” she said. “We’ve had support. …It has gotten better. There is more awareness now, but there is still more to do.”

To learn how you can become an ally or advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, email