At first, the goal was simple; spend one year on rotation through NavalX at The Garden in Alexandria, Virginia, learn some new skills, and take them back to the Welding Processing and Nondestructive Evaluation Branch at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.
The way Ashlee Floyd saw it, working with NavalX was the chance of a lifetime. She has spent all of her career at Carderock, and while her success with the command has been plentiful, Floyd knew she was in need of a challenge. So, at the recommendation of Lauren Hanyok from Carderock’s Additive Manufacturing Branch, she started her rotation with NavalX on Oct. 1, 2019, as the Events, Workshops and Trainings Coordinator for the organization.
“The job wasn’t really well-defined because the group was so new,” Floyd said. “When I got here, one of the things they did was ask, ‘What are you good at? What are some of your passions? Let’s find a place that fits you.’”
What fit her was the ability to engage with the Navy’s Science and Technology (S&T) community to host collaborative events, aligning her with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy’s Research, Development and Acquisition program’s mission to inform and connect the workforce with industry and academia. One of Floyd’s biggest goals early in her assignment was to simply give multiple organizations an outlet to network with one another. The location and accessibility of The Garden certainly helped her set up these events and, until March, NavalX hosted a monthly gathering of industry, academia and government professionals to discuss all things S&T related, as well as topics of interest to the Navy. February’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) event that featured then-Carderock commander Capt. Cedrick McNeal was organized by Floyd. In less than six months on the job, she was exceeding her expectations while assisting the Capital Tech Bridge and NavalX in their mission to connect the region.
Once Coronavirus swept the nation, though, Floyd and her counterparts were forced to adjust their plans of execution.
“That first week was hard because we were having all of our stuff in person, and now we have to rebrand and go fully online,” she said. “Through NavalX, we were able to pivot very quickly.”
A couple weeks after their initial shutdown, the tools Floyd needed to get her job done started rolling in. She had already put together a handful of broadcasted events in the previous months, such as February’s D&I event, so transitioning from occasional events to 100 percent of the time virtually was yet another challenge. One of the major benefits she has noticed since making the switch was the increase in their participation numbers due to the convenience of accessibility.
“We went from having anywhere between 30-60 people in person to a couple hundred people virtually, to now we’re having webinars that have 800-900 viewing live,” Floyd said.
Being in this environment also opened her eyes to the bigger Navy picture. Having spent her entire professional career to that point at Carderock and under the Platform Integrity Department, Floyd said that she was subsequently confined to the bubble and the command. Although she developed a great understanding of the Platform Integrity Department’s role in the Navy’s operations, there was more to discover. Her day-to-day work with NavalX relies on a different set of timelines, relationships and budgets that she was previously unfamiliar with. It also helped her better identify and close the gaps of understanding between the work of Navy civilians and the needs of the Sailors and Marines. Regardless of what learning curve there might have been, Floyd was determined to grasp the process.
“I got into this role to see three things: What I could get out of it personally for my career, what I could get out of it to bring back to Carderock, and how I could help the Navy as a whole,” she said.
Rotations like this are typically one year long, but Floyd was able to extend her stay for another year. For the next year, she will serve in yet another new role, learning more of the financial operations of the Navy such as contracting and budgeting. Instead of working in one group, she will be engaging with multiple groups to strategize how future trainings and events can be accomplished.
Diversifying her work experience has increased Floyd’s confidence in the potential of her future with the command. With the decade of technical experience on her belt in addition to her recent exposure to managerial and leadership positions, she expects the options available for her next step to be plentiful. And much like Hanyok did for her, Floyd encourages everyone who can to take a chance at a detail in their career.
“Look for the opportunity, ask around, and don’t be afraid of not fitting the qualifications,” she said. “At first, I was told I may not even fit the qualification for NavalX. But I got the job and learned so much, so don’t be afraid to apply and get your name out there.”