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Home : Media : News
NEWS | April 11, 2024

As a deaf employee, Shop 51 work lead Brandon Salley understands the importance of good communication

By Ben Hutto, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Before becoming the new work lead for Shop 51, Electricians, Brandon Salley spent the previous eight years perfecting his skills as an electrician at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, while also helping the men and women working around him perfect theirs.

As work lead, Salley must maintain constant communication with his fellow electricians as they work on the electrical circuit breakers that fill the shop's production line. But as a member of the Deaf community, the way Salley communicates is also unique.

“He enjoys helping people,” said Derek Keeling, Shop 51 supervisor. “He’s great at his job because he’s such a detailed-oriented person with lots of knowledge. The people he works with respect that, but he’s also very well liked.”

After being encouraged to apply for the position by his supervisor, Salley finally applied two years ago. But navigating the hiring process proved difficult. He didn’t even get to interview. Rather than give up, however, Salley redoubled his efforts and applied with an updated résumé.

“I really kicked butt in the interview,” Salley said. “I surprised everyone, including myself.”

With an interpreter there to help him communicate his answers during interview, Salley performed exceptionally well, answering each question posed to him with a confidence that reflected his abilities.

Keeling said Salley is one of the most qualified and knowledgeable people in the entire breaker depot and that knowledge is showcased every day as he interacts with his fellow electricians.

“He’s exceptional at updating processes and finding things others miss,” Keeling said. “I think he does a great job of explaining things so people aren’t confused and can understand what he’s trying to show them.”

To assist Salley, one of the shipyard's American Sign Language interpreters is assigned to work with him each day. Initially the process of communicating through sign language had its challenges, Salley said.

“The first week, it felt like [the employees] were uncomfortable approaching me,” he recalled. “I had to be actively involved to make them more comfortable. Now I don’t see any problems at all. They got used to it and now we go to one another all the time.”

The recent hiring of a third full-time ASL interpreter was key to helping Shop 51 incorporate Salley as work lead, while also helping ensure that the electrical circuit breakers Shop 51 produces are safe and functional.

“We are the last line of defense when these breakers come off the production line,” said Salley. “I can say that if it wasn’t for the interpreters, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a work lead.”

Salley has a lot of responsibilities. In addition to inspecting breakers for deficiencies, Salley has also been working to streamline the processes in his shop and works with Moonshine innovations lab to help find innovative ways to improve efficiency and precision.

“I’m very busy, but I’m happy where I am,” he said.” I like working with my hands, helping and interacting with other mechanics. Sometimes it takes people pulling you out of your comfort zone to improve yourself. This position has taught me to have faith in my knowledge, skills and abilities. “

Armed with his knowledge, his team, his interpreters and his tenacity to find the mistakes most people miss, Salley continues to lead his team.

“We are always learning and improving,” he said. “It’s the only way to grow.”