The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Director of Navy Staff Steffanie Easter led a discussion about her career with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) employees during the Command’s annual Nation African American/Black History Heritage Month event on Feb. 7.
Easter actively engaged in conversations with the audience, and used individual employee challenges and experiences to drive home her points. Easter said she wanted to, “share some of my personal experiences” and have employees impart their own so that “we can learn together.”
During her 30-year career as a government civilian, Easter worked her way up from a GS-5 employee to a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). Easter has filled many roles, from Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology to Executive Director for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office to Assistant Commander for Acquisition for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
Easter began her speech by asking the listeners to raise their hands if they had a dream job. The gesture prompted almost every audience member to raise his or her hand. She then asked the flock to raise their hands if they would step into their dream job today if they could. This time less than half of the audience raised their hands. By talking to the employees she discovered that most people don’t feel prepared to take the next step in their careers.
With decades of federal service under her belt, Easter knows a thing or two about moving up in the civilian engineering world.
She merged this knowledge into her five “P’s of success, with the first “P” being ‘preparation.’ Easter believes that being prepared to step into the next stage in one’s career is one of the most important things that employees can do. By earning another degree, taking online training, or simply being the best at the job as the employee can be, these are ways that employees show their value to the organization.
“Take time for excellence,” Easter said. “Preparation is about being the best at what you do today.”
The second “P” is ‘positioning’, which to Easter means getting out of one’s comfort zone. She recommends employees apply for jobs that they wouldn’t normally consider in their career path. The new, different job might be a better fit.
“Put yourself in a place that is uncomfortable enough that you have to work at it,” Easter advised.
According to Easter, the most important attribute you can have in the workplace is a ‘positive attitude’, which is her third “P” of success. She shared her personal experience how applying a positive attitude to a bad situation created the opportunity to advance her career.
“My attitude got me opportunities I may have missed out on, no matter how prepared I was or how I had positioned myself,” Easter explained.
Her two final “P’s are ‘patience’ and ‘pay it forward’.
‘Patience’ comes from focusing on one’s own career, instead of the careers of one’s peers. If it seems like others are progressing faster, just apply the first three “P’s and be patient: “Your day will come,” Easter encouraged.
‘Pay it forward’ is important to keep the Navy growing, through mentoring junior employees and assisting coworkers, she added.
“I stand here on the shoulders of every mentor who helped me get here today,” Easter said.
After the event concluded, employees joined Easter for a NSWCPD African American Employee Resource Group (AAERG)-sponsored luncheon, where the participants had the opportunity to engage the guest speaker one-on-one.