Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) hosted its annual Hispanic Heritage Month event featuring Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Propulsion and Power Engineering Director Antonio Miguelez.
Miguelez shared his story of growing up as a first generation American of immigrant parents, highlighted the importance of diversity in the workplace, and issued a personal challenge to the standing-room-only audience of NSWCPD employees.
Miguelez grew up outside of Philadelphia on a small farm in Lower Bucks County. His parents migrated to the U.S. from Spain. Miguelez was the first generation of his family to go to college; he attended Drexel University and earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He first worked as a co-op at the Naval Air Propulsion Center in Trenton, NJ, where his career path took shape.
Miguelez said that after growing up on a farm, he expected to use his engineering degree to make tractors, but the Navy sucked him in.
“Once I started learning about jet engines, I knew that I wanted to stay on that cutting edge,” he said.
Since first taking that co-op position in 1980, Miguelez quickly moved up the ranks of NAVAIR to his current position as the director of Propulsion and Power Engineering. Miguelez was selected to the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 2014 following a three-year rotation at the Pentagon.
Miguelez describes his current position as the job of his dreams --a job that he has spent his entire career preparing for.
“You need to be ready; you can’t prepare for the job you want over the weekend. I’ve been preparing for 15 years. Have a plan and be ready so that when the time comes you won’t be sitting on the fence,” he advised. “Have mentors and set goals. I didn’t get here by myself.”
Miguelez highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and in the success of an organization.
“Diversity without inclusion can lead to even more problems,” he said. “Just because you can check off the box doesn’t mean that everyone is participating and getting their ideas heard.”
Miguelez believes that hiring managers need to check their unconscious bias and make sure they are hiring talented candidates that are diverse. He also believes that it is up to team leaders to ensure that everyone is included. He asked the managers to make sure that everyone is given a seat at the table, that everyone contributes, and that everyone briefs to get a variety of viewpoints.
“We need to get 100 percent from 100 percent of our folks,” Miguelez emphasized.
NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer Capt. Dana Simon highlighted the history of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. The month kicks off on Sept. 15 to celebrate the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico’s and Chile’s Independence Days also fall into the date range.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the Hispanic people and the nations which are celebrating their independence,” Simon said. “There are currently 59,000 active duty and reserve Sailors of Hispanic origin in our Navy. It really shows the diversity of our Navy that makes it so great.”
Miguelez explained that President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration of Hispanic culture from a week to the current Hispanic Heritage Month because he realized, “the success of the nation is for Hispanics to be part of that solution.”
Miguelez believes the success of the nation also requires that more students get Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused educations. He ended his presentation with a personal challenge for everyone in attendance to mentor a student and shape our future. He encouraged NSWCPD employees to help a student graduate high school, pursue a STEM degree, and then work for the Navy.
“If you have been here for five years or less, you can go to a middle or high school and look like the student’s big brother or sister that they might not have,” Miguelez said. “You can be that student’s career hero.”
After his brief, Miguelez joined attendees for a luncheon featuring a variety of traditional Puerto Rican dishes. During the post event feast, he entertained questions on topics such as mentoring and career advice.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,600 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.