In the age of finding a “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) leaders have risen to the challenge—including new Comptroller (Code 600), Susan Wood.
Wood began her career as a GS-3 clerk in U.S. Fleet Forces Command’s Travel Department; between then and now, she has worn many hats. From ship maintenance to Navy reserves, her extensive career experience in different budget positions made her versatile and has prepared her well for her future at the shipyard. She began her NNSY career in 2012, and eventually moved from the Executive Support Department (Code 1100) to the Comptroller Department (Code 600) in 2016.
The Comptroller Department ensures that the shipyard executes all of its funds in accordance with fiscal laws and provides budgeting allocation, execution, oversight, and internal control of funds. Code 600 members work closely with NNSY’s Business and Strategic Planning Department (Code 1200) on the execution of direct work and manpower. “Part of our job is to approve purchases,” Wood said, “or point the team to other ways to make the purchase legally.”
Being the new head comptroller might be daunting, but after serving as Deputy Comptroller for several years, Wood is excited for the challenges ahead. “In the Comptroller Department, it is rare that we have a typical day outside of regularly scheduled meetings,” she explained.
For instance, one of Wood’s initiatives is to educate the workforce on travel and payroll. “We are constantly educating and reeducating our workforce on the rules of fiscal law, travel and payroll due to ‘the telephone game’ of misinformation being passed around between coworkers,” she said. “Regarding payroll, it can be frustrating for people when their money is being affected and they do not know what to do to fix the problem. That can negatively affect an employee’s morale.”
As her department’s number one ongoing battle, better communication with the workforce will be another top initiative to ensure people are receiving verified information. “The comptroller team is continually trying new things to get information to the appropriate levels with regards to fiscal law,” Wood explained. “For instance, ‘can we purchase coins or stickers as awards?’ or ‘can we limit employees movements while on TDY or during non-working hours?’ are just a few of the questions we try to answer as we find ways to purchase or accomplish the shipyard mission within the parameters of law and Financial Improvement Audit Readiness (FIAR).”
Moreover, the pandemic has also bought on a new onslaught of questions to answer. “The rules that are changing of recently are directly related to COVID-19,” Wood explained. “We have received fiscal law questions that have never been addressed before because we have never had a pandemic in any of our workforce careers. Thus, we are trying to make financial decisions within the parameters of fiscal law that we know or through collaboration with the legal office.”
Despite the list of challenges she has to face in her new position, Wood hopes to overcome them, and go above and beyond by bringing more shipyard-wide awareness to her department. “We are a very small code and a lot of people here are not familiar with us or what we do—my goal is to get our department more exposure, so employees will know when to come to us for help and how we can help them,” she explained.
Being the new head comptroller is also an opportunity for Wood to demonstrate the C.O.R.E. value of Care. “There is nothing greater than human interaction when it comes to meeting my goal—to always help people in any way that I can,” said Wood.
Wood made it clear that she was grateful for the help she has received from her shipyard mentors in her development as a leader. “I've had many mentors across my career, but I will have to say that my predecessor, Jim DeAngelis, was one of the main mentors I've had in the shipyard,” she recounted.
Now in a position of leadership herself, Wood plans to carry what her mentor taught her into her role as a leader. “The biggest thing any of my mentors taught me was that as a supervisor, it is important to listen to your employees and see where they are coming from,” she said. “It's so easy to be consumed and just sit behind your desk. I honestly find that I am mentored by every person I speak with.”