PORT HUENEME, Calif. –
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) team members Jerry Bobo and Davon Johnson are from different generations, but both are California natives who graduated from state universities with degrees in engineering—electrical for Bobo, and mechanical for Johnson.
Both were also the first in their families to graduate from college.
And both men recently were honored by the Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) organization with Outstanding Achievement Awards in the category of Modern-Day Technology Leader.
The BEYA Modern-Day Technology Leader awards are presented on behalf of US Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine and the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The magazine focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers and is dedicated to promoting career opportunities in these areas to people of color.
The awards recognize primarily Black men and women who demonstrate outstanding performance in STEM-related fields, serving as inspirations for future engineers, scientists and innovators.
Both Johnson and Bobo have achieved notable success in their careers, garnering both industry and government awards and recognitions. They also have made consistent efforts to volunteer in their communities and serve as mentors to both PHD employees and future generations of technology leaders.
Bobo is originally from Hanford, California, a modest historic town in the San Joaquin Valley, and graduated from California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo in 1982.
He has spent nearly three decades in national defense, while obtaining a series of professional credentials and mentoring a steady stream of rising engineers.
Currently, he is the technical program manager of the Distance Communication Maintenance System (DCoMS) team at NSWC PHD. He joined the command in October 2003 as the remote sensing laboratory manager, and later served as distance support advocate, career field engineering manager, and Rapid Innovation Fund manager for the development of DCoMS.
While serving as distance support advocate from 2013-2019, Bobo managed and mentored a team of more than a half-dozen engineers and technicians as part of the Command Issue Management Next Gen project.
As engineering career field manager, which he took on in 2019 and continues today, Bobo serves as the command manager for the Naval Acquisition Development Program (NADP) engineering program. He is responsible for more than a dozen entry-level employees, helping to foster leadership, problem solving, team building and the skills necessary to enter the PHD workforce upon graduation from the NADP program.
“Jerry has been a role model for young engineers for many years,” said Coralyn Akers, PHD’s engineering domain competency manager and digital transformation lead.
Akers noted that Bobo has volunteered with the command’s STEM program on many projects in the community, including serving as a middle school science fair judge and mentoring middle school students during NSWC PHD’s Engineering Week.
"Jerry would help them understand engineering principles while having them consider design cost, schedule, logistics in terms of purchasing supplies and maintenance considerations,” Akers said. “He even has some wins under his belt.”
Bobo also assisted in scheduling engineering-oriented training and projects for high school students onboard NSWC PHD and in conjunction with Naval Facilities Engineering Command. He supervised sessions with more than 30 students, introducing engineering concepts and mentoring students as they applied those concepts in interactive projects.
“In his current capacity as the technical program manager of DCoMS, as well as through his advancing career, Mr. Bobo consistently and insightfully helped guide the future of engineering, science and technology in service to his country,” according to the BEYA award nomination submitted by the command’s awards office. “He exemplifies the highest standards of proficiency, performance excellence and mentoring, while initiating and cultivating team innovation.”
A Ventura County, California native, Johnson graduated from California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) and started his engineering career at NSWC PHD under the Naval Acquisition Intern Program. During his time in the program, he worked within the AN/SPQ-9B Radar team, which prepared him to become a journeyman level In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA).
After graduating from the intern program in October 2012, Johnson was hired by PHD and began working in the NATO SeaSparrow Missile System equipment engineering branch. He became the NATO SeaSparrow/Target Acquisition Systems in-service engineering branch manager less than five years after being hired, notably serving as one of the youngest minority engineering managers at the command.
According to the nomination submitted to the BEYA Awards Review Committee, “His career development and impressive results prove the trajectory that knowledge and experience can take across a decade and into the upcoming mid-career years.”
The nomination also stated that Johnson is “a bright example to the workforce of a rising leader.”
While attending Cal State LA, Johnson served as a senator for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). He developed programs to facilitate interview workshops and resumé development, and held weekend math tutoring sessions to enhance the professional development of NSBE members. He organized career fairs by reaching out to companies in the engineering industry and made them aware of the talent available at Cal State LA.
Johnson also served as a mentor within the Hands-On Experience in Rehabilitation Outreach program, where he visited local middle and high schools to guide youth in hands-on experiences in engineering. He instructed students on building water and compressed-air rockets, with the final test of launching the rockets. The students learned the value of engineering processes and were exposed to the resources available to them so that they could further their interest in STEM fields.
“Davon is an impressive problem solver who is always able to address complex issues with strategy and confidence,” said Assem Jishi, who was Johnson’s manager and direct supervisor from 2012-2016. “He is a true team player and always manages to foster positive discussions and bring the best out of other employees. He collaborates with whoever is willing to benefit the fleet, NSWC PHD and his department in support of either the mission or in service to the community.”