Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division, PA –
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) Women's Employee Resource Group (WERG) sponsored a virtual Branch Head Discussion Panel over lunch, on June 2, 2021.
The discussion panel was the latest in a series of virtual events hosted by the WERG to build community and provide opportunities for professional growth of all NSWCPD employees by advocating diversity, inclusion, empowerment, mentorship, and sponsorship.
“In fiscal year 2021, WERG has been focused on expanding and diversifying the pool of applicants, and thereby the selectees, for management positions by looking to lower the application barriers. We began with bringing more transparency to the application process with the ‘Demystifying the Internal Promotion and Detail Selection Process Info Session,’” said Allyson Jones-Zaroff, NSWCPD WERG chair and branch manager of Solid Waste and HAZMAT In-Service Engineering when asked how this panel and discussion came to fruition.
“Next, we wanted to address a reluctance for some of the workforce to consider a position in management due to a lack of information regarding the responsibilities and duties of a branch head. In mentoring sessions, I was getting a lot of questions about what it is like to be a branch head and thought it would be a good topic for a discussion panel,” Jones-Zaroff added.
WERG assembled a diverse cross-section of branch heads from across the command, including:
• Kayla Hudak - Managerial Accounting Branch
• Mark Phillip - Technical Liaison Oversight Branch
• Nang Tran - Logistics Data Management Branch
• Domenic Luciani - Combat Support Systems Branch
• Monica Schrank - Shafting, Surface Ship Propellers & Waterjets Branch
• Rob Goglia - Ship Controls: Amphibious Ships Branch
• Colleen McKillips - Shipboard Instrumentation & System Calibration (SISCAL) Branch
With 150+ attendees tuned in, the session was a fun and informal discussion about what it is like to be a NSWCPD branch head. Panel members answered questions about why they came to be a branch head, their transitions from working level to management, the toughest and most rewarding parts of their jobs, and what one piece of advice they would give to someone considering this career path, among others.
“I wanted to have an impact on the day-to-day quality of work-life at my branch. I was on a technical track for over 30 years and didn’t become a manager until my fifties. As a manager, you can have a direct influence over the quality of life for your people. I wanted to have a seat-at-the-table to influence management decisions,” Tran said, reflecting on why he decided to become a branch head.
Panel members agreed that the transition from working level to branch head wasn’t the easiest, with several citing the new challenge of managing people – from having to trust employees to do the job to now supervising colleagues who had been close friends.
“The transition consisted of diverting from a focus of the physical product to focusing on people. The challenge here is that you are still responsible for the technical commitments of the branch, but you are no longer the person going into the lab, reading through tech manuals, troubleshooting, etc.,” said Goglia. “As a branch head, my responsibility is to ensure that the programs and platforms the branch supports are researched properly with not only the correct amount of FTE’s (full-time equivalents), but also the appropriate programmatic and administrative competencies to ensure the on-time deliveries.”
When asked about the positive aspects of the job, Luciani replied, “Everyone on this call knows how exciting and rewarding this job is. You are on a ship and you solve a problem that’s been long-standing, causing big troubles for a lot of people. You can’t beat that feeling when you do that. When you are managing people, they may struggle and have troubles, but then they get to feel that success. It’s a reward that you can’t capture.”
Panelists also offered a plethora of advice to the would-be branch managers:
McKillips: “Do your homework, be sure that subject is a good fit. Stay organized!”
Tran: “Expand your network within the organization and the command. Learn the facts!”
Luciani: “Bring your best to the team. Be a team-worker!”
Schrank: “Define motivations. Empower your people!”
Hudak: “Talk to other leads. Conduct a self-assessment!”
Up next for the WERG is working with NSWCPD’s African American ERG to develop resume and interview workshops to further prepare applicants for the selection process. WERG is also planning a similar panel with high grades from across the command to continue to discuss the career paths available at NSWCPD, according to Jones-Zaroff.