Dr. Abel Vargas, a mechanical engineer in Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division’s Maritime Systems Hydromechanics Branch, received the John C. Mickey Award for Collaboration on July 6 as part of the 2021 Warfare Centers Awards for his work with the Hispanic Heritage Observance Committee (HHOC).
Twelve individuals from varying Warfare Centers in total received this award, with Vargas being the lone Carderock employee.
The John C. Mickey Award for Collaboration is one of the six different categories of awards presented on a yearly basis since the Warfare Centers Awards were originated in 2005. The other categories consist of information security, innovation, knowledge sharing, talent management and technical support services.
Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is celebrated in the United States every year from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. In previous years, each Warfare Center celebrated HHM by hosting individual observance events. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HHOC as a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) decided to make a change — to conduct the first ever Enterprise-wide Hispanic Heritage Observance Microsoft (MS) Teams Live Event.
Branded onto the event with the theme of Honoring our Past, Securing the Future, was the slogan, “I am Hispanic, I am NAVSEA.” This consisted of short videos — roughly 15 seconds in duration — where an employee would introduce themselves, state their title and what they do at their respective Warfare Center.
Per the 2021 Warfare Centers Awards form, this award was given for “substantial contributions in the planning and execution of the first ever Enterprise-wide Hispanic Heritage Observation event, conducted virtually using Microsoft Teams, with over 1,500 employees participating. With members from Keyport, Newport, Carderock, Corona, Dahlgren and Port Hueneme Divisions and NAVSEA, the Committee's passion and pride was exemplified in your ‘I am Hispanic, I am NAVSEA’ campaign slogan.”
The event was led and put together by Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), Division Keyport’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Hispanic Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPM) from across the Warfare Centers, along with the Headquarters (HQ) SEPM, in fewer than three months. “It was mid-July 2020 when Norma Domingo, financial management analyst, NUWC Division Keyport, contacted all the SEPMs at the Warfare Centers proposing we put together a virtual event,” Vargas said. “We had a timeline of fewer than three months since the presentation had to be ready by September.”
Each of the 12 Warfare Center members involved played a different role, with Vargas collaborating with Domingo to draft the script and assisting with the video campaign.
“Since we were dispersed all over the country, the way we were able to pull this off was by having biweekly meetings and collaborating via MS Teams between the six Warfare Centers,” Vargas said. “For ‘I am Hispanic, I am NAVSEA,’ we had to collect videos from willing members at each Warfare Center who wanted to participate. I had to ensure the videos coming from Carderock were submitted on time to meet our deadline for the final editing. Despite the challenges and tight deadline, the group was able to come together and put together a successful event.”
In her award nomination package, Domingo mentioned the challenges the team faced during the tight timeframe, noting the importance of collaboration.
“This team came together during a time of disruptive changes in work environments to collaborate and innovate,” she said. “Due to this large-scale geographically dispersed team, collaboration was key. The team had to adjust to the differences in requirements, planning and policy each team member brought to the table. The team’s ability to synergize allowed them to come together, extract the best business practices from each organization and apply them coherently to plan and implement a successful event.”
However, there were startling realizations made by Vargas in the process.
“This process made me realize that Carderock doesn’t have a cohesive and active Hispanic group,” he said. “It made me want to create a group where we can meet to discuss work related topics and socialize outside of working hours. Employees of Hispanic backgrounds and other interested employees would be able to exchange ideas and promote the professional development of all members. We could share experiences and perhaps serve as a support group and springboard for new Hispanic employees in order for them to get oriented to the Carderock environment. The sharing of experiences within the realm of career development could help young employees with their professional development.”
Vargas specified the goal would be to increase retention and help promote their success at Carderock.
“Another aspect of the group would focus on the recruitment of Hispanic engineers and scientists,” he said. “This is something I am currently working on, and I know it will help make Carderock a more desirable work place for present and future employees.