DAHLGREN, Va. –
Ask a group of software developers what piqued their interest in computer science and you will get an array of answers. Ask Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Scientist and software developer Brandi Campbell and she will give you a two-word answer: video games.
“Some of the video games I played growing up allowed me to do some scripting to alter the game in some way,” Campbell explained. “It made me realize that, with just a few words or commands, I could make computers do some pretty cool things.”
Though she always had an interest in computers and coding growing up, Campbell originally went to college to study biology. It was in a biology class that she rediscovered her passion for computer science. She recalled a research project which involved building a website. Although easy, foolproof website building programs were allowed, Campbell challenged herself to build her site from scratch. “I was the only person to build a website from the ground up,” she said. “It made me realize just how much satisfaction I got from building useful things with code.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Campbell decided to go back to school to chase the immense satisfaction she received from software development. In 2018, she graduated with a degree in computer science from East Tennessee State University and was ready to hit the ground running in her new field.
After building her skills with a couple of internships, Campbell landed a software developer job at a textile mill in North Carolina. She was a few years into her newfound career when the whole world changed radically. In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and Campbell’s employer laid off a substantial number of employees, including her.
“I was searching for a job in a time where it seemed like every company was laying people off,” said Campbell.
One afternoon, Campbell received an unexpected phone call from a branch head in NSWCDD’s Strategic and Computing Systems Department. She had applied for a job at Dahlgren a year prior and her contact details were still on file. The branch head asked if Campbell was still looking for work and they immediately began discussing employment opportunities at the warfare center.
After several interviews, Campbell packed her bags and traded North Carolina for northern Virginia. Although it was a massive change, Campbell says it was a rewarding one.
“Between the actual work, the teamwork and the people here, I can’t say enough good things about my job here at Dahlgren,” said Campbell. “I feel like my work is making a difference, and I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m serving the warfighter and making tools that help those out there who are putting their lives on the line.”