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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2021

The Shadow Knows: NNSY’s Radiological Controls Mentoring Program

By Troy Miller, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

There is a misconception that surveys can be just a check in the box and that little results from them, including the annual Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) Organization Climate Survey (DEOCS). This survey assesses 19 factors that can impact an organization’s climate and ability to successfully achieve its mission based on feedback from civilian employees and military members.

One of the departments that has taken DEOCS feedback to heart is Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Radiological Controls Department (Code 105). “From the DEOCS, as management we recognized that our employees are interested in their development and looking for opportunities available to them that they may not be aware of,” said Radiological Controls Deputy Director Support Operations and Shadow Program Coordinator Chessie Bray. “The end result is we instituted the shadowing program for Code 105 personnel which gives our people a chance to be personally mentored by our department head, division heads and managers.”

Approximately once a quarter, Code 105 personnel can volunteer to a shadow senior leadership for a day. The shadow can choose their own mentor or one can be assigned to them. For one day, the shadow spends the day with a mentor to experience what goes on outside their day-to-day work area.

“I take this time as being a mentor to get to know our workforce. Who they are? What do they do on their off time? What are their aspirations? How I can help them to get to where they want to go in their career here at NNSY?” said Radiological Engineering Division Head Scott Cooney. “Getting to know the person helps me better to help them. I’ve been working here at NNSY for 25 years and I want to give the workers where I once was, opportunities I never had.”

Shadowing also shows Code 105 employees the happenings at the leadership level. “We use this opportunity to show how the divisions in Code 105 work with each other, but also how Code 105 works with other departments to complete NNSY’s mission,” said Bray. “We encourage our mentors to take shadows with them on senior management tours, facility walkthroughs, and work area surveillances to see what we do outside our department.  There’s also some time spent discussing the shadow’s personal development.”

Participants are encouraged to continue the mentoring opportunities over a long period of time, or even participate more than once with different mentors.

“I shadowed Scott Cooney and Radiological Controls Director Gary Sauers,” said Health Physicist and two-time shadow Jeanette Walden. “Their leadership styles are completely different, giving me a chance to improve my leadership skills by talking, watching and incorporating their leadership styles into my existing style.”

NNSY’s Strategic Framework has four pillars, one of which is People Development. It is being looked into how to open the shadow program to all shipyard employees where they can shadow leadership both in and out of their department, giving an opportunity to see and learn other aspects of the shipyard.

If you are interested in becoming a shadow with Code 105’s leadership, contact Chessie Bray at 396-7683 or email at For other departments, contact your supervisor or the person you wish to shadow to setup arrangements.