DAHLGREN, Va. –
“So You Want To Be An SES?” That was the title of the first session of the 2023 Senior Executive Service (SES) Leadership Series, Jan. 12.
Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Technical Director Dale Sisson, Jr., SES, held an hour-long virtual session, including a Q&A period, with more than 350 NSWCDD employees, informing them of the steps he took to earn his leadership position.
Sisson said that to reach SES status, one should operate as an executive long before they’re selected.
“We have to have accomplishments in our careers that show we are capable of leading bigger and broader things,” Sisson said.
Sisson achieved many accomplishments prior to his appointment as NSWCDD technical director in November 2021.
He has been a member of the SES since June 2018, with much of his career at Dahlgren.
In his current position, Sisson is the senior civilian leader for the NSWCDD workforce of more than 4,900 government employees.
He’s responsible for the execution of NSWCDD’s $2.0 billion portfolio of research, development, test and evaluation, including complex naval combat, sensor, weapon and strategic systems engineering, analysis, integration and certification.
Sisson said that building a toolbox of skills and being prepared to use them is imperative in advancing one's career.
He also stressed that spending time with those in leadership positions, clearly stating goals and developing a leadership style will go a long way.
Additionally, Sisson devotes his time to mentor employees weekly. “What I tell folks in mentoring sessions all the time is ‘I’ll tell you whatever you want to know,’” Sisson said. “I’m a total open book, probably way more so than what most people want from me. I’m glad to share the entire story.”
In addition to developing the leadership skills needed, Sisson said a well-rounded life outside of work is one of the keys to achieving SES status. He works with a personal trainer twice a week to stay in shape physically and said his faith allows him to keep an even-keel spiritually and mentally.
“To be at an optimal performance level, we have to take care of ourselves,” Sisson said. “Go find things that are really fun for you and invest time in it.”
From spending hours at the racetrack and coaching his children in youth sports, Sisson said the ability to “compartmentalize” his life and remain focused at work is essential.
The King George County native has also served his community civically. He was a member of the King George Board of Supervisors for 12 years, spanning three terms, and served on numerous regional boards.
He is a founding and current member of the King George Family YMCA Board of Directors, Chairman of the Rappahannock Area YMCA Board of Directors and a Sunday school teacher at his church.