DAHLGREN, Va. – How can I positively affect black employment at Dahlgren?”
“It’s one of two questions I constantly ask myself,” said Michael Hobson, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Special Emphasis Program manager, as he spoke to seasoned mentors and their protégés gathered at NSWCDD's sixth Flash Mentoring event, June 7.
The engineer’s second question: "What issues prevent my demographic from obtaining employment or advancing in their employment?”
Hobson and the Black Employment Special Emphasis Program sponsored the colloquium held at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus to foster collaboration, communication and mentoring opportunities for Dahlgren's future leaders.
Two years ago, NSWCDD engineer Gaurang Dävé had similar questions. He was looking for a way to boost the careers of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Navy civilian professionals and increase their representation in "high grade" government positions.
Dävé – the command’s AAPI Special Emphasis Program manager at the time – didn't have to look far. He heard about "flash mentoring" success stories and quickly made the connection.
This year, Hobson made the identical connection to enhance an environment that assists, promotes, and invigorates the careers of the command’s African American personnel.
Consequently, the event’s discussion topics supported the objectives of NSWCDD’s Black Employment Special Emphasis Program and the NSWCDD Mentoring Program.
"Mentoring is a necessary process for employee development and growth," said Hobson. "Many of our newer employees are eager to define their career paths and to advance beyond the current stages of their respective careers.”
NSWCDD officials believe the dialogues will significantly impact mentees throughout their careers as they advance and engage in the process of mentoring to achieve mutually defined goals.
“The flash mentoring event introduced employees to quality mentors and gave them the opportunity to interact with all levels of leadership," said Hobson, regarding the discussions between employees and command leaders that focused on employee development.
"I'm proud to work in a place that has so many leaders interested in mentoring its workforce," said Lorna Tebrich, NSWCDD Mentoring Program coordinator. "The flash mentoring events are incredible opportunities for employees to meet others outside of their organization and have quality face-time with senior leaders across the command. Attendees are encouraged to bring questions and challenges specific to their career goals and receive advice directly from a mentor who may have experienced those same challenges."
In small groups, employees discussed their challenges with mentors. In turn, the mentors - including NSWCDD department heads, division heads, and program managers - shared their perspectives and experiences, providing guidance to mentees on how to overcome challenges and advance in their careers.
“This was an excellent opportunity to introduce employees to another level of leadership,” said Tebrich. “We focused on providing a roster of mentors that is more representative of the career paths here at Dahlgren – line and technical. Mentoring event discussions often skew toward line management, but there is a whole host of people at Dahlgren who want to be senior technical leads or program managers. It's important to us that they're introduced to mentors who can provide guidance and advice on those goals.”
In all, 66 employees - mentors and mentees - engaged in roles that included task lead, group lead, branch head, project manager and program manager. Mentors guided conversations on three topics: increasing success in your current position, development opportunities, and advancing in your career.
Moreover, the mentees networked with other employees in similar roles to learn about best practices and success stories. They engaged each other in conversations about challenges and development opportunities within and outside of their positions.
"Our mentoring strategy is to provide a number of events and activities to introduce people to potential mentors and educate them about the benefits of establishing thoughtful mentoring partnerships," said Tebrich after the sessions. "Mentoring is such a critical piece of career development. Mentors can be guides, career counselors, and sounding boards. They can be ears and eyes for new opportunities. They can be wingmen by introducing you to the right people. There's no need to go it alone when there are so many leaders on base willing to support an employee’s career journey."