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Jennifer Young, Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons assistant program executive officer (Engineering) (right), talks with Logistics Management Specialist Faith Wallace and Electronics Engineer Anthony Boone about work-life balance.

NAVAIR's leaders mentor, make investments in workforce

 “Take every opportunity to improve your skills and develop strategic relationships,” Industrial and Logistics Maintenance Planning Sustainment Department (AIR 6.7) Director Tracy Burruss said during a speed mentoring event sponsored by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Diversity Advisory Team Nov. 14.

“You don’t do anything alone in this business,” she said. “Mentors are part of your success and enhance your ability to provide better support to the fleet.”

Mentoring is a core component of NAVAIR’s workforce development efforts. Established in 2007, the command’s Mentoring Program provides employees guidance on career paths and a framework to learn from others’ experiences. One way it accomplishes this is through speed mentoring, a forum for employees to engage in a series of short conversations with several mentors on topics of their choice. Twelve members of the senior executive service and NAVAIR leadership volunteered for the two-hour, AAPI-sponsored event, focusing on work-life balance, business acumen, networking and education.

“Many junior employees don’t have a seasoned employee to help them grow and give them guidance because they don’t know where to start,” speed mentoring event organizer Ann Buckler said.  “Everything in an employee’s life—personal and professional—is based on relationships. Building key relationships enables your success.”

“Professional development events like these help employees better identify their professional goals and renew their focus on their career choices,” event organizer and participant Joseph Pham said.

Employees can also use iMentor, an online tool, to find a mentor. Many, however, are apprehensive about reaching out and engaging with senior leadership. AAPI hosted this event to make it easier, according to Pham.

Engineer and one-month employee Gustavo Morales Burbano is more certain about his career goals after receiving first-hand advice from several mentors during the event. “They gave me a different perspective on what I should do to advance my career,” he explained. “That includes expanding my reach, finding mentors both inside and outside of my organization and preparing myself for each experience.”

Speed mentoring benefits senior leadership as well—not only is it an opportunity for mentors to encourage junior employees face to face, but it is a chance to influence the future of the command. Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs (PEO(T)) Deputy PEO Sean Burke said that while the event’s participants are some of the newest members on their team, he urged them to critically think about how they could become more effective and efficient. “I let them know that they have the power to do things better,” he said. “I explained to them that the most important question they could ask is: ‘Why are we doing this this way?’”

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 Chief Test Engineer Christian Rice gave similar advice. “I asked them to share their ideas and let them know and understand that they are the future,” he said. “They need to ‘lean forward’ to help Naval Aviation accelerate.”

He also encouraged them to apply what they’ve learned outside of NAVAIR to their current jobs. “We have employees with a range of different experiences that can be leveraged to improve how we approach our business,” Rice said. “For example, I met one person who taught for 17 years. I advised her not to forget she was a teacher and to use those experiences in her new position here.”

The engagement of NAVAIR leadership reflects how much it values the professional development of the workforce, Buckler noted. “They are taking time and resources to grow future leaders,” she said. “That investment is invaluable.”

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Tre’ M Johnsen, Program Management (Acquisition) assistant program executive officer (Engineering) (left), advises speed mentoring event participants Gustavo Morales Burbano and Engineer Edgar Martinez on pursuing professional development opportunities at NAVAIR.

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Electronics Engineer Jennifer Pham listens to Deputy Commander for Fleet Readiness Centers and Director of Industrial Operations for Logistics and Industrial Operations Martin Ahmad speak on the importance of business acumen and NAVAIR career opportunities.

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