Trish Gresham runs a panel discussion with Doris Kelly, Frank Graham, Merrie Giles, Collin Kyte and Lily Gonzalez on Aug. 27 at China Lake in honor of Women’s Equality Day. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Kakert)

Trish Gresham runs a panel discussion with Doris Kelly, Frank Graham, Merrie Giles, Collin Kyte and Lily Gonzalez on Aug. 27 at China Lake in honor of Women’s Equality Day. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Kakert)

NAWCWD marks Women's Equality Day

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, the NAVAIR Women’s Initiative Network and the Equal Employment Opportunity Office sponsored the Career Choices panel discussion featuring five NAWCWD business professionals Aug. 27 at China Lake and Aug. 28 at Point Mugu.

Women’s Equality Day is observed each Aug. 26 in honor of the 19th Amendment’s addition to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

The panel featured Doris Kelly, Research and Engineering Competency administrator; Collin Kyte, Contracts director; Merrie Giles, comptroller; Lily Gonzalez, Test and Evaluation competency administrator; and Frank Graham, NAVAIR Ranges head of staff. These five business professionals were asked questions relating to how they got where they were, and gave advice for those looking to move up.

After Jacqui Walters, director of corporate operations and NAWCWD WIN champion, gave her opening remarks at the China Lake event Aug. 27, the first question asked was, “What has helped you get to where you are, and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?” Kyte was the first to answer.

“For me, I’d say it’s having a fearless approach,” Kyte said. “You can have fear and still be fearless in your approach. Don’t be scared of any outcome or the fact you might fail. It’s perfectly acceptable to fail; it’s what you do with Plan B and how you rise from that failure that can get you to the next step.”

Giles was the next to respond.

“I’ve been here for 34 years, and just going through all the different areas across China Lake, and there were areas where I ‘served my time’ and there were areas that really stirred up a passion in me and had me focusing all my energy there,” Giles said. “When people approach you and say, ‘Hey, I think you would be good in this job,’ trust their instincts.”

“Having a good attitude has been very helpful for me,” Graham said. “People like to work with people with good attitudes.”

He went on to suggest going around the base and networking, while not job-hopping every few months, but spending a few years at each location.

“Those relationships have helped me know where I want to go and get the inroads to get there,” he said.

Kelly was next to respond, stating that the big key is people, and being able to interface with others. She also mentioned being willing to accept opportunities that come along, mentioning her own past with taking on some jobs that may not have been her ideal at the time.

“Some of those things that seemed to have a negative connotation to them, but they’re the things that when I went and applied for a job that was attractive to me, I went, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have a tool belt, and I have a variety of tools now, and I never knew those were going to come into play and be beneficial,” she said.

Gonzalez was the last of the five to answer, and she talked about her past beginning in finance even though her degree was in information systems, before she was able to get into jobs that more closely matched her background.

“I saw somebody doing a particular job, and I asked my supervisor,” Gonzalez said. “Your supervisors are your advocates. So ask your supervisor if you can try a different job, or a detail to another position. That’s how I got moved around.”

She also said that there is a network of people that can help if called upon.

“You just need to ask, and advocate for yourself,” Gonzalez said. “Get out of your comfort zone, and say, ‘I want to try.’”

A second panel discussion took place in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Point Mugu. Similar questions were brought up, but there were others, such as about barriers to being a leader.

“There are two different types of leadership,” Kyte said in response. “The formal kind that’s tied to a title or position, and the informal kind. They’re the ones doing the everyday work and leading by example.”

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