NAWCTSD Chief of Staff, Paul Paquette discusses his experience with the NAVAIR Leadership Development Program (NLDP) during an information session held in advance of the NLDP application window for the 2024 cohort.  

Three NAWCTSD NLDP grads discuss benefits of leadership program

According to the NAVAIR website, the NAVAIR Leadership Development Program (NLDP) is the command’s flagship leadership development program and is part of an ongoing commitment to the continuous personal and professional growth of our workforce. The program is designed for high performing mid-to-senior level employees who demonstrate leadership potential. 

Applications for the 2024 cohort which begins Oct. 1 are now being accepted.  To help eligible candidates decide whether they should apply, NAWCTSD hosted an “NLDP, What’s in it For Me?” lunch and learning session featuring three prominent graduates on Feb. 1 in room 1041. The session was also recorded and can be viewed here.  

The panel of NLDP Graduates included Chi (Tony) Pham, ELE Training Contracting Officer, who is also NAWCTSD’s NAVAIR Mentor of the Year; Marie Marrero, IT Division Head in the Digital Department; and Paul Paquette, Chief of Staff and Director of the Command Operations Department.  

The first speaker was Tony Pham who urged anyone considering applying for NLDP to get started early and take their time to put together a quality application. “If you wait until the announcement comes out, in my opinion it might already be too late,” he said.  

Pham emphasized the importance of putting together a quality application. He suggested that applicants learn how to write Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) essays and have them peer reviewed before submitting them. “It might be helpful if you write one essay a month to help you improve,” he said. Contrasting to his first application (in which he was not selected for the program) he said he had better content available for his second (and successful) application.  “I had 12 to 16 essays in inventory with better quality to choose.”   

Pham discussed the many aspects of the NLDP program, and specifically mentioned that reading books and discussing them was one of the highlights of the program that he really liked. Emphasizing that NLDP is not an easy program, he said that it is important to take the program seriously to get the most benefit. “I do not recommend you work on a master’s program at the same time as NLDP,” he said. 

Pham concluded that NLDP is a good way to prepare leaders for working more effectively with people. He also offered to review the applications of anyone who was interested in applying for the program. 

The second speaker, Marie Marrero, said she originally applied for the program because she has always had an interest in leadership and wanted to continue nurturing her leadership skills.  

Like Pham, Marrero also took two tries to be accepted into the program. “The first time I was not selected because some of my ECQs were weak,” she said.  

“NLDP will help you to develop your executive skills, the same skills required by members of (the Senior Executive Service),” she said. “One of the ECQs is ‘business acumen,’ and I noticed that I was weak in this area because I was a developer and did not have much experience with the business side of our work.”  

Marrero encouraged applicants to be diligent in describing their accomplishments on the application. “Make sure you frame your narratives in first person,” she said. “Explain your contributions to the team and toot your own horn!” She said that while she is not comfortable bragging about her accomplishments, it was necessary to properly document her qualifications for the program. “You need to show more than technical expertise,” she said.  

Marrero also emphasized the importance of having someone else review your applications before submitting them. “I'll be happy to review your applications,” she added. 

The final speaker, Chief of Staff, Paul Paquette chose to emphasize “why” someone should apply for NLDP.  “My goal is to energize you to apply for NLDP.” Encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities for career advancement, he said “remember you own your career.”  

Paquette cited the book, “Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed” by Harvey Coleman as an inspiration for why leaders should invest time in bettering themselves professionally.  He mentioned that the book talks about a “PIE model” which explains how careers are formed based upon a person’s Performance, Image, and Exposure.   

He explained that people generally get the performance part down as they master their jobs but often are lacking in image and exposure, both of which can be enhanced by taking on more challenging roles and networking, which are skills developed via NLDP. He highlighted that having an established positive professional image and exposure to respected professionals (networking) are nearly as important as being technically capable in your job.  

Like the other speakers on the panel, Paquette also was not selected after his first application to NLDP, stating that his application was accepted only after he took the process seriously and sought help. He also encouraged people who were not accepted on their first (or even subsequent) applications to try again. “It’s not rejection; it’s redirection,” he said, encouraging applicants to take the process seriously.  

“Ego is the enemy,” he said. “I was large and in charge, but I did not get selected without help.” He continued to implore anyone applying to be humble and seek help with their applications.  

All three speakers agreed that while the application process takes time, effort, and attention to detail, it is an effort worth pursuing.   

“The NLDP Curriculum was top-notch,” Paquette said. “The most difficult part (for me) was finding a rotation.” Ultimately Paquette’s rotation in 2018 was working on a “Military Value Study” that validated the contributions of NAWCTSD to the Navy and established that the command’s presence in Orlando was indeed a benefit to the United States.  

Circling back to the “why” an aspiring leader should apply for NLDP, Paquette returned to the PIE model he referenced at the beginning of his remarks. “NLDP will round out your PIE,” he said. “There’s a lot to this program that will benefit your career.” 

“Your network and references matter… This is the biggest nugget this program will give you,” he said encouraging potential NLDP applicants to look beyond their professional abilities and pay attention to their professional image and exposure to grow in their careers.  

“NLDP was a very important rung on my climb towards the top of the ladder,” he concluded highlighting his current executive leadership position in the command.  

Noting that each of the speakers on the panel of NLDP graduates took at least two attempts to get selected into the program, one member of the audience asked if it was even possible for someone to get selected on the first application. The three speakers responded in agreement that it is possible if care is taken in preparing their applications.  

“Take time to make your application a quality one,” Pham said. “The goal is to be accepted the first time.” 

“Yes, it’s possible to be accepted the first time, even if you haven’t been with NAVAIR that long,” Marrero added. She emphasized the importance of documenting past leadership experience regardless of if it was in NAVAIR, or another role before starting at NAWCTSD.  

A military veteran in the audience asked if NLDP would help him with leadership in a civilian environment, highlighting the difference in leading people in the military versus civilians. “I’ve struggled to influence people in the civilian arena.” 

Paul Paquette, a Marine veteran himself, agreed that there are differences in leading as a civilian, but encouraged the veteran that it is a skill that can be honed, especially while participating in NLDP. “Leadership is influencing people without authority,” he said. Rather than directing someone, you learn how to “buoy your people up.” “Anyone can become a leader,” Pham added. “You don’t need a title. Leadership is a skill to help people get from A to B.”  

“To me leadership means ‘I am Spartacus!’,” Marrero said. “It’s about being there for your people. Not just directing them but working right there with them.  A true leader is someone people will follow because they want to.” 

The NLDP application window opens February 5-March 27, 2024. Eligible candidates can apply in Waypoints from the MyNAVAIRU page under FEATURED LEARNING. Your application will be routed to your supervisor for approval.  

Woman speaking at podium.

NAWCTSD's Information Technology Division Head, Marie Marrero, encouraged potential NLDP candidates to pay attention to highlighting their Executive Core Qualifications in their applications for the leadership program. 

Man standing in front of a large screen monitor using PowerPoint slides while speaking.

NAWCTSD's "Mentor of the Year," Tony Pham explains the application process for the NAVAIR Leadership Development Program (NLDP). 

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