The recent fireside chat in Department of Energy/NNSA (DOE/NNSA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. offered more than enough insightful advice to spark inspiration among employees.
Undersecretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty was joined by Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette to share words of wisdom at the inaugural Aspiring Leaders Series discussion. The kick-off event was sponsored by the Senior Executive Service Women’s Empowerment Network.
“This network serves as a cornerstone to establish a positive and welcoming workplace for all women at DOE and NNSA,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “As the first woman to serve as Undersecretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, I am honored to support and serve as the network’s executive champion to empower our current and future generation of women leaders.”
Brouillette similarly expressed his support for the program to the large group, which included many men. “We are always looking for ways to improve our workplace and our culture. I hope today’s program serves us well – to become more mindful of the importance and value of mentorship and professional collaboration within in the workplace."
The first question posed by moderator Emily Singer, who serves as a Policy Advisor for the Deputy Secretary, was about finding your path to success.
“Don’t waste time trying to put together the perfect career plan. When we do that, opportunities walk right past us,” Brouillette said. “I got out of the Army and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t have a plan. A friend of mine, completely by chance, said ‘Why don’t you intern on the Hill? You’ll meet some people and things will work out.’ What a great piece of advice – because it did work out. But there’s no way I could have planned that, so don’t miss any opportunity.”
Singer followed up by asking how you know when an opportunity is right and that you should take that leap of faith to move on to the next phase of your career and take on a new challenge.
“It’s OK to not necessarily jump from position to position. If you’re happy and you know that you’re doing your best, that’s a challenge in and of itself. I knew my love of nuclear security and national security was paramount in my mind and as [promising] opportunities presented themselves to me, I took full advantage of them, and here I am today,” Gordon-Hagerty said.
When asked about work-life balance, the Deputy Secretary—who is a father of nine children—replied, “As I told the Senate committee in my confirmation hearings, my most important job is as a husband and a father. You can’t lose sight of that. What you do here at DOE is important as well, but I might suggest to you that it’s not as important as your family. The people who support you and allow you to come here each and every day and perform at the levels that you do, that’s absolutely key."
The range of questions posed to both speakers were meant to offer guidance to aspiring leaders at all points in their career. On the topic of what she looks for when hiring, Gordon-Hagerty said, “Three things: merit, personal and professional ethics, and doing your best. I want to know that you’re willing to do your best and you’re willing to take on challenge.” When asked to advise potential mentors on how to go about it, she urged, “Gladly share your experiences. I guarantee somebody wants to listen to your story.”
The Women’s Empowerment Network provides and creates opportunities for women to connect and build relationships with peers across the country and around the world. The talk was followed by a meet-and-greet networking event during which women of the Senior Executive Service mingled with aspiring leaders. There will be three more quarterly sessions in fiscal year 2019 covering various aspects of the journey towards Senior Executive Service.