Friday, May 17, 2013

Swamp Testing Your Network

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Johnstown, PA to observe the United States Naval Academy Concrete Canoe Competition. A team of midshipmen spent a semester designing, fabricating and constructing a canoe built entirely out of concrete. Four other top engineering universities also entered the competition held at the Quemahoning Reservoir, just south of University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus, the hosts for the event.
Each team had to pass a "swamp test" where they fill their canoes with water and test to ensure each craft has positive buoyancy. Following endurance and sprint races are held with different crew compositions.
Why do I mention this academic capstone event in a Navy Reserve blog? Well the academic instructor who has led the team for six straight years is a recalled Navy Reserve Sailor, CDR Angela Schedel. She is a Master Instructor in the Department of Naval Architecture & Ocean Engineering at USNA, and commits extensive amounts of time guiding the teams through every phase of boat design, build and competition.
It turns out that she is one of 30 Reserve officers currently on three-year recall orders to the Academy. The USNA accepts Reservists with at least a master’s degree to fill teaching positions in any number of departments, from Computer Engineering to English. The Academy website puts out available positions around Labor Day each year.
This demonstrates the diversity in our Selected Reserve population.   We have a pool of talented, educated Selected Reserve officers the Naval Academy can draw upon to satisfy short term or emergent academic instructor requirements.  These officers can be accessed without incurring any long term financial obligations once they return to their drilling status.  It’s a win-win for Navy.     
Amazing opportunities like these exist throughout the Reserve force, and often times it is simply a matter of being in the know. How do you stay in the know? Be engaged, network and develop your personal and professional relationships. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you’re not mentoring someone, reach out to a junior who shows potential and establish that relationship. These friendships and contacts are always rewarding in more ways than one, and may result in your landing in a great position somewhere that you never expected.