Mentors often act as sounding boards offering advice and direction with the expectation of getting very little in return.
Marie E. Bussiere, department head of the Undersea Warfare Combat Systems at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Newport, has established herself throughout her 26-year career as a continuous supporter of associates in need of encouragement and motivation. It’s a professional path that has nurtured the careers of fellow female colleagues, such as Rebecca Chhim, lead information assurance adviser for the USW Combat Systems and Maria Diaz?Masterson, head of the sonar submarine and surveillance test and evaluation branch.
She offers leadership and critical feedback because she believes in colleagues like Chhim and Diaz-Masterson and wants to see them get ahead. What she receives in return is the benefit of differing perspectives and the reward of sharing knowledge and experience with others.
Although NUWC does not have a formal mentoring program, it encourages supportive relationships. It has a performance and training program that includes elements that focus on the betterment of its people. All of these activities enable informal mentoring to occur on a regular basis.
“Working with others is extremely important to me. I get personal and professional satisfaction when I learn of my mentees’ accomplishments, job advancements and other successes. Mentoring and helping others is really a bright spot in my day,” said Bussiere.
As head of combat systems, Bussiere is responsible for planning, directing and conducting submarine combat and combat-control systems programs. Under her supervision are approximately 500 scientists, engineers and staff conducting applied research, exploratory and advanced development, systems analysis, design and engineering support.
Among her talents is her ability to recognize an opportunity that aligns with the career goals of a colleague. Chhim is one mentee who benefited from Bussiere’s recommendations.
“[Bussiere] challenged me to excel and provided me with opportunities to develop and grow both professionally and personally,” said Chhim.
With Bussiere’s assurance, Chhim identified millions of dollars spent on unnecessary IT processes. Presenting this discovery to the chain of command, they were able to recommend changes and work with Division Newport’s parent organization to overhaul the process. As a result, Chhim received the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Information Management/Information Technology Excellence Award.
Diaz-Masterson said Bussiere advised her on technical issues, avenues for promotion and set an example of how to balance work and life.
She has “motivated us to apply for jobs we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Diaz-Masterson.
In addition to the many individuals that Bussiere has guided, she is also the career field manager for a group of logistics interns. There are currently seven interns and three recent graduates of the program that she meets with weekly. She worked through the appropriate channels to bring the logistics intern program to NUWC.
In 1988, she began her own career as a co-op student at the Newport Naval Base as an engineering technician in the Trident Command and Control Systems Maintenance Activity. She split her time between the Naval Base and attending the University of Rhode Island, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. After graduation from URI in 1991, Bussiere became an electronics engineer in the Combat System Department of Division Newport. In 2000, she earned an MBA from Salve Regina University and has since received a diploma from the Naval War College for coursework in strategy and policy, national security decision-making, and joint maritime operations.
Bussiere attributes her personal success to not a sole supporter, but rather having the fortune of surrounding herself with many great colleagues.
“I have had many mentors in my career. I believe that throughout your career, you need to surround yourself with folks that will give sound advice, provide perspective and constructive criticism when needed,” she said.
Previously, as the lead system engineer for the Royal Australian Navy Replacement Combat System, Bussiere was able to put many of the key management principles she had acquired over the years into action. As the head of the Logistics Product Development Branch, she was accountable for logistic product development for various systems and platforms. She was involved in all aspects of system acquisition, including design, integration, testing, training and documentation. It was a difficult mission because for her, it involved two “worlds” in uncharted waters.
After RANR, she took up a post as division head, admittedly entering an arena with which she was not at all familiar. After spending her whole career in one department, she left to accept a position with torpedo systems, which proved challenging yet very rewarding.
Heather Woods, technical program manager at Division Newport, agreed that she’s a “go getter… stepping out of a comfort zone.”
With the Torpedo Systems Department, she provided engineering and technical support to the development, procurement and in?service operation of undersea weapons. As a result of her contributions, she went on to receive the Division Newport’s 2010 Excellence in Workforce Shaping Award. It recognized her distinct contributions in planning and implementing several initiatives to improve the division’s ability to provide an efficient, well?qualified and effective workforce.
Sally Camara, head of the test and evaluation division, has described her as a “shining star” within the organization. Early in Camara’s career, she pursued Bussiere’s advice based on her reputation as a highly respected professional. Camara explained that Bussiere helped her to define her long- and short?term goals and the professional development required to reach those milestones.
“Her mentoring, support and honesty encouraged me to continue my education and earn an advanced degree while at the mid?level point of my career,” said Camara.
In addition to being instrumental in Camara’s advancement, Bussiere helped two others to leadership positions.
Norma Lopez, who began her career as a computer scientist and grew to positions of increasing responsibility, attributes her success to Bussiere. She claimed much of the professional skills that she’s learned in the past 10 years have come from her mentor.
“Her mentoring has inspired my perseverance to not only achieve leadership positions, but to achieve a level of success that makes me feel like I can overcome obstacles,” said Lopez.