After 38 years at NSWC Dahlgren Division, Mike Gibson cherishes his friendships the most

by | Jul 29, 2023 | Military

From NSWC Dahlgren Division

Fredericksburg native Mike Gibson has spent the majority of his life working at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD). He closed out a nearly four-decade-long career as he retired on July 29th.

Growing up, most of what Gibson knew about NSWCDD stemmed from his sister’s Rappahannock Swim League team competing against the Dahlgren team at the base pool. “Beyond that, I knew Dahlgren was here and that it was a place to work that had something to do with science and technology,” Gibson admitted.

A career at NSWCDD still wasn’t on Gibson’s radar after he earned a bachelor’s in math and minored in computer science at Randolph-Macon College. It wasn’t until Gibson was finishing work on his master’s in computer science at Virginia Commonwealth University that the idea of working at Dahlgren became a possibility. “My dad played golf with a friend who worked here,” Gibson said. “His golf buddy asked for my resume and then sent it around the base. One of the branch heads liked what he saw and asked me to come work for him.”

On his first day, Gibson was introduced to all the members of his branch. “Everyone was so friendly,” he said. “They all seemed to be on the same team no matter what group or branch they came from. It felt like I was joining a family.” Gibson finished his career as a lead scientist, serving as a training team member and agile team scrum master in the Strategic and Computing Systems Department. As the scrum master, Gibson ensured his team had everything it needed to succeed.

Training was a key focus for Gibson throughout his time at NSWCDD. A training program he developed 20 years ago is still used today with most of the original curriculum intact. Gibson was recently presented with an honorary award for his efforts in employee development. “I’ve taught a lot of classes and people have been telling me lately how much those classes meant to them in terms of achieving their career goals,” Gibson said. “I am humbled by that.”

Over 38 years, Gibson witnessed NSWCDD change and grow. One of the most significant developments is the median age of a workforce that is trending younger. When Gibson started his career, most of his coworkers were in their 40’s and 50’s. Now, he’s working with many in their 20s and 30s.

While the job is challenging, Gibson describes NSWCDD as a fun place to work. His advice to the younger generation joining the workforce is to establish career goals through an Individual Development Plan (IDP). “Embrace your IDP and map out your desired career path. People here want to help you succeed,” Gibson said. “If you document your goals, they’ll pay attention and see that you achieve them.”

Although the profession is rewarding, it’s the friendships that Gibson will miss the most. Getting to know others and building lasting relationships with coworkers was integral to his long and successful career. “I’ve had a great time working here,” he said, his voice choking with emotion. “You don’t stay some place for 38 years if you don’t love what you do and who you do it with.”

Photo courtesy NSCW Dahlgren

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