Navy Sets Sail With Virtual Recruiting

Before Lt. Deirdra Ponds started her current position as the diversity program manager at Navy Recruiting Command, she had never worked at a job that explicitly involved a focus on diversity and inclusion. She quickly realized, however, that these D&I practices were something she had constantly come into contact with during her 20-plus-year career with the U.S. Navy. Ponds discusses how the Navy continues to attract a diverse group of potential recruits, and its first virtual career expo.

How did you first become involved in the Navy (more specifically Navy Recruiting Command)?
I joined the Navy in 1989, and I became involved in Navy Recruiting Command when I was detailed to be an officer recruiter with the navy recruiting district in New Orleans in 2008.

Why is hiring for diversity important to your organization?
By having a navy that is diverse both ethnically and culturally, we ensure a variety of experiences and backgrounds among our sailors. This gives us the greatest assortment of creative ideas and innovative thinking that allows us to be the premier naval force in the world.

How do you manage hiring for diversity? Do you have set quotas? Are you trying to meet a specific goal?
We manage diverse recruiting by setting application goals for recruiters. We monitor the data collected on how many diverse applications are submitted and for what programs for each fiscal year and adjust accordingly to ensure for the highest quality of diverse applicants.

What is the biggest challenge Navy Recruiting Command faces in terms of diversity and inclusion?
I believe the biggest challenge Navy Recruiting Command faces in terms of diversity and inclusion is in outreach and awareness. In speaking with students at career fairs, it is clear that they are unaware of the opportunities the Navy has to offer, both educational and career wise.

Recruiting can be expensive. Have you implemented any virtual technology to aide in the recruiting process?
In September, Navy Recruiting Command partnered with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to conduct the first ever virtual career expo among the Navy enterprise, [which includes] NAVSEA, Naval Air Systems Command, America’s Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

How do you reach out to minority and low-income students throughout their educations?
Recruiters reach out to minority and low-income students through school visits, career fairs and outreach events. We support community events such as the Southern Heritage Classic, partner with national affinity groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers and Society of Women Engineers and support national efforts for diversity via various STEM partnerships with universities across the country, like the University of Memphis.

Do recruiters keep in touch with these students until they finish their education?
The recruiter engages a student during the application process and contact usually ends once the student has shipped to either boot camp or officer candidate school. If the applicant is a student still in high school or college, the recruiter will ensure that a high school diploma or college diploma is obtained in order for the applicant to continue the process and ship to boot camp or officer candidate school. Support is given for applicants who may need further assistance to complete their degree programs.

What is the next big breakthrough for diversity and inclusion in the U.S. armed forces?
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach. Navy Recruiting Command is aligning itself with organizations whose principal purpose is to develop naval-relevant STEM programs with youth. The goal is to encourage America’s diverse youth to pursue excellence in education, especially in the STEM areas.

Jeff Cattel is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. He can be reached at