NAVFAC Marianas XO encourages women to pursue goals
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas Executive Officer Capt. Cheryl Hansen always wanted to work in the science field, but never expected to have a career in engineering.
Immediately after high school, Hansen dove into the civilian world and worked as an equipment mechanic for a coal-fired power plant.
“Not too many women were in blue-collar type jobs,” she said. “This particular power plant, they were building a new power plant, they wanted to bring in some diversity in their workforce and they hired several women and then they put us through – not just us, the women, all the men too –a six-month training program.”
After three years, what started as an chance opportunity in engineering sparked her interest and drove her to pursue a solid career in the field.
“I realized that engineering is what I thought I would really enjoy doing and so I ended up starting to go to school more full time,” she said. “It’s the science, it’s how things work. It’s answering the question that people have about what makes things work. That’s what engineering is all about.”
Hansen said mechanics and doors opened by engineering is something she especially enjoys sharing with prospective engineers.
“That’s one of the things I love about the engineering field and anytime I get an opportunity to talk to young women or young men about engineering I tell them that just about everything you touch, look, see, feel has come from an engineer,” she said. “If you think about it, everything that makes our lives comfortable; there’s been an engineer somewhere involved in the process of getting it to you.”
It wasn’t until college, however, did Hansen consider joining the military. She had her first interactions with the Navy through a brother-in-law who showed her camaraderie and passion within the naval culture.
“I think what really impressed me was just kind of the professionalism and the positive attitude,” she said. “I was seeing, you know, the whole…community of guys who were gung-ho about what they do and love what they do.”
The people ultimately drew Hansen to join the Navy through direct commission under the nuclear power program.
Today, as the executive officer of NAVFAC Marianas and deputy regional engineer of Joint Region Marianas, she oversees more than 500 civilian federal service employees, 30 military officers and 15 enlisted Seabees.
For women specifically, Hansen says the military and engineering opens many doors.
“I would tell her not to close the doors early, to experience as much as possible early and then I would say, go for whatever your dream is,” she said. “I think that in the Navy you can achieve a lot. I would tell her that the Navy is probably one of the best organizations in the world to work for. These days, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, any minority can succeed in the Navy; it’s about hard work and dedication.”