There is a famous saying that goes, “When one door closes, somewhere a window opens.” The saying rings true for Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Lead Systems Engineer Dave Griffiths, who joined the workforce at Dahlgren in 2009.
“I’ve been through many jobs. A lot of times, things just happened and turned out the way they did. It was a lot of happenstance,” said Griffiths. “There were only a couple times where I forced a change, and it wound up not being in my best interest. It seems like fate led me down the right path, and I am willing to follow.”
After receiving his master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame, the New York native took a job in Austin, Tx., but his heart still longed to be in the Northeast United States. After three years in Texas, Griffiths made the big move to Poughkeepsie, Ny. He was there for 18 months before the company transferred their work in New York to Richmond, Va.
For nearly ten years, Griffiths worked as a failure analysis and test engineer at a chip manufacturing company. At the height of the 2008 recession, the plant shut down.
“I was laid off for ten and a half months,” said Griffiths. “One of the people I worked with at the plant worked at Dahlgren. I applied for a job, and he got me an interview.”
Those ten and a half months played a pivotal role in his life. At the time, Griffiths and his wife had children aged 10, seven, and a year-and-a-half.
“Getting to spend ten months with my little one completely changed my perspective on life,” he recalled. Griffiths lives in Mechanicsville and made the hour-and-a-half commute to work every day to NSWCDD until the start of maximum telework in March 2020. “While it is important to excel in your job and career, remember the people standing behind you. Being able to be home and have that extra three hours a day to spend with my family has nudged me. The first time when I was laid off was a kick – this time, it’s more of a nudge… It’s not just about work. Family is extremely important.”
Since joining the NSWCDD workforce in December 2009, Griffiths’ responsibilities shifted and grew: from lead test engineer to AEGIS project lead with involvement on nearly every project in the Digital Combat Systems Branch.
“I don’t really have any regrets on anything I’ve done or where I’ve ended up. One of the most important things that has lead me to where I am is being flexible,” said Griffiths. If he could tell his 15-year-old self anything, it would be to “be flexible and don’t pigeonhole yourself into a job description. Always search for more. Constantly learn. The minute you stop learning, it impacts you. Just constantly dig into material.”
Griffiths considers one of the key lessons in his career the application of hard work in areas he struggled, rather than just accepting defeat.
“When I talk about ‘never stop learning,’ I learned so many different areas – and this is a guy who came into Dahlgren doing semiconductor work,” said Griffiths.
During his time at NSWCDD, Griffiths worked on several different technologies including celestial navigation and north finding, laser target designators, laser range finders, ocular interrupters and laser weapon systems before landing in his current role working with computer hardware and software teams to carry out weapon system virtualization.
It’s a total change in technologies and the ability to learn things. I do not know of anywhere else that you can learn so much and still work in the same town – let alone for the same company or organization.”