Under the Sea with QUEST Alumna Stephanie Martin Proule

Stephanie Martin Proule is a Cohort 16 alumna who currently works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center designing submarines!  We sat down with her to learn more about what she does and why she loves her work. 

Where do you work, and what do you do?

I work at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport (NUWC). I work in the Launch Systems and Payload Integration Department. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a variety of projects, including air turbine pump testing, design for a new payload integration test facility, systems engineering for integration of special payloads, like UUVs on submarine platforms, design lead for the overhaul of a foreign submarine launch system, and submarine concept designs. 

How long have you been there, and what was your career path?

I’ve been at NUWC for 4.5 years; I started right after graduation from UMD. I ended up at NUWC through the SMART scholarship program. This program paid two years of full tuition in return for 2 years of civilian service. But after my 2 year requirement was over, I liked it so much that I stayed. (For more info about SMART, go here: smart.asee.org)

What led you to wanting to design submarines?

When I was in college, I never imagined that I would work for the Navy, much less on submarines. But I absolutely love it! The more I learned about submarines, the more fascinated I became. I began working on an internal investment project to develop a concept design for a potential future submarine. It fascinated me to be able to explore new ways that we could improve and redesign a submarine platform from a holistic perspective, rather than simply the piece-part level.

The project opened my eyes to how incredibly complex submarine systems are and how much possibility there is for further improvement of these giant underwater warships. Since then, I’ve attended submarine innovation workshops and a two-week Submarine Concept Design course. I am also beginning new tasks to develop concept studies for the next class of attack submarines that won’t be operational until 2040! Only about 30-50% of my job entails submarine concept design, but it is by far my favorite part.

Do you ever get to go under with them?

I have taken various tours and shipchecks of submarines while they are pierside, but I’ve never been underway. Hopefully, someday!  I have also been to the two submarine shipyards in Groton, CT and Newport News, VA to see submarines under construction. It is incredible.

Do you ever utilize QUEST skills in your job? If so, what/ how:

Absolutely. The main thing that QUEST taught me was how to work in a team and how to be a great presenter. This is critical in any job, but you’d be amazed at how many people can’t do this well. I am frequently praised for being at ease when I present and putting together excellent design packages. QUEST gave me the practice and confidence to present well under pressure, and even to captains, admirals, and high ranking officials with poise.

QUEST also taught me good principles for product design and systems thinking, which I use often. At NUWC, we design things all the time and have to follow the same design process that you do in 190H; we still have to listen to the voice of the customer, except our customer may be the DoD, the Navy, and/or the Fleet, rather than the average consumer. Our designs are complex systems of systems, but QUEST showed me how to break down these systems in a manageable way, yet not lose sight of the whole.

Favorite memory from the program:
QUEST Camp (both as a newbie and as a mentor the following year) was definitely a highlight. And our final presentations from 490H; it was such a successful day and I remember being so proud that everything went smoothly and we finally finished after how hard we worked during the last 3 years.

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