VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.; On Feb. 17, Daquan Styles will head to Washington, D.C., to attend the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for the second time. During his first trip to the prestigious ceremony in 2019, he attended with members of his team to network and gain knowledge and inspiration from other engineers and STEM professionals. This time, he will be a guest of honor and an inspiration to others.
Styles, an electrical engineer in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Dam Neck Activity (DNA) Combat Readiness Systems Division, will be recognized with the “Most Promising Engineer in Government” Award. The award is sponsored by Career Communications Group’s U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine, the Council of Engineering Deans of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, host Lockheed Martin Corporation, and sponsors Actalent and Jacobs. It recognizes an engineer in the early years (approximately three to 10 years in the workforce) of his or her career, who demonstrates tremendous potential for future technical contributions.
Styles was nominated for his demonstrated leadership and willingness to take on complex and difficult combat system computer program installations aboard aircraft carriers and amphibious ships throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an honor to be recognized and to know all of your hard work is appreciated,” Styles said. “In the fleet support community, we put in a lot of long hours and restless nights, and 2020 to 2021 was a rough stretch with the amount of travel and installs we had to do. To be recognized for that is really cool.”
Between 2020 and 2021, despite travel restrictions and other pandemic-related challenges, Styles and another teammate drove between Washington State and San Diego, California, to successfully deliver upgraded Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) software to several ships along the coast. They also resolved more than 150 interface issues, ensuring SSDS upgrade installations aboard ships remained on schedule. By the end of that mission—originally planned to take two weeks—the duo had spent six months away from home.
Despite long hours on the road and aboard ship, Styles appreciates the team environment and sense of accomplishment he gets from the work.
“I love my job,” Styles said. “The ability to get a team together and be aware of all the people who put in work for that code to do what it does, and then get it into my hands to [install] on a ship and see it all work—that’s a great feeling. Delivering a product to the Navy that I know is going to help defend and protect them from whatever [threats] they face in the future is rewarding.”
Styles developed an interest in STEM in elementary school, when he built his first robot from a kit his father gave him at age 10. He remained active in STEM throughout high school, and while attending Old Dominion University, he established a robotics club that is still going strong today. The Portsmouth, Virginia, native came to work at DNA after graduating from college, charting the course toward being named “Most Promising Engineer in Government” nearly five years later.
“When I attended the [BEYA] ceremony back in 2019, it was pretty life-changing,” Styles said. “To be around so many people who look like me—that amount of excellence in one room—it was super inspiring for me. I told myself that I would win one of these awards one day.”
Fast-forward two years and Styles will return to Washington, D.C., having achieved his goal.
“Daquan is one of the most inspiring individuals I have worked with at DNA,” said Dan Smits, Surface Ship Anti-submarine Warfare Systems branch head. “At the start of the pandemic, I had to ask him to go on travel supporting back-to-back installs for six months without returning home, when little was known about the virus, and there was no vaccine. He is always willing to step up and do whatever is necessary to support the warfighter. I nominated him for this award because I think he represents the very best of our command and our culture of supporting the fleet.”