“From the moment I left, I knew I wanted to come back." Sarah Chabal's path back to Leidos
Sarah Chabal, Ph.D., has been underway on a U.S. Navy submarine. Now, she's looking forward to doing the same on a Navy surface ship—but she's not a sailor. She's a research scientist at Leidos, focusing on cognitive science and operational performance. Her current mission: To improve the health, safety and, ultimately, the lives of Navy sailors.
“That mission drives every single research question, from 'How can we improve sailors' sleep to make sure they are functioning optimally?' to 'What can we do to help sailors work best within their unique operating environments?'" she says. “Engineers make the vessels as good as they can be, and I help make the people as good as they can be."
This has been Sarah's focus since taking her first job with Leidos, fresh out of graduate school. Back then, her research was based in the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory in Groton, Conn.
“I loved it!" she says. “My program manager really got to know me and was very supportive, both of my direct work and my career goals. He helped me get to know the larger Leidos team, even though it wasn't required."
So, why did she leave? In some ways, Sarah never left Leidos. The government customer she supported converted her position from contract to government civilian. Her job remained nearly the same, working with the same colleagues. She even kept her office and desk. "The only new thing was my email address," she says.
Why Sarah returned to Leidos
Sarah spent more than seven years in her government role. During that time, she focused on program management and research administration.
“I learned a ton, but I also missed doing direct, hands-on research, which my Leidos coworkers still got to do," she says. “I wanted to get back to doing science."
While working directly for the government, Sarah kept in touch with her former Leidos manager and colleagues. In fact, her old manager was still a friend and career mentor.
“From the moment I transitioned into the government role, I knew I wanted to get back to Leidos someday." While she took advantage of the opportunity to learn the administrative side of scientific research as a government worker, Sarah looked forward to when she could rejoin Leidos as an employee and once again perform hands-on military research while regaining Leidos leadership's career support.
“As I watched my Leidos colleagues continue to grow within their roles, I knew that coming back to Leidos would reopen all of those doors for me," she says. “So, I asked my mentor to help me with any opportunities to return."
They didn't rush it but worked together for a year, looking for the right fit. Now, Sarah is back at Leidos, working remotely from the East Coast for the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego.
“I get to be back in the science now, which is huge for me, but I'm also working with another fantastic program manager," Sarah says. “My experience so far has been just as positive as the first time around."
Beyond the opportunity to perform hands-on research, Sarah says she enjoys working for Leidos for the following reasons:
- Practical research. “At Leidos, you get to do what other researchers often can't: make science practical operationally. We form real relationships and make connections that give purpose to our research and make sure that any solutions that come from it can be implemented and used."
- Hands-on experiences. “Not only do I get the opportunity to talk with the people I'm researching for, but I also get to experience their day-to-day situations, like when I spent four days on a sub. Working boots on the ground in those spaces and getting involved as I researched changed my perspective completely."
- Meaningful support. “Compared with my experiences in the government and academia, Leidos has offered much more managerial support and provides the resources I need to both get my job done and progress my career."
- Purpose. “The Leidos mission to help our military gives purpose to my work in a way that many other science jobs can't. The driving force to improve the health and safety of military members keeps us from going down a rabbit hole of obscure research. Instead we keep things productive and focused, which gives my research a broader impact."
- Career advancement. “The opportunities we get at Leidos don't exist the same way anywhere else. Development opportunities and advancement are based on merit, not time served. Leidos program managers care about staff performance, and the collaboration and connection that they encourage powers our career growth."
Sarah notes that there are many reasons she loves her job but that her favorite part is interacting directly with the Navy, helping the fleet understand the problems they may have and how her team can help to solve them.
“Plus, talking about science with non-science people is always fun. It forces me to remember that we aren't doing this in a vacuum."
Interested in joining Leidos? Browse job opportunities on our career site. If you're not quite ready for a new job but know someone who is, please consider referring them — you could earn you up to $5,000! Finally, we invite all Leidos alumni to join our Leidos Alumni Network to stay connected.