News

40 Under ­Forty honorees serve Sandia’s mission

By Michael J. Baker

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Honored Sandians have much in common

Ask Jake Sena and Valerie Peyton what motivates or inspires them, and both will turn quickly to family. Valerie throws out a quick “#momfirst.” Jake jokes that his father, trying to save money for his children and grandchildren, buys himself just one pair of new shoes — always off-brand — every few years.

“I never hear him complain about having to work hard,” Jake says about his dad. “He’s done really well, and he and my mother have always put family first. Both my parents have been great inspirations to me and my sisters.”

Valerie also speaks of her parents’ work ethic; how her mother returned to school and earned an occupational therapy degree after raising five children as a stay-at-home mom. Valerie also talks about her first son, born when she was a college junior, and the challenges and rewards of finishing school and starting a career while raising him.

“It provided me with a greater purpose in life and has pushed me and inspired me to be who I am today,” she says.

Albuquerque Business First recently named Valerie and Jake to its 40 Under Forty list for 2018, based on their professional achievement, community contributions and leadership. Jake and Valerie have much in common: 40 Under Forty, motivational family, Sandia Mission Services, community service and baseball.

Jake Sena, 36, procurement manager

Jake played baseball through high school in Los Alamos and for about three months at a junior college before burning out and deciding to focus more on academics.

He transferred to Eastern New Mexico University and earned his bachelor’s in marketing before taking a job in Florida to be near the woman who would become his wife. While working in Florida, Jake earned his MBA and got married.

Jake’s uncle, Pat Sena, worked for Sandia as a senior manager and senior engineer for 37 years — “One of those really smart PhD guys,” Jake says. His uncle had always talked up Sandia, which helped motivate Jake to return to New Mexico.

“He was a big advocate for me coming to Sandia,” Jake says.

Jake moved from the Sunshine State to the Land of Enchantment and began his Sandia career in June 2010 in the information technology purchasing group.

“This was like coming back home,” Jake says. “I pretty much loved it from day one. It just felt like the right place to be.”

Jake has spent time as a buyer in radiation sciences and as a procurement policy analyst. Now he is a manager supporting purchasing for the nuclear weapons programs.

“There’s something rewarding out of every day when you come to work here,” he says. “One of the most rewarding things is when I see my staff members be successful. When I really see them grow and succeed and overcome obstacles, and I can see them growing professionally as individuals but also see them contributing to the broader mission of Sandia.”

It’s that mission that excites Jake about working at Sandia.

“Now that I’m supporting the nuclear weapons program, it’s awe-inspiring,” he says. “When you think about what your daily job is contributing to and impacting — national and global security — that’s incredible.”

Outside work, Jake keeps busy helping to raise two young children, volunteering at local charities and coaching youth basketball, soccer and baseball.

Valerie Peyton, 37, financial operations manager

Valerie’s first job was in junior high when she worked at a youth baseball concession stand in her hometown of Artesia, New Mexico. Possibly the beginning of her love of baseball, she learned to be on time, provide quality customer service and recognize the importance of teamwork, she says.

Those traits flourished as Valerie earned her bachelor’s in accounting and finance and then her MBA from the University of New Mexico. In graduate school, she worked as an accountant at UNM and began her Sandia career as a graduate intern in contract audit in February 2006.

She was hired full time as an auditor after obtaining her MBA. From there, she became a financial analyst and business office program lead for the nuclear weapons mission area and is now the financial operations manager for Treasury and Travel Services. Valerie has participated in the Executive Diversity Council, Mission Services Talent Acquisition Team, Hispanic Leadership Outreach Committee and Lead From Where You Are.

“I’m inspired by many talented individuals, working to support a common mission and am honored to pay it forward: to help others find their purpose and have an impact,” she says.

Paralleling her success at Sandia has been her work with the Association of Latino Professionals for America, whose purpose is to connect Latino leaders in homes, communities and workplaces. Valerie’s first experience with the organization was winning an undergraduate scholarship. Over the next 14 years she served as a board member of the UNM student chapter, president of the Albuquerque professional chapter and now is a member of the national Women of ALPFA’s Strategy Development Committee.

“Nothing I’ve achieved would I ever say that I did it myself,” Valerie says. “I have always desired to learn more, do more, be more, and fortunately for me I have an amazing husband and have had phenomenal mentors, coaches and friends throughout my academic and professional careers that have supported this aspiration. It’s been a fun and rewarding ride.”

Outside of work, Valerie volunteers her time with various charities and her church. She and her husband raise three children and are involved in their sports — including baseball — and other extracurricular activities.