Sandia LabNews

Getting to know you

All about Sandia’s Early Career Outreach group

All about Sandia’s Early Career Outreach group
EARLY CAREER OUTREACH group members Shivonne Haniff (5421), Matthew Schlau (9526), La Tonya Walker (6926), and Veronica Barraza (850) bowl as part of a bowling league at Kirtland Lanes.   (Photo by Mollie Rappe)

Starting a new job is hard. It’s even harder when you’ve just moved to the area like many new Sandians.

The Early Career Outreach (ECO) group strives to make that transition easier — and provide extracurricular activities accessible to everyone across the Labs — by hosting social and philanthropic events.

“You not only build that network of friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, but also you get to explore Albuquerque and do some things you probably wouldn’t do on your own. We’re trying to make Albuquerque as a whole more enjoyable because we don’t spend all of our time here at work. Also the more people you know at Sandia, the better off you are at work too,” says Kara Smith (9540), one of the founders of ECO.

By providing an avenue for people to meet like-minded professionals in informal environments, ECO aims to foster personal and professional networking, encourage career growth and informal mentorship, and even promote stronger ties to Albuquerque. This August, Kara and other members of ECO will spend one weekend working on Sandia’s 15th Habitat for Humanity house.

It all started in California

When Kara and her sister Kayla Smith (9540) did a 20-month stint at Sandia/California they felt alone. They didn’t have any other family out there. It was hard for them to meet people. There were tons of things to do in the area, but they didn’t have anyone to do them with.

When they returned to Sandia/New Mexico, the sisters along with co-founder Lindsey Wareham (9540) set out to fill this need. They gathered a group of like-minded individuals to form the leadership team, they found a champion, they built a SharePoint site, and last December they held their first event — a happy hour at Kelly’s Brew Pub.

More than 70 people looking to network outside of work showed up. Ruth Aragon (9540), the group’s management champion, was astonished by the turnout. She says, “Everyone was just there socializing and having fun, but the fact that that many people showed up really opened my eyes to the fact that this is something people are looking for. There is a need for this.”

An event for everyone

Since ECO’s kickoff event, the leadership team has hosted about one social and one philanthropic event each month, a practice they plan on continuing. They are also considering ways for members to post upcoming events that they are interested in, says Ruth.

These events have included happy hours at Vintage 423, Uptown Bar and Grill, and Green Jeans Farmery. They’ve played volleyball, bowled, gone rock climbing, and even gotten together at an Isotopes game. On Saturday, July 16, ECO members met at the Route 66 Summerfest to explore Nob Hill, listen to live music, and enjoy local microbrews.

About 20 ECO members volunteered at the Roadrunner Food Bank in February and around 10 volunteered at the Run for the Zoo in May. On Saturday, July 30, ECO members will participate in the Camo Run to benefit Reload Love, a local charity to help children impacted by terrorism in the Middle East.

Kara says she is excited about helping with Sandia’s Habitat for Humanity house. ECO volunteered to help Friday and Saturday, August 19-20, to work on the second floor walls.

“We want to give back to the community, and this is a great way to get involved,” says Kara. “It can be hard as just an individual to say ‘Hey I want to go volunteer for this,’ but as a group it’s easier.”