Sandia LabNews

Tafoya named industrial engineering fellow

For her dedication to optimizing business processes and systems, Joan Tafoya recently was named a fellow of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, which recognized her work solving complex technical problems and instituting lean practices — passions that drew her to Sandia National Labs last fall after a 27-year career at Intel.

Joan received the Fellow Award last month at the IISE annual conference in Florida. Most recipients are academics, but Joan is one of the few chosen with an industrial background. She is also one of only a few women named a fellow this year.

Joan was nominated last year by colleagues and associates from Intel, TransSolutions, Jabil and The Poirier Group. All highlighted her innovative work with commercial drones, innovative technology for supply chain, global leadership, lean practices, involvement in IISE and community work. They also praised her abilities to combine strategic business goals with technical execution within Intel.

Image of tafoya_600
Senior Manager Joan Tafoya was recently named a fellow of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers. (Photo courtesy of Katie Koska)

One career highlight involved leading teams that produced more than 90 lightshows for Disney using commercial drones, a feat that required about 30,000 launches over eight weeks.

Around the time Joan was nominated as a fellow, she retired from Intel, but it wasn’t long before she started looking for something to keep her busy. Joan said she came across a job posting for her current position at Sandia, establishing and maintaining the Laboratory Operating System.

“I retired and was ready to take a bit of time off. On a whim, I went to the Sandia website and looked at jobs and saw the LOS senior manager position,” she says. “When I read it, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what I’ve been doing for most of my career.’ I love the idea of creating a sustaining structure to make us better at our work, allowing us to add more value for the customer by becoming more efficient and effective.”

The LOS comprises six enablers with tools and processes to shape thinking and behaviors, and the system can be applied to work across the Labs. With the help of a small team, Joan hopes to create a “one-lab mentality.”

“We all create knowledge, acquire knowledge and transfer knowledge. The LOS is all about creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge to become more efficient and effective in support of the mission. When we are doing these things well, I believe people are much more satisfied with their work,” she says.

Josh Parsons, director of Business Management, said Joan brings a unique lens and experience to Sandia that helps the culture labs-wide.

“The goal of the LOS is to help Labs employees learn, accelerate, innovate and improve,” Josh says, adding that Joan’s experience is helping the team deploy the LOS in a way that tailors leading industry practices to Sandia’s Federally Funded Research and Development Center mission.

IISE is the world’s largest professional society dedicated to supporting industrial engineering. The international nonprofit association provides education, training, research and development to professionals in the field.