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Albuquerque Business First names Sandia professional among 40 Under 40

Image of Zach Mikelson
LEADING WITH PURPOSE — Zach Mikelson is one of 40 outstanding professionals to receive a 2022 40 Under 40 Award from Albuquerque Business First for his career achievements and philanthropy. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Each year Albuquerque Business First recognizes a group of young leaders who are making a difference in the community through their career achievements and philanthropy. Sandia executive strategy professional Zach Mikelson is among this year’s class of 40 Under 40 honorees, recognized for his strategic vision within the Labs and the impact he has made beyond it. He will be honored at an awards program today and will be featured in a special publication of Albuquerque Business First on Friday.

A visionary leader

At Sandia, Zach is responsible for setting a vision and tangible goals for the Mission Services division, which includes finance and accounting, procurement and project management. He leads teams within the division through problem solving and strategic planning, champions inclusion and diversity, plans events for new hires and actively mentors others who are looking to advance their career and cultivate new skills.

“The defining moment of my career was being hired at Sandia National Laboratories. Given my values of service and impact, Sandia is the pinnacle career destination for me, and it was validation that everything I had done in my career led me to achieving that goal,” Zach said.

A catalyst of change

Aside from joining Sandia, a major turning point in his life came five years ago when he and his wife received devastating news: their son Theo would be born with a very rare and serious heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning he would be born with only half of a heart. For the first four months of his life, their son underwent three life-saving open-heart surgeries and countless procedures. Since New Mexico does not have the facilities nor the surgeons to support a case like Theo’s, his medical care was provided by the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado — a common scenario for many babies born with heart defects in New Mexico.

The mental, emotional and physical stress that came with their child’s uncertain health, the medical bills that awaited them and the distance from their jobs, family and support system for an undetermined amount of time took a severe toll on Zach and his wife. One night while sitting by Theo’s hospital bed, they envisioned turning their own struggle into a source of comfort for those who would follow in their footsteps.

In 2018, Zach and his wife partnered with two local families whose children were also born with congenital heart defects, a nurse and a Roswell teacher, who is passionate about the cause, to co-found Lexiam Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that provides educational, emotional and financial assistance to families of children in New Mexico diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Zach currently sits on the board of directors, plans and organizes fundraisers, provides support to new clients and manages other aspects of the day-to-day operations.

“In a little over four years, we have helped over 200 families with over $100,000 in expenses associated with medical intervention for their heart warrior — including groceries, gas, airfare, hotel stays and medical bills — to make sure no family ever has to go through what we went through again,” he said. “And the best part is, we are just getting started.”

In addition to the work Zach does with Lexiam Heart Foundation, he sits on the board of directors for the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame, an organization that promotes local musicians and raises money for Musicians in Crisis. Zach was previously a member of The Active 20-30 Club of Albuquerque, a group of young professionals who volunteer and raise money for charities that benefit local children.

A loyal New Mexican

Zach earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Mexico. He loves the melting pot of people, food, music and art within the state and said Albuquerque has led him to everything that is important to him: an amazing wife, two incredible sons (including Theo who is now thriving and excited to start kindergarten next year), his dream job and a cause that is near and dear to his heart.

“I am honored to have been selected as one of New Mexico’s most outstanding professionals. The honorees for this year have done amazing things to impact our community, and I believe that my work has and will continue to be an impactful part of making our city and state the amazing gem that it is.”

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