‘The world is your oyster’ at Sandia
In 2005, Mike Kline had just finished a major project installing PeopleSoft systems at Intel locations throughout the world when Sandia came knocking.
“Sandia was about to do a human resources software upgrade and they wanted my help,” Mike said. Though he wasn’t looking for a job at the time, he decided to join Sandia after some negotiations, leaving Intel, his first job after college. He was hired into the HR systems and communication group that supported staffing and recruiting, where he helped lead the rollout of the software hiring tools.
Fast forward 17 years and Mike is now a deployed security professional. In those intervening years, he has held a variety of positions in fields as disparate as recruiting and security. He has been responsible for all of Sandia’s national diversity recruiting events; he helped develop the Labs’ Wounded Warrior program; and he has handled site surveys, logistics and security for multiple conferences held in places around the world like Madagascar, so scientists from Sandia and Somalia could exchange information in a safe environment about protecting chemical and biological agents from nefarious uses. The path has been circuitous, largely unplanned and rewarding.
“It’s been a strange, unique, interesting journey. You come here and you’re not limited to what your degree is in, which is so awesome,” Mike said. “You have the opportunity to apply what you’re passionate about to your work.”
From the Air Force to college in Albuquerque
When Mike came to Sandia, “everyone said you’ll never get a clearance because of all the places you’ve been.” His father had been in the military and his family moved all over the world. Mike followed suit, serving in the Air Force for 20 years at bases in the U.K., New Mexico and Florida.
After leaving the Air Force, he ended up in Albuquerque, which he was familiar with through being stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base. He entered college, earning degrees in intercultural communication at the University of New Mexico and human resources management at Webster University in Albuquerque.
While in college, he started scoping out job opportunities in the area. He was hired at Intel where he initially worked in photolithography on Pentium chips. He went on to positions in global procurement and HR systems and training, which led to his involvement with software that offers HR and financial management applications. His experience installing such systems in Russia, China and Malaysia made him a highly sought-after candidate to help Sandia with its upgrade.
Other opportunities arise
After Sandia’s HR software upgrade was completed in 2006, the systems and communications group Mike worked in was reorganized. Mike became a staffing specialist for Sandia’s nuclear weapons and cyber organizations. Following that he became a diversity recruiter, which entailed recruiting for Sandia at national events sponsored by professional organizations like the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the National Society of Black Engineers, along with recruiters from Sandia’s management and operating contractor.
As a recruiter, he was instrumental in creating the Critical Skills Master’s Program, which was initially formed to help Sandia recruit employees in cyber and optical engineering who were U.S. citizens. Now called the Critical Skills Recruiting Program, the program is designed for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in key disciplines aligned with Sandia’s mission who want to obtain a technical master’s degree while employed at Sandia. Additionally, he worked with then-Sandia Vice President of Defense Systems and Assessments James Peery, now the Labs’ director, in creating the policy defining Sandia’s Wounded Warrior Program.
Tapping into international experience
After nine years in HR, Mike joined International Business Risk Management in a role that tapped his previous logistics, operations and international experience. Over the next six years, as an international business risk management analyst, he traveled to 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East to set up and manage international conferences. The conferences involved scientists from Sandia and those regions and focused on reducing global chemical, biological and nuclear threats. In this role, Mike was also involved in security — ensuring that Sandians and conference attendees were safe at their hotels and the conference location and developing emergency plans and evacuation routes in case something were to go awry.
In 2017, the security experience gained from that position, together with his other skills, gave him the background to become a deployed security professional, which are embedded in Sandia’s divisions to act as security partners, offer trainings, share best practices, perform assessments and track security incident trends, among other responsibilities. As a security specialist, Mike has supported national security programs, Sandia’s Microsystems Engineering, Science and Applications complex, the audit and ethics organization, and is currently supporting mission services.
Mike said the ability to move to new jobs and take on new challenges at Sandia keeps things fresh and interesting. Each position offers the opportunity to learn new skills, explore a different part of Sandia, gain new experiences, work with new people and expand his network.
“At Sandia, the world is your oyster in so many fashions,” Mike said.