Creating conditions in which people of good will can meet, integrate their ideas and emerge with a positive result can be a difficult enterprise but Sandia Fellow Elizabeth Roll seems to have it mastered.
Elizabeth, the Labs’ senior strategist and executive coach, is one of two fellows to emerge from the administrative rather than technical areas of the Labs. Graduating from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1996 with a major in economics and a minor in mathematics, she earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2002, where she studied corporate strategy and finance and graduated with distinction.
“I’m a social scientist at heart,” she said. “Math wasn’t satisfying to me in itself; economics drew me in because people’s choices and behaviors are part of the equation.”
She came to Sandia to help executives make decisions that affect other leaders or organizations. But the problems she saw seemed beyond simple economics. “Why is a group getting stuck?” she asked herself. “What values may be in conflict? What are the patterns that people bring that interfere?” Continuing concern over how and why people make business and life decisions led her in 2011 to the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, where she took courses in human and organizational development she found engaging and was invited to become a faculty member.
Among other achievements, she helped guide growth of the National Security Leadership Development Program, the premier program for developing Sandia leaders. Over 290 Sandia leaders have participated in the program, which has been described as the premier leadership development program in the entire DOE complex. The program shapes the Labs’ leaders and impacts the culture and brand of the Labs.
Elizabeth facilitated executive and director-level engagements between Sandia and Kansas City National Security Campus, contributing to collaborative growth between the two sites. By understanding the strategic goals of this joint leadership team, she helped the leaders at Sandia and the Kansas City National Security Campus integrate digital-realization teams with advanced manufacturing teams, implement structural and environmental controls for a nuclear stockpile system, and create cross-site improvements in technical areas and among various disciplines, ensuring unity of effort.
“People call me when they feel the need for change, or even just navigating a specific problem,” she said. “Sometimes that manifests in working with teams and organizations and sometimes that means a one-on-one coaching engagement to support a leader’s growth.”
Interacting with a past Labs leadership team, she rapidly implemented a new process to complete a director’s unusual request for a 20-year vision for the Labs.
Engaging a wide range of leaders experiencing a variety of circumstances, she translates concepts, models and frameworks into practical actions. Taking on projects daunting in complexity and sometimes lacking in definition has only increased her repute.
At the other end of the scale from fostering ideas of Sandia’s upper echelons, she founded a career-mentoring group that teaches 25 Sandia staff mentees to use tools and techniques she has used. She also coached them to build confidence and find footing in new roles.
Her commitment to her own learning and self-reflection has enabled continued growth in her role of bringing ideas to the deal-making table and seeing them prosper.
Just so will Sandians continue to learn how a fellow with business and organizational-development expertise benefits the Labs.