Sandia LabNews

Sandia chases two big new goals

Labs leaders empower staff to pursue innovation, modern engineering

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“IT’S ABOUT ALL OF US” — Labs Director James Peery, center, speaks along with Deputy Labs Directors Laura McGill and David Gibson at the town hall meeting about the Labs’ strategy to accelerate innovation and lead in modern engineering Sept. 6 at the Steve Schiff Auditorium. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

At a town hall Laboratories Director James Peery unveiled the Labs’ two new big goals — accelerate innovation and lead in modern engineering — by recounting a personal story.

As a fresh college graduate starting out at the nation’s premiere engineering laboratory, James was approached by senior team members with many questions. They wanted to know what computers he was using in college, what algorithms and languages.

“These were current and future distinguished-level staff members asking me,” James said during the Sept. 6 town hall at the Steve Schiff Auditorium. “They were interested in what I could bring to the laboratory.”

Years later, James and Labs leadership are hoping for similarly broad contributions in pursuit of the two big goals of Sandia’s Labs strategy.

“We’re looking to everyone,” said James, who identified business and human resources practices as potential areas of innovation, along with science and engineering. “It’s not just about our R&D family at the laboratory — it’s about all of us.”

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ACCELERATING CONVERSATION — Tom Klitsner, a senior manager in computer systems and technology integration, speaks during a brainstorming session as part of the town hall. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Throughout its history, Sandia has evolved to be responsive to the country’s national security needs. These two goals are driven by emerging challenges.

“We’ve got to be more agile to deliver capability faster,” Deputy Laboratories Director for Nuclear Deterrence and Chief Technology Officer Laura McGill told the crowd. “There are going to be new threats that we have to address with diverse and innovative solutions.”

While there are executive-owned, Labs-level milestones for their achievement, the goals are intended as a north star that staff can use in their work and planning. Labs leaders aimed to make them short and memorable.

“I think it’s really cool that we’re doing something simple,” Deputy Laboratories Director and Chief Operations Officer David Gibson said. “Sandia does a lot of amazing things, and it’s always as a result of everyone coming together and working hard collectively to achieve those goals.”

Town hall attendees seemed to appreciate this clear, practical approach.

“It is great to have unifying goals that the majority can relate to and work toward,” said Sylvia Saltzstein, a senior manager in integrated security solutions who attended the event.

“We have a great opportunity to create and deliver inventive value as staff members,” said Irbis Gallegos, a cyber security professional and attendee. “We can all benefit from a unifying, strategic implementation that seeds and incubates ideas and then makes them real. The future looks brilliant.”

Sandia’s big goals

Goal No. 1: Accelerate innovation

By FY 27, Sandia will be a leader in scientific, engineering and operational innovation and an employer of choice for highly innovative and creative talent.

The Labs strategy defines innovation as “developing and applying an idea, expert knowledge or technology in a novel way to address a specific challenge and achieve value for the laboratories or our partners.”

Goal No. 2: Lead in modern engineering

Modern engineering approaches will be used by a majority of teams by FY 26, and by all teams by FY 29. As highlighted in the Labs strategy, modern engineering approaches include:

  • A continuous digital thread from concept through development that eliminates paper artifacts and manual transactions.
  • Integrated model-based systems engineering.
  • Physics-based modeling and simulation with artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce physical testing.
  • Automated integration of security at every phase of the software development lifecycle.

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