Sandia LabNews

A ‘life-changing’ recruitment

How a Sandia hiring initiative sold one SoCal local on the Land of Enchantment

Image of critical-skills
HERE TO STAY — Manager Stefani Olcott credits an initiative by Sandia’s University Education Programs for her move to New Mexico and the career opportunities she’s experienced since. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Growing up in Southern California, Stefani Olcott had no plans of leaving, let alone to a city with a weird name in a landlocked state.

And then she heard about Sandia’s One Year on Campus program.

Stefani was in her last year as an undergraduate studying computer science at UCLA and said she was at a crossroads about what was next.

“I was debating between going to graduate school or looking for a full-time position,” Stefani said. “But then I heard about One Year on Campus, where I could do both.”

The program, now called Critical Skills Recruiting, is a Sandia recruiting and entry-level hiring initiative under University Education Programs. It is open to students who have graduated within three years with a technical, science or engineering bachelor’s degree and are looking to pursue a master’s in one of the Labs’ defined critical skills disciplines.

Critical Skills Recruiting pays for the student’s master’s degree and provides them with a stipend to cover living expenses. In the summer, recipients work as salaried employees as they build their knowledge of Sandia’s mission and work. When they graduate, they transition to full-time employees.

“I had never heard of anything quite like it so deciding to apply was kind of a no-brainer,” Stefani said.

Stefani graduated with a master’s degree in computer science, specializing in databases, and was hired on as a software engineer, which she did for 15 years. In 2018, she was promoted as a manager overseeing the Next Generation Systems and Solutions department.

“This program changed my life,” Stefani said. “Sandia opened my eyes to the national labs environment and how committed the Labs is in investing in employee’s careers, education and continual growth.”

But career trajectory wasn’t the only way things changed for Stefani.

“When I first started, I had never been skiing or snowboarding before, but now I can take advantage of the beautiful mountains all around us. I started my family here, met my husband, had our two children. I’ve enjoyed foods I didn’t know existed, visited Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands, experienced all four seasons,” Stefani said.

Stefani has three sisters and has so far convinced one to move to the city with the weird name in a landlocked state. She’s still working on the others.

Investing in your professional and educational aspirations

Sandia’s University Education Programs offers several opportunities to help employees elevate their future including tuition assistance, critical skills (part-time and recruitment programs) and in-state tuition partnerships. To learn more about the programs and find out how to apply visit the University Education Programs website.

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