‘Be bold. Be excellent. Be willing to learn.’

By Jill Hruby

Thursday, April 20, 2017

‘Be bold. Be excellent. Be willing to learn.’

A message for all Sandians from Sandia President and Laboratories Director Jill Hruby

Sandia President and Laboratories Director Jill Hruby


The time has come for me to wish you all a bright future and to express my gratitude for being allowed to be your boss, your colleague, and in many cases, your friend. Every day over the past 34 years, I have felt deeper respect for the work we accomplish at Sandia and for the quality and commitment of all who work here.

Sandia is a wondrous institution. Over the past 68 years, our institution has kept the nation’s nuclear weapons safe, secure, and reliable. Every year, we have evolved and advanced our approaches, and welcomed and trained new generations to contribute to this noble mission. And for decades, we have used our skills and unique facilities to support other missions of national importance. Our Laboratories’ impact can be found in energy, cybersecurity, biological defense, nuclear nonproliferation, satellites, and so much more. Today, we are the nation’s largest engineering research laboratory. Nearly anywhere you travel in the world, you are likely to meet a Sandian or come across a contribution from Sandia. And in our local communities, we are generous with our time and financial donations. Your individual and collective contributions hold me in awe.

When the institution hums, everyone feels it.

It takes a lot to make an institution like Sandia hum. Our technical people must stay focused on deliverables while remaining current in research and curious about innovations. Our mission support personnel must share the focus on mission and find approaches to make Sandia more productive and responsive. Our leaders must think strategically, be knowledgeable about their fields, and have concern for and understanding of their employees. Most important, these groups need to work together and produce an environment of excellence, inclusiveness, and respect. When the institution hums, everyone feels it. I hope you experience that feeling at Sandia, and I certainly hope you have felt it over the past couple of years.

On July 17, 2015, Jill Hruby became the president and director of Sandia. She is the first woman to lead a national security laboratory.   (Photo by Randy Montoya)

The Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration decided to change the Management and Operating (M&O) contractor for Sandia from Sandia Corporation (a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) to National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, NTESS (a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International), in December 2016. It has been 24 years since Sandia experienced a contractor change. NTESS-Honeywell will become the third M&O contractor in Sandia’s history and will play an influential role in the life of the Laboratories.

AT&T and LMCO have helped shaped Labs culture

From my viewpoint, each of the two prior M&O contractors and parent companies have been instrumental in shaping Sandia. With AT&T as a parent company, Sandia was transformed from a test-based engineering organization to a science-based engineering institution. The essence of using basic and applied science to solve engineering problems was infused into Sandia from Bell Laboratories in many ways, perhaps most clearly through the executive leaders who came to Sandia from AT&T (usually on rotation).

After AT&T and the government agreed that the time had come for a change in M&O contractor and parent company, Martin Marietta (shortly thereafter becoming Lockheed Martin) won a stiff competition to become Sandia’s second M&O parent company. Under Lockheed Martin’s leadership, Sandia had two major accomplishments: We greatly improved our business acumen and processes, and we diversified from a nuclear weapons laboratory to a national security laboratory. Lockheed Martin’s approach was different from AT&T’s. Lockheed Martin appointed technical executive leaders who knew the business and the Labs, but rotated in executive business leaders. Using this approach, Lockheed Martin honored the depth of knowledge at the Labs and fortified it with business leaders who kept us current and promoted best business practices. Sandia’s leadership was fully trusted to make strategic decisions and nourish the culture of the Laboratories while adopting best practices from the private sector.

In September 2015, Jill Hruby for the first time on her watch signed the annual assessment report addressing the status of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.  (Photo by Stephanie Blackwell)
In September 2015, Jill Hruby for the first time on her watch signed the annual assessment report addressing the status of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.  (Photo by Stephanie Blackwell)

Making Sandia stronger and better

I am honored to have worked under both AT&T and Lockheed Martin and greatly appreciate what they did to define the Sandia we are so proud of today. I remember the contract transition in 1993. Some rough moments notwithstanding, the people at Sandia and Lockheed Martin found a way to make the Laboratories stronger and better. We held onto the best of what we gained from AT&T while being open to learning new ideas. For example, Distinguished Appointments were a Bell Laboratories tradition. To recognize employees as exceedingly qualified, Sandia began appointing people to the distinguished level under the AT&T contract. This tradition carried over with minor adjustments for the full duration of the Lockheed Martin contract. And we added from Lockheed Martin the Employee Recognition Awards to celebrate annual accomplishments. Many other traditions that define our culture today have been preserved from the past while we have been open to new ideas.

So, now it is Honeywell’s turn, as a parent company, to make Sandia better while maintaining the best of the past. I am deeply proud of the Laboratories we are entrusting to the NTESS team and extraordinarily grateful to the current Laboratory Leadership Team for their dedication to making this transition seamless and gracious.

The one thing I most want to inspire in all of you is the confidence and belief that you can make a difference in the future of Sandia National Laboratories. Be bold, be excellent, and be willing to learn. This is what makes you special, and it is what makes Sandia special.

Adios amigos. I will remain forever grateful for the opportunity to be your colleague and your leader.