Associate Labs Director a 'humbling' position for McIlroy

By Michael Ellis Langley

Photography By Michael Padilla

Thursday, October 10, 2019

New ALD Andy McIlroy talks about inclusiveness, pride and leadership

Andy McIlroy
Associate Labs Director Andy McIlroy

Andy McIlroy plans to keep the people of Integrated Security Solutions and Sandia’s mission at the core of his decision-making process as the new associate labs director.

By the end of this year, Andy will have spent 25 years of his career at Sandia, finishing 2019 in a position he said he could not have imagined he would have as a young researcher.

“When I think back when I was a postdoc here, I’m not even sure I knew at the time who the vice president was,” Andy said with a smile, as he looked back at his path to becoming the leader of Integrated Security Solutions. “As a staff member here, it seemed like the directors were awfully lofty people, and that wasn’t something that I even thought I could aspire to.”

Andy, the former energy and homeland security center director, was appointed as the acting ALD when Dori Ellis became deputy labs director on June 28.

“I had 250 people in my previous center. We have 1,900 people in the division,” Andy said. “I had this moment when I realized, ‘Wow, I’m ultimately responsible for all of this.’ It’s a bit humbling, I would say.”

Andy said he believes he can add value to the role.

Historically high work level

“One of the real challenges of the Integrated Security Solutions ALD position is that we cover the full breadth of what Sandia does, both operationally and in the mission space,” he said. “We have a historically large amount of work going through the division right now. We’re certainly as busy as we have been in several decades. We’re at an all-time high in terms of the number of employees and our budget. The nation is looking to us to deliver on a number of fronts that are critical to our national security. That’s an awesome responsibility.”

Andy said being “all about the people is a well-worn cliché,” but is actually true in this case.

“At the end of the day, we can’t do the national security work that we do without the professionals that make it happen across the entire division,” he said, adding that he learned years ago that diversity and inclusion are a vital part of realizing success in our mission.

Andy said he wants to help everyone at Sandia’s California site understand how their contributions are part of exceptional service in the national interest.

“It really does require everyone to be all in for us to be successful for a lot of what we do,” he said. “That includes solid buildings and good lighting, to state-of-the-art computational infrastructure and the best colleagues to sit down next to you — which means you need a solid HR department. You’ve got to be able to buy that equipment, so you need a procurement team behind you. You’ve got to be able to do the work securely, and we’ve got to do the work safely so we can go home to our families and loved ones each day.”

Pride in Sandia’s purpose

Most of all, Andy said, he wants everyone to feel the same pride he does in being a Sandian.

“I am an introvert in a social sense, but I do enjoy showing off Sandia because it is a fabulous place where amazing people work,” he said.

Andy said that Integrated Security Solutions performs much of the cutting-edge science and security work that Sandia is tasked with — particularly in nuclear deterrence.

“The W80-4 program is nearing its peak,” he said. “It’s the largest single program at Sandia. That program spends $1 million a day, every day, 365 days this year. That’s the scale, which makes the program something that’s really important for the nation. Being proud of being part of an organization that is doing something so fundamentally important is something that everybody — support staff, scientists and engineers — should genuinely feel.”

Andy said he has some work to do: filling three director-level vacancies and making sure the people and facilities are ready to handle the influx of work and responsibilities. One of the first things he intends to do is hold forums to explain how every center contributes to the success of the division.

But he stressed that he wants the work to be a rewarding element in the well-rounded lives of 1,900 people.

“I do appreciate the ability to have a balanced life, and I want to make sure our folks have the bandwidth to do that,” Andy said. “It’s one of the things that makes Sandia an attractive place to work. It’s something that I valued as part of my Sandia experience, and I hope that others do as well. I hope to continue to be a role model in that aspect.”