Reflecting on important lessons during Women’s History Month
When I left my small hometown in rural Michigan, I was the exception — a young woman who loved science and math. I was also the first in my family to seek and earn a college degree.
Even though I lacked education role models as a child, I successfully graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Moving on to Purdue University, I earned a master’s degree in mathematical statistics and became the first American woman at the university to achieve a doctorate in statistics.
In a life and career of firsts — including becoming the first female manager of a nuclear weapons surveillance organization and first female senior manager of weapons quality at Sandia — I have never wanted to leave others behind. So as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to stress the importance of drive, determination and relationships in everything you do.
Plan with intention
It’s important to say upfront that having a successful career and life is no accident. The surest way to achieve your goals begins with knowing what they are and strategizing how to attain them.
A big part of that at Sandia is understanding how your work fits into the Labs’ missions and strategies — and, believe me, it does. Regardless of your exact organizational role, whether in nuclear deterrence or facilities and logistics, each of you directly supports Sandia’s missions.
One of my greatest joys is helping the women and men I mentor to identify their contributions to the Labs’ overall picture. I discuss with them how to “think up” a level or two so they can prepare themselves and their work to intertwine with other pieces at Sandia. Understanding your role in this vital national laboratory is the first step to a long and fulfilling career at Sandia.
Act with bravery
Another key to a successful career and life lies in your ability to see opportunities beyond tough choices and summon the bravery to make them.
When I arrived at Sandia in 1995, I found the Labs to be male-dominated, reflecting much of the industry at the time. As I grew in responsibility, I summoned the courage to lead organizations mostly staffed by men.
At Sandia, we are asked to think big and then make it happen. We are also called to be courageous. Lasting, positive change comes through action, determination and working with those around you, teaming with them for success. Step out in courage, and help change Sandia — and the world — for the better.
Pass on what you know
Starting with my first project, Dori Ellis took me under her wing. Dori is now Sandia’s Deputy Labs Director and remains a positive influence in my life. I have followed her example by mentoring men and women throughout my career.
Both at work and outside of work, I try to pass on the lessons I have learned in my career doing what no woman had ever done at Sandia. I devote one-on-one personal time to my mentees, realizing that I can often help people more when I understand who they are and what they bring to the table. I am especially committed to empowering young women to fulfill their potential, and I have enjoyed my involvement in the Sandia Women’s Action Network, Purdue Alumni Women Peer Mentoring Group and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico.
I find mentoring fulfilling, energizing and rewarding. I encourage everyone to mentor and use what they have learned to help others understand their value and place at Sandia. Giving of yourself is the most valuable thing you can do. It enhances your career, your co-workers and your life.
Growing up in a small Midwest farming community, I always knew I wanted to do something bigger, and I am happy that I took my path. Every day at Sandia, I have an opportunity to contribute something valuable to our nation.
We all share in this exciting mission. We are also fortunate to work in a place that continues to celebrate and illuminate the roles of the women who came before us and the women we work alongside now.
Sandia is filled with incredible people conducting amazing work. We all have compelling stories and see the world in unique ways that spur innovation.
I was the exception, and now I get to work with the exceptional.