O’Hara named 2020 ‘Woman Worth Watching’

By Luke Frank

Photography By Bret Latter

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Sandia systems engineer earns Profiles in Diversity Journal honor

Carrie O’Hara teaches nuclear safety class
COMPLETE PROFESSIONAL — Sandia systems engineer Carrie O’Hara teaches a workshop during the 2019 International Training Course on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities.

Sandia systems engineer Carrie O’Hara has been selected as a 2020 Women Worth Watching award winner by Profiles in Diversity Journal. The awards, in their 19th year, recognize dynamic professional women who are using their talents and influence to change our workplaces and our world.

Carrie was nominated for dedicating her career to making the world safer. As a respected physical security expert and innovative instructional systems designer at Sandia, she collaborates with numerous federal agencies to develop and lead training programs for nuclear security professionals in the U.S. and across the globe.

Nominees for the award are judged on contributions and achievements in three of five categories: leadership, executive responsibility, professional achievement, innovation and mentorship.

Before becoming a systems engineer at Sandia, Carrie served as the Labs’ security systems and technology training project lead for the U.S. Navy Strategic Weapons Facilities Physical Security Engineering programs for both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. She developed and led training for all U.S. Navy and Marine security forces.

While serving in the role, Carrie also earned her master’s degree in organizational learning and instructional technology at the University of New Mexico. She used the techniques she learned in her master’s program to develop innovative technology-based simulation and gaming courses.

“This award was a surprise to me, but I’m honored,” Carrie said. “I love working for Sandia Labs. I feel like my work here is important, and I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given. We have a great community of people at Sandia.”

Working in transportation security at Sandia has greatly expanded Carrie’s knowledge of domestic and international nuclear physical security, she said. “This experience has given me invaluable insights for collaborating with other departments at the Labs to create training programs for a safer nuclear security complex.”

Confident problem solving, leadership

Carrie attributes her success in part to having the confidence to solve problems in difficult situations. “Leadership comes from having confidence,” she said. “We all will encounter that 1% of people in our lives who are not accepting of us. It happens to everyone, but it’s not an excuse not to succeed.”

From 1993-2001, Carrie served in the U.S. Air Force as a combat survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor, training aircrew and special forces on the physical and psychological stresses of survival and teaching them the skills needed to stay alive if they were to get separated from their units or aircraft.

“My advice to young women is to never take ‘no’ for an answer and never let someone else hold you back,” Carrie said. “Put in the work and get the training you need to pursue your goals. Your success is a direct result of your efforts. It won’t be easy, but ‘no’ is for other people, not you.”

Sandia Chief Diversity Officer Esther Hernandez said Carrie is a great example of success through dedication and hard work. “Her focus and commitment throughout her career definitely make Carrie a woman worth watching.”

“Carrie O’Hara is an outstanding candidate for Women Worth Watching,” said James Rector, Profiles in Diversity Journal publisher and CEO. “Responsibilities, job performance, qualifications and experience are the true measure of a Woman Worth Watching, and Carrie exemplifies the complete professional.”

Profiles in Diversity Journal is a quarterly magazine dedicated to promoting and advancing diversity and inclusion in the corporate, government, nonprofit, higher education and military sectors.