The National Nuclear Security Administration is celebrating the women who make up the backbone of our Enterprise. These women work across areas like project management, maintenance, disposition, sustainability and more. Their contributions and accomplishments are what make our workforce so incredible, and their backgrounds and expertise ensure that workforce is just as vibrant and important as the missions they support.
Title: BUILDER Program Manager
Program/Office: Office of Infrastructure Planning & Analysis (NA-521)
Years in infrastructure: 12.5 years with the Federal Government
How did you become interested in infrastructure or what was your career path to this point?
I went to college (Texas A&M University) thinking I wanted to be a special effects artist for Hollywood, something of a digital version of Rick Baker, but very quickly determined that I didn’t enjoy working with computers nearly as much as was required, so the hunt was on for a new career path. I always enjoyed building things, so thought ah-ha! Architecture! As a pre-requisite for architectural studies, I had to take a construction materials and methods course that opened my eyes up to the fascinating world of construction, from how to lay foundations to heavy equipment. And boy, was I hooked! I LOVED learning all about how to construct facilities and manage a construction site, so I changed my major that first day to a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science. I followed that up with a master’s in architecture and went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ] in Fort Worth, Texas.
I spent two years in architectural design, construction oversight, and contract management. And then one day someone asked me, “Hey, have you ever heard about a software program named BUILDER? The Corps needs someone to help manage a new infrastructure condition assessment program for the Air Force and we thought of you.” Always excited for a new challenge, I accepted the role and spent the next two years supporting that program, which included meeting my husband-to-be in my very first BUILDER training course! After an excellent marriage proposal atop the Sandia Mountains, I moved to Albuquerque to be with my new hubby working for the Corps as a construction project manager. Quite serendipitously, the NNSA was just starting its own BUILDER implementation in October of that same year and given my experience with the Air Force, I became the new USACE BUILDER Program Manager supporting the NNSA.
In 2017, the NNSA made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (ha!) to work for them full-time supporting their BUILDER Program, which I did, and the rest is history! These past five years working for NNSA have been the most rewarding of my career and I have found my calling serving as an infrastructure program manager.
Describe a proud moment or accomplishment.
Thankfully, I’m lucky to have so many it’s hard to isolate just one. I take tremendous pride in the work of our entire BUILDER team who, day-in and day-out, innovate unprecedented solutions which serve as the leading example within the federal government. Each time we accomplish a major task, get an attaboy (or girl) from our stakeholders, or see the fruits of our labor improving the lives and work of those around us, it fills me with joy and admiration for the amazing work that we do.
Why do you like working for NNSA?
Never before have I been exposed to such hard-working, dedicated, and intelligent folks as those at the NNSA. This community drives me to be a better version of myself each day and makes me feel valued and appreciated. Let me tell you, that is a rare quality in any large organization, and I feel tremendously lucky to have found a true home in the Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations. A job, at the end of the day, need only be a means to support your life outside of the office, but when it can be rewarding and enjoyable, well that’s the golden ticket. I can say wholeheartedly that I won the Wonka prize being a part of this NNSA family.
I can guarantee that if you have a passion for the infrastructure environment, you will never be bored! This industry is always evolving with new technologies and is exceptionally rewarding because your efforts directly impact the lives of those around you. You help give people homes, places to learn and expand their minds, space to share ideas and commune with others, simply put … you shelter the hearts and minds of our community and give them a place to plan for and live in a better future.
For those women considering a career in infrastructure, don’t be intimidated by being one of only a few in this industry. I graduated with only five other women amongst a sea of men in my undergraduate degree and continued to be a lone female in many of my positions throughout the years. More and more women are joining our career path, but if you ever doubt yourself or your abilities simply due to your sex, don’t! There is a place for everyone in this industry and we need folks from all walks of life to make it success.
Seek out work environments that include motivated people who treat one another with respect and push you to try new things. And don’t be afraid to say “yes” to new opportunities. All of the best things in my life came about when I took on new challenges even if they didn’t seem ideal at the time. Be bold and explore the new and you won’t regret it!
*This is part of an ongoing series for Women’s History Month to recognize women in infrastructure at NNSA*