Traci Ryan, one of the hiring managers at Sandia/California, said during an interview that Sandia has been in an expansion mode in Livermore throughout the 6 ½ years she’s worked there. The ambitious plans for 2019 call for adding 200 employees across all job categories. Those range from PhD scientists and engineers to skilled technicians to site support services.
Traditionally, Sandia Livermore (renamed to Sandia/California) has employed about 1,000 people. It opened in 1956 to support the much-larger Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is located across East Avenue. Lawrence Livermore was the second nuclear weapons lab, opening in 1952, to provide a second and competitive lab to the original lab, Los Alamos in New Mexico. Sandia, an engineering lab, is headquartered in Albuququre, NM and is the largest of the national labs with 13,000 employees.
“We’re hiring research and development post-docs in cyber-security, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering (for professionals),” said Ryan. “We’re also hiring for site operations and technicians. The mission is the same—we’ve gotten orders to do a lot more work.”
The lab needs lots of talented post-docs in the biosciences, materials sciences, chemistry and chemical engineering, she said.
Given the red-hot Bay Area job market for technical talent, I asked Traci how Sandia is working to recruit against the private sector. Both Livermore labs are located at the foot of the Altamont Pass, well removed from the heart of the Bay Area. Sandia was never high-profile—that was taken by Lawrence Livermore and its nuclear design mission—but, with the changing media landscape both labs receive very little news coverage. Ask a man on the street in Cupertino if he’s heard of Sandia and I’d be willing to bet it would be one in 10 at best.
“There are a lot of options for people with technical skills. Sandia offers some pretty unique benefits that the private sector cannot match. National security mission that impacts everyone in the country and the world—it gives people a sense of purpose,” she said.
Traci also said that Sandia stresses work/life balance and offers flexible work schedules such as 9/80 (working nine hours daily and having every other Friday off) or working four 10-hour days each week.
Some people have left Sandia for the private sector and found no work/life balance and then returned to Sandia, she said. The lab offers a two-year option to return if an employee leaves for the private sector. If the employee decides to return, they do so with no loss of benefits or seniority.
“We have some of brightest minds in country here. There’s a mix of people working with purpose and attention to diversity and inclusion. Lots of people come to Sandia and spend their career here because there’s an amount of security.
“It’s a stable place while private industry can be somewhat volatile. It’s about doing great work.
People deep down are quite dedicated to the mission,” she said.
Depending on where people live, commuting to Livermore can add hours of family time each week because it’s a reverse commute for Tri-Valley residents and most East Bay residents, while it’s the first exit for San Joaquin County commuters or residents of Eastern Contra Costa County.
Jules Bernstein, the public information officer, pointed out, “Because it is such a large laboratory there’s lots of room for career growth and movement around the lab to work on different projects. That’s unique about Sandia because it’s an engineering lab (others are science labs). It fosters unique collaborative culture that a lot of people find appealing.”
I checked with Lawrence Livermore and it also is in a growth mode. Lawrence has about 6,500 career employees with another 1,000 contract and post-docs working there. The growth centers on program needs in high-speed computing, additive manufacturing and national security, wrote Lynda Seaver, public affairs director. The lab anticipates hiring between 570 and 690 employees annually through 2024 to cover attrition and the additional work load.