I am mission success: Colby Yeary

  • Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 12:52 pm

Colby Yeary, acting manager of Mission Engineering
Colby Yeary, acting manager of Mission Engineering

When Colby Yeary, acting manager of Mission Engineering, joined the Nuclear Security Enterprise as a process engineer 15 years ago, he envisioned a set of experiences to further his career development.

“I was very fortunate, in that my first role as a process engineer, provided me a solid foundation for how the NSE, a set of unique sites, comes together to support common goals and missions,” he said. “This business has its own lexicon, and understanding the language takes time and assistance from those who are fluent. The role, training curriculum, and my mentors helped me immensely.”

His goal was to learn as much about engineering, program management, and operations at Pantex to give him the well-rounded background necessary to offer value to the NSE in a leadership role.

As his experience grew and the NNSA’s contract included combining Pantex and Y-12, he took an enterprise position where he found Pantex and Y-12, while very diverse in their purposes, both have exceptional people and capabilities.

“It’s fascinating how similar the people at these two sites and states we reside in are,” he said. “Genuine, hardworking, intelligent, and patriotic people.”

Through his experiences with CNS, Yeary has always maintained that mentoring is key to success.

“Most, if not all of us, can reflect on our past and think of individuals who made positive impacts in our lives and careers. Many of these individuals are considered mentors. Think of the times when:

  • You would have done something incorrectly, had it not been for ’Jane‘ explaining how to do it.
  • You were in a stressful situation, and ’Joe’ reached out to lend you a hand and describe how he had experienced something similar.
  • You learned how to do something more efficiently, sought out career advice…..the list goes on.

“For me, I clearly recall the names, faces, and conversations with the people who have helped me when I needed it – I am forever grateful to them. Similarly, I have always made it an area of personal focus to help others who can benefit from my advice and encouragement. We’re teammates helping each other.”

Why are you mission success?
I am mission success not for who I am or what I have become, but for what I provide for others and the nation. I have found it interesting that as time passes, our ambition and perspective on life can change. It’s a humbling experience.

What daily task (specific meeting, report, etc.) lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How/why does that task let you know you’re working toward the mission?
There are many gauges that provide these indications. If I were to pick one, it would be a weekly meeting Mission Engineering conducts internally referred to as the WAR (weekly activity report). Each week, the Mission Engineering leadership team reviews progress we are making toward our Business Operating Plans and our specific Business Area Plan for the organization; we make adjustments along the way to ensure we are optimizing our value. A tremendous amount of content is covered in an hour’s time, and when I reflect on the steps we take toward our goals and objectives each and every week, it’s a great indication of progress being made.

What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
One of my favorite aspects of my work environment is learning from others and helping others learn. The old adage, “iron sharpens iron” comes to mind. From my perspective, if we can all help each other raise our individual games, then our collective game to fulfill the mission is raised as a result. It’s a snowball effect, and that’s part of why I advocate so strongly for mentorship.

What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Pantex or Y-12?
First, this is a complicated business, and these two sites are no exception. The number of requirements, processes, systems, and interfaces can be daunting at first glance. My advice is to establish a support system of mentors, in some cases with the help of your supervisor making the connections.

A common misconception is that you only need a single mentor. However, there are role-specific mentors that help you do your current job, but also mentors that can help you make the important decisions that will shape the next opportunity and those to come. When the opportunity arises, pay it forward by helping others with your experiences. Work hard, be patient, do what’s right for the nation, and the personal satisfaction will not disappoint.

What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
Although I have worked in and traveled to many places, I am from the Amarillo area (a small town not far from Pantex called Borger). While growing up I had heard the term “Pantex” and knew roughly where it was located, but I had no idea what Pantex did until I was out of college and working in Houston.