Pantexan Kayla Mendez has been recognized by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce as a 2023 Top 20 Under 40 Award winner.
The award is given annually to area early career professionals who demonstrate professional excellence and bring value to the Amarillo business community.
An Amarillo native, Mendez has worked at Pantex since 2015. She has been part of teams that have earned Defense Programs Awards of Excellence in 2019 and 2020.
In addition to her efforts at Pantex, Mendez is very active in giving back to her community.
She participates in a wide range of Pantex volunteer efforts and serves as a board member for the Amarillo Independent School District.
“I’ve always liked to try and give back,” she said. “Learning the other side of how a district runs and how the legislative part of things runs – the background and budgets – are eye opening. I have a deep appreciation for teachers, and this gives me even more appreciation.”
To be eligible for the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Top 20 under 40 Award, the candidates must be employed in the area for at least three years and in the same field during that time, though not necessarily at the same businesses. Winners were selected by judges who reviewed nominations and picked the top 20 award winners as up‑and‑coming Amarillo professionals who are standouts in their professions.
“It’s humbling,” Mendez said of the award she has earned. “I love helping and love being around the kids and giving something back to the community. For my work, I want do a good job with the utmost quality and to the best of my ability and to be successful so that Pantex is successful. It’s humbling, and I’m honored to be recognized.”
For nearly 40 years, Pantex employee Wade B. has been among those forming the protective line that protects the plant 24 hours per day, and he has not lost focus on the importance of what he does each day.
Wade grew up on a farm near Stratford, Texas, and when he was considering his career path as a younger man, a family member suggested Pantex as an option. His job duties vary widely, but they all come down to protecting the plant and everything within it. The highly trained force is dedicated to providing the highest level of protection possible.
Most of them are members of the Pantex Guards Union, which was established July 2, 1953, and thus is celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The PGU acts as the exclusive collective bargaining agent for all safeguards and security division protective force personnel below the rank of lieutenant employed at Pantex. It represents all its members in negotiations, agreements, and grievances, and it protects and promotes the interests of its members.
“Although I wasn’t here 70 years ago, I felt a leading to continue the legacy prior union representatives had started,” Wade said. “I have always had an opinion on most issues but never believed in complaining in the background. I have always been willing to support, defend, and promote my opinion and therefore believe you shouldn’t just complain about issues but bring forward solutions.”
In pursuit of that belief, Wade has served the union in a variety of roles, up to and including business agent and as a lead negotiator for three collective bargaining agreement negotiations. He is currently a steward, senior trustee, and negotiating committee member.
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?
Every day I work security, and knowing that unauthorized personnel and controlled articles have not entered the plant and therefore plant operations can proceed safely and securely lets me know I’m helping the mission. And I know any emergency is responded to quickly and adjudicated properly.
How does patriotism factor into your life? Did your level of patriotism change after working at Pantex?
I have always been patriotic, even at a young age. I believe in the success of our great nation and want to protect our constitution and God-given liberty. After working here and realizing the strategic importance and one-of-a-kind mission we have, my patriotism even expanded and my yearning to protect our country became increasingly important.
As an employee, what do you want to be remembered for?
Serving and educating others to help them succeed.
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
Elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains, because whether or not I punch my tag, I get my batteries recharged (mind decompressed and refocused – putting life in proper perspective) just being in the splendor and beauty of God’s creation.
Take five minutes to learn about Production Planning & Controls’ Ed D. “I Am Mission Success” profiles share how each employee feels tied to the Pantex and/or Y-12 mission. All views and opinions are the employees’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
People are the heart of CNS: Everything that happens at Pantex rests with the mindset, attitudes, and actions of the people who work here. Those committed to personal and professional excellence not only succeed in their own careers—they encourage and inspire others to do so as well.
Longtime Pantexan Ed D. is such a person.
Ed connects problems with solutions in his characteristic calm joviality. He enjoys turning daunting challenges into mutually beneficial resolutions.
“Problem solving, along with a unique ability to work together with dignity and respect are my strengths,” he said. “They are extremely important to me. I strive to bring professionalism, patience, and good communication skills to work every day.”
Ed described finding great fulfillment in making the connections that alleviate potential conflict between individuals or teams.
“Interfacing with many departments and assisting with resolving issues on a daily basis is an accomplishing feeling and provides [me] a duty-oriented satisfaction,” he said.
Nowhere is this trait more on display than during a daily problem-solving, escalation and tracking meeting Ed facilitates. Team after team reports their successes and challenges to their Pantex colleagues. Ed manages the issues, demonstrating a keen instinct for when to remain in the background and let individuals talk through their projects’ needs and when someone might need a gentle word of appreciation.
“Facilitating the [meeting] allows me the opportunity to address, help solve and mitigate challenges on a daily basis,” he said.
Day after day, Ed addresses those challenges head-on and, day after day, he rewards his colleagues’ diligence with the same words of encouragement: “Thank you so much for the privilege of your time, and have a blessed day.”
What advice or encouragement would you give a new employee or someone considering applying for a career here?
“Pantex provides unlimited paths to learn and grow life’s strategies for success.”
In what way are you mission success?
“I strive to be vigilant, cognizant, and responsive to the expectations of the company.”
What would your coworkers be most surprised to learn about you?
“Most coworkers don’t know that I am the organist at the church I attend every Sunday.”
What’s your top bucket list item, and why?
“My bucket list item is to go on a cruise next year.”
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity, and why?
“My favorite outside activities include working with my church and spending time with my siblings, children, and grandchildren.”
Pantex’s Tek F. is seen working on the SLM 280 Metal 3D printer
In the past few years, additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3-dimensional printing, has shown record growth with more than $18 billion in U.S. sales last year, according to Fortune Business Insights. Major industries, including automotive, construction, health, along with sites within the federal government, are incorporating 3D applications.
AM is unique in the fact it creates a part by adding material onto a surface instead of the more conventional method of subtractive manufacturing, where the process begins with a larger piece of material and the “subtracts” what is not needed to complete the final part.
There are a wide variety of methods and materials on the open market available for 3D printing. The most common process is fused deposition modeling, which heats a single plastic filament and builds the final item up a layer at a time. Digital light processing uses liquid resin that cures using ultraviolet light. Other printing methods include selective laser sintering, which melts a layer of powdered material with a high-powered laser; selective laser melting, which is specifically for metal printing capabilities; and poly jet printing for polymers only. CNS is currently working with vendors to add different on-site printing methods, since off-the-shelf printers do not meet its stringent requirements.
“Additive manufacturing impacts mission success by being able to create parts that would be very difficult to machine with an accelerated timeline,” said Pantex Engineer Wright S.. “For mission deliverables we have the capability to design and produce parts with greater flexibility than traditional manufacturing.”
At Pantex, 3D printing is primarily used to deliver mission-critical parts for the firing site, internally within the high explosives manufacturing group, as well as completing special requests site-wide. But there is a learning curve.
“Most of this difficulty can be attributed to how new to industrial use additive manufacturing is, especially when compared to subtractive manufacturing. Our second hurdle is encouraging a growth mindset. More groups are starting to add small scale 3D printers into their work areas for sample printing. After that, it will be encouraging the workforce to adapt to and utilize 3D printing wherever possible in our mission-critical production environment,” said Wright.
Maybe it’s her infectious laugh, her kind and helping spirit, or her dedication to producing quality work for more than a decade, but Pantexan Chantal J. is a popular face inside and outside the office.
Chantal is one of the hard-working engineers at the plant who, for more than a decade, has worked to make sure the mission moves smoothly and safely. She got her foot in the door while in college and seeking an internship to gain experience.
“I found out about Pantex through a friend and applied for a co-op position,” she said. “During the co-op, I found that I loved Amarillo and loved working for Pantex and wanted to stay.”
That was in 2011, and shortly after that she was hired as an engineer. Nearly a decade later, she says she loves the challenge of her work.
Her work has been recognized with various excellence awards over the years.
If she’s not at work, one of the most common places to find Chantal is at her many volunteering pursuits.
She has supported the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering since 2011 and is currently the co-coordinator of the local chapter. The group works to support students in underrepresented groups and inspire them to explore engineering. Each year, the chapter hosts egg drop, catapult, and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competitions and participates in community activities like the EPIC Success career fair and Pantex’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering.
She also serves as vice president and coordinates events for her sorority and volunteers at the High Plains Food Bank and with the Northside Toy Drive.
Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? If so, describe how you got here.
I always envisioned myself doing something related to architecture or STEM but never envisioned myself working at a one-of-a-kind government facility like Pantex. I also never envisioned myself getting a master’s of fire protection engineering before working at Pantex.
Pantex opened doors by helping me jump-start my career in architectural engineering and helped me further my education with their reimbursement program. I’ve been able to utilize everything I’ve learned from Day 1 and strengthen my skills in design.
Never would I have imaged that I would be doing the work that I’m doing now, while working with such great people.
What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
My favorite aspect about my work environment is being able to meet and work with new people and learn about the different groups on-site. Working with different groups helps me realize that we all play a big role in helping with the mission, no matter the size of the project.
What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
I believe “Safety, Security, Zero Defects” and “Deliver as Promised” all play a part in design.
What is one thing your coworkers would be surprised to know about you?
My coworkers sometimes get surprised when they find out I have a first degree black belt in tae kwon do and a yellow belt in jujitsu.
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
One of my favorite outside-of-work activities is hanging out with my pup. She’s always by my side and always keeping me going.