To celebrate Women in Construction week, we are highlighting Amanda Clark who oversees projects for the National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Enterprise Project Management (NA-APM-20) at Pantex.
Clark is currently the Federal Project Director for High Explosive Science and Engineering (HESE) Facility and for the High Explosive Synthesis, Formulation & Production (HESFP) Facility, and also manages the Material Staging Facility project for NNSA. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and has been working in project and construction management since 1998.
“I started as a document control clerk and junior construction inspector for an Architectural/Engineering firm, discovered how challenging and rewarding the work was, and quickly progressed to senior inspector and then project manager,” she said.
She first came to Pantex in 2004 as a self-employed subcontractor through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support NNSA on Facilities & Infrastructure Recapitalization Program (FIRP) project execution. She has been a federal employee since 2009.
When asked what the most fulfilling part of her career is, Clark compared it to parenthood, which is a journey of joy, heartache, and pride that many can relate to.
“Getting to help my teams achieve their career goals and watching their professional growth has to be the closest thing to the journey of parenthood that I’ve ever experienced in my career in project management,” she said. “Of course, helping to build structures that will still be around and operating long after I have retired is also pretty cool!”
She went on to say that all the things she has helped to build in NNSA contribute in such a direct and meaningful way to national security missions is just a bonus.
“It is a pretty incredible feeling to say, ’I knew him or her when….’ as my team members progress on in their careers, or to be able to point to a building and tell my kids ’I helped build that.’ Nothing like it in the world,” she said.
Amanda’s mother, a registered nurse, is the person who has inspired her most.
“My mother is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most giving people I’ve ever known,” she said. “But she also always stands up for what she believes and defends her position tenaciously. I grew up hearing her talk to my dad about balancing speaking up to doctors without seeming to challenge their authority in order to ensure her patients’ voices were heard; while I’m sure she didn’t think I was listening, it definitely taught me some important lessons about the art of negotiation.”
She says her mom showed her the value of speaking up in a respectful way, and inspired her to encourage her teams to always contribute by proving she will listen to their advice and address their concerns.
“My mom is also the epitome of ’tough but fair’ and I’ve always tried to emulate that quality, either as a supervisor or as a project manager,” she said.
She said it is important to encourage and educate young women about job fulfillment from skilled trades because we spend more hours at work than pursuing any other single activity, so it should really be rewarding and enjoyable, and something you look forward to.
“Not everyone was built to work in the confines of an office, but I think there has been a reluctance by women to jump into fieldwork due to some weird perception that you have to choose between femininity and following your heart to do hands-on work,” she said.
Clarks said she’s always been what you might consider a bit of a tomboy, but has never viewed her job as limiting.
“I’m just as comfortable dressing up to go to the opera as I am putting on work boots and a hard hat to kick the dirt and talk to work crews so I can understand any challenges and help our buildings/projects go more smoothly and be more efficient,” she said. “I would love it if every young woman could experience that, such that all the perceived barriers would just disappear for future generations.”
Her advice for other women who may be interested in pursuing a career in construction is that it is a rewarding field, and there are no longer the same barriers that existed when she first started working on projects 20 years ago.
“No person in this country should feel that this field isn’t open to them,” she said. “If you are fulfilled by working with your hands, building things, being part of a working team, and finding creative ways to solve problems, then working on a project site as a tradesperson or in engineering or project management can be very rewarding. If you do what you love, work becomes a joy.”
Clark is always excited to see other women on the jobsite, as she’s still outnumbered by her male counterparts.
“Girls today seem so much braver and bolder to me than I felt growing up, but I know it can still be a little daunting to go into a position or trade where you know you have to ‘prove’ yourself,” she said. “I think it is important to recognize that men entering the skilled trades experience the same learning curve, so women should not let fear deter them. It does get easier, and I’m now at the point where the quickest way to get me to jump a hurdle is to tell me why I can’t!”
Amarillo Foster In Texas received a backpack and school supplies from the Pantex grant.
Three siblings between the ages of four and seven were living in a trailer with no running water. The oldest sibling served as the primary caretaker for his two younger siblings. After joining a stable home through foster care, they are able to recover from the trauma and thrive.
Through the $7,500 grant given to Upbring from the Pantex Community Investment Fund, these siblings, and other children served by Amarillo Foster In Texas, received backpacks and school supplies to help them gain confidence and succeed.
Upbring is a leading Texas-based, faith-inspired nonprofit organization working to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families, and communities. They work to benefit families with life-changing programs—including foster care, adoption, education, children’s centers, and community services.
“Pantex’s support of children in foster care and their families is making an impact when our community needs it the most,” said Mary Kathrine Matalon, with Upbring. “The gift from Pantex has made an impact in Amarillo that will be felt for generations to come,” Matalon said. “We thank them for joining with Upbring to create a world where every child is loved, protected, and cherished.”
In addition to backpack and school supplies, foster families received swaddling blankets, baby bed sheets, and other necessities so they could provide a loving home for infants and toddlers in foster care, and two kinship families received funding to cover home inspection costs and a gap in subsidized day care.
A member of the Pantex Community Investment Fund Employee Advisory Committee, Brian Jones, is grateful for the partnerships that allow Pantex to impact the lives of those in the Panhandle.
“As a former foster parent myself, I know how important community support is. This grant, and the joy that it provides, has impacts on our community for years to come,” he said.
Amarillo Foster In Texas hosted a Back to School party where foster families enjoyed two hours of bowling, pizza, and soft drinks. The event closed with the distribution of school supplies and backpacks.
Pantex’s grant will also be used to make dreams come true this Christmas by fulfilling the wishes of foster children. A celebration for foster families will also be held if it is safe to do so.
Consolidated Nuclear Security established the Pantex Community Investment Fund and has been helping local organizations since its inception in 2016. The Pantex Fund is a partnership with the Amarillo Area Foundation, which assists in the distribution of funds. In 2020, 16 nonprofits in the Texas Panhandle received grants equaling over $121,000 from the fund during a virtual ceremony.
From the beginning, Pantex created an employee advisory committee to determine distribution of the grants that target charities and non‑profit organizations that offer assistance with basic needs, children, youth, families, community development, education, financial literacy, as well as health and wellness.
Amarillo Foster In Texas received a backpack and school supplies from the Pantex grant."
Amarillo Foster In Texas hosted a Back to School party where foster families enjoyed two hours of bowling, pizza, and soft drinks."
The Pantex Plastics Shop designed and produced modular plastic shields to deploy across the site.
In their continued effort to find solutions to ensure employee safety during the pandemic, Pantex Safety and Industrial Hygiene sought out cooperation across the site to employ new plastic shielding at various locations on site.
“We recognized that breakrooms and lunchrooms presented a challenge when employees are eating and drinking as the masks have to be removed,” said Shane Feagan of Pantex S&IH. “While organizations have worked throughout the pandemic to stagger breaks and lunches with socially distanced tables and chairs, the plastic barriers are an added physical layer of protection.”
After identifying the need, S&IH reached out to the onsite Plastics Shop to help with the design of modular Lexan shield that could be configured in multiples or standalone units to fit each area’s need. Procurement also stepped up to quickly procure the needed Lexan. The Plastics Shop used the water jet system to increase production to 40 shields per day. To date, over 160 sheets of Lexan were ordered to meet demand. The shop is currently sending them to organizations all across the site.
“I am extremely proud of how the Plastics Shop helped us recognize this challenge and continue to work tirelessly to fulfill the orders to ensure their coworkers are safe,” Feagan said. “By making these on site, we not only saved significant costs versus ordering the shields, but we are able to quickly manufacture them and put them in use.”
The shielding has been deployed to many organizations already, including Weapons Training, Medical, Counterintelligence, Security, and Quality. More orders will be shipped out to all of the south end breakrooms and both cafeterias. There are currently over 400 requests for shielding being worked.
“It is our hope that the shielding keeps employees safe so that we can fulfill our important mission and send them home safe to their families each day,” Feagan said. “These are challenging times, but I am grateful that employees continue to do everything we can to ensure we are able to continue to work safely. It reinforces that Pantex employees are truly the best and I am extremely thankful that I get to be a part of the Pantex family.”
Lexan plastic shields have been added to breakrooms for added protection when eating without a face covering.
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.
Dr. Paston (center) talks to Geoff Beausoleil, manager of the NNSA Production Office, and Michelle Reichert, CNS president and chief executive officer, at the vaccination clinic.
After more than two months of seeking approval, planning, and preparation, Pantex began administering COVID‑19 vaccines on site February 2 to high‑risk employees; based on the feedback received, it has been an overwhelming success.
Dr. Michael Paston, Pantex occupational medical director said, “it was beautiful.”
“We worked with Emergency Management to develop a plan, then we drilled the plan last week,” said Don Morris, senior manager of Pantex Occupational Health Services. “We walked through the process several times to make sure the flow would work well, and we made a couple of adjustments.”
This type of emergency response vaccine distribution was more than a year in the making. In 2019, Pantex began collaborating with Amarillo Public Health to develop a point of distribution plan for national medical emergencies.
“In response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, that POD plan was evaluated for use to deliver vaccines and a vaccine plan attachment was developed,” said Daniel Gleaves, manager of Pantex Emergency Management.
In order better prepare and to see a vaccine setup first hand, OHS and EM staff met with Amarillo Public Health in January 2021 and walked through the city’s vaccine setup.
“We walked through their process and got some good takeaways from them. They shared their lessons learned with us,&38221; Morris said. “We made some adjustments, because we couldn’t use some of their suggestions based on the line of work we do.”
The staff conducted several drills to ensure the process ran smoothly.
“It went like clockwork, and we didn’t have to change anything,” Morris said.
“Leading up to today, the team used this year’s flu shot distribution to test the plan, conducted a tabletop drill, and held two separate dry runs in addition to just-in-time training for the staff to prepare for the POD,” Gleaves said.
In November 2020, Pantex began the process to obtain approval from the Texas Department of State Health Services to be able to receive and administer the COVID‑19 vaccine.
“Dr. Paston was our primary contact. He gathered information the state needed and submitted the forms to be reviewed by the state before they would certify us to be a vaccine provider,” Gleaves said.
The effort to receive the state’s approval was supported by many CNS groups, including Supply Chain Management; Information Solutions and Services; Management Assessment; OHS; Environmental Services; Environment, Safety, and Health; and Safeguards and Security. The NNSA Production Office also supported CNS’s efforts to obtain approval.
The vaccine administration began February 2 in the John C. Drummond Center Auditorium with a steady crowd of Pantexans receiving their first doses all day.
“We administered 243 on the first day, and it went swimmingly,” Paston said.
“Our plan was to thaw out 240 doses the first day, then adjust for the following days,” Morris said. “We ended up having a few extra doses, so we got people down to the auditorium to receive those so we didn’t have to store any,” Morris said.
“The first day’s turnout was in line with what we expected,” Gleaves said. “We realized that we can deliver many more vaccines than previously estimated. We had estimated that approximately 30 individuals can be vaccinated every hour, but based on the first day’s performance, it is now estimated we can deliver approximately 60 vaccines per hour.”
The initial order will provide more than 1,100 doses of the vaccine. “Either later this week or early next week, we expect to finish administering all we have and will reorder,” Morris said. “We’ll try to submit the reorder form before we run out.”
Dr. Paston also mentioned that they’ll be reordering the booster doses next week as well, so those will be available for employees to start receiving on February 23.
When asked how quickly the entire plant site, beyond those who are considered high risk, will have access to the vaccine, Paston said he sees that happening soon.
“We are going to go pretty quick because our workers fall into first responders, critical workers, etc.,” he said. “We follow the state of Texas’ rules and when Texas opens up the next phases, we will follow those phases as well.”