Betsy GromBy Kathryn E. Jandeska • March 29, 2013
Betsy Grom is the performance program manager in Argonne's Environment, Safety and Quality Assurance division. She heads Argonne’s work planning and control system.
What is your background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Notre Dame and a master’s degree in architectural engineering from Penn State.
How did you happen to choose civil engineering as your undergraduate major?
I love bridges, and to this day, I will go out of my way to see a cool bridge somewhere. But after I graduated there weren’t any jobs in bridge engineering, so I landed at Harza Engineering, a hydropower firm in Chicago. I had a junior-level engineering job and worked my way up into the role of a project manager.
How did your career path lead to Argonne?
Actually, I wasn’t looking to leave Harza, but I had just had a baby and most of my work required travel.
My father was a mechanical engineer at Argonne and he saw a posting for a project management job. When he called me about it, I wasn’t interested because I really loved what I was doing. But after putting in one of those 14- to 16-hour days that are common in the consulting world, I got home and found that my baby son was going to bed and I hadn’t had a chance to see him at all that day. This happened to be the day my dad left the job posting in my mailbox. I got the job and started in March 2003.
What was your first job at Argonne?
I was in the Plant Facilities and Services division. For the first few years I did various project management jobs all around the site, and then in the nuclear facilities.
Later, when the Nuclear Operations division was forming and they needed an engineering group lead, I worked in that role for about three years. Then, an opportunity opened up in Compliance Oversight & Assessments. This lateral move allowed me to work all around the lab.
Some time later, I learned that Argonne was looking to revamp its work planning and control procedures. Lab Director Eric Isaacs was assembling a team to look at how the lab handles work planning and control and make it simpler and more efficient. I joined that team and after several months of work, we delivered a report with recommendations. After we submitted the plan, I was asked to implement it. I’ve been in this role for about two years.
What do you like best about your job?
I actually love what I’m doing. Working at Argonne, I get to do one of the things I like most: build programs. Also, I put together lots of metrics for the lab, analyzing the data and figuring out ways to show management what kind of job we’re doing, whether it’s in safety or quality or some other aspect of lab operations.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There really isn’t a typical day. I come to work with a plan and sometimes my day goes according to plan, but sometimes you have to adjust along the way.
What are some of the pluses about Argonne?
Argonne is a great place to be challenged. I’ve always been able to seek out new challenges here.
Argonne is also a great place for working parents. One of the big selling points for me was its on-site Child Development Center because when I came, my son Noah was just nine months old. By joining Argonne, I was gaining work-life balance and that was really key for me.
Is there anything you’ve learned in your Argonne work that has influenced your life outside the lab?
Argonne is such a learning organization — the work being done here has made me more aware of the world around me. For example, when the Chevy Volt went into production, it was exciting to realize that, in some remote way, all of us had an impact on that.
I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone’s job is important here. Your name might not be on the patent, but you had a part in it. It may be a small part, but if we didn’t have that one little piece, the whole thing might fall apart.