Argonne National Laboratory

Kim Mandekich

By Imelda FrancisJune 4, 2014

What role do you play at Argonne?

I oversee the programs that provide safeguards and security services to Argonne National Laboratory. This includes providing site management with guidance regarding the possession and handling of classified matter/classified computing systems, safeguarding the unauthorized removal of special nuclear materials from the site. Our team is also responsible for site access/badging, physical security, protective force, security education/awareness and personnel security clearances.

How does your work support the lab’s larger mission?

Site security involves a much broader scope than traditional lock and key and protective force guards. In the next decade there are five major threats to national security identified: biological weapons, nuclear weapons, cyber attacks, climate change and transnational crime/terror. Argonne currently performs work in all these areas and works with multiple government agencies to identify vulnerabilities and provide technical solutions that ultimately strengthen America’s ability to deal with these major threats. Much of this work is performed in high security facilities — that's where the Safeguards and Security group becomes an integral player. Safeguards and security personnel work with program personnel to provide them with the necessary resources and accredited facilities to perform their work.

What attracted you to work at Argonne?

I wanted to work for a company that had long-term career opportunities and when I interviewed for my first position at the lab, I learned about the educational assistance program the lab offers. I started working at Argonne 22 years ago and have been humbled by the opportunities I have received. Working for a company with a mission to address vital national challenges and to pave the way to secure a nation has been very rewarding.

What are the things you like most about your work?

It’s always interesting! There is rarely a dull day in my job, which can make planning my day challenging, but at the same time, it's the aspect of not knowing what the day will bring that makes me look forward to coming to work. There is great career fulfillment knowing that in some small way, the work our team does every day is helping to make a difference in protecting our country.

What sorts of positive mentoring experiences, formal or informal, have you had at Argonne?

Throughout the years, I have been fortunate to have several mentors who have helped me realize who I am professionally and what I can accomplish. I had wonderful mentors when I first started out at Argonne, working in Human Resources (HR). Larry Collins, Intelligence Analysis Division Director, and Dave Metta, FMS Associate Division Director, were two people who were instrumental in my decision to make a career change over to security. When I first started working in security, I was overwhelmed. It was a relief to have mentors who allowed me to express my insecurities and to ask the seemingly “stupid” questions. I have learned a great deal from observing both of them tackle difficult challenges with intelligence, patience and perseverance, and they both continue to be an integral part of my career.

What sorts of Argonne activities or clubs do you participate in?

I served on the Argonne Club board for several years while working in HR. Argonne Club is a social and recreational organization for Argonne employees, family members and retirees.

Outside of work, I enjoy gardening and horseback riding. I also enjoy photography which takes me outdoors with fellow photo-friends “shooting” flowers, wildlife, landscapes or whatever else may pass by my shutter.

How does Argonne support a positive work-life balance for you?

The alternative work schedule that Argonne implemented several years ago has made managing family and personal commitments easier, which makes life go a bit smoother.

What sorts of career development opportunities has Argonne provided you with?

I have had multiple careers at Argonne. The first 15 years of my career at the lab were spent working in several different positions in Human Resources. I used the educational assistance program that the lab offers and completed my bachelor’s degree. And after I made the decision to move to a career in the Security group, I completed a master's degree program in management.

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