Recognizing Lincoln Laboratory's Administrative and Support Excellence Award winners

The awards recognize administrative, support, and service staff for demonstrated excellence in support of Lincoln Laboratory's mission.

By Kylie Foy and Nathan Parde | Technical Communications Group

The lively audience of MIT Lincoln Laboratory staff waited with pom-poms, bells, and kazoos in hand. As the door to the auditorium opened, Erin Jones-Ravgiala, Robert McLaren, Irene Oliver, and Curt Heintz, the day's awardees, were met with cheers from their coworkers before taking their seats for the Administrative and Support Excellence Award Ceremony on 15 May.

Four years ago, the Director's Office established the awards to recognize the exceptional work of those in administrative and support roles at the Laboratory, who total more than 1,400 employees. Jones-Ravgiala and McLaren were each named this year's winners in the Support Excellence category.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Administrative and Support Awards 2017MIT Lincoln Laboratory Director Dr. Eric Evans (left) presented the 2017 Administrative and Support Excellence Awards to (from left to right) Irene Oliver, Curt Heintz, Erin Jones-Ravgiala, and Robert McLaren. Photo credit: Glen Cooper.

Erin Jones-Ravgiala's journey at the Laboratory started 14 years ago, when she was hired as the second administrative assistant in the Advanced Technology Division. Jones-Ravgiala soon excelled, and in 2014 became the administrator of the newly formed Quantum Information and Integrated Nanosystems Group.

At the ceremony, Dr. Mark Gouker, Assistant Division Head of the Advanced Technology Division, described the vast responsibilities Jones-Ravgiala faced as the admin of a new and rapidly evolving group. "In only two years, the Quantum Information and Integrated Nanosystems Group grew from 45 to nearly 90 people. That's 90 people to help set up meetings for, make travel plans for, and make purchases for, on top of making sure the group leaders are where they are supposed to be. Erin is at the center of all of that. While the administrator is the center of the group, Erin is really the heart of it."

Many administrators throughout the Advanced Technology Division now come to her for advice and mentoring. "Over the years many other peers in the division have been successful in their own groups with the help of Erin," a colleague shared.

Robert "Bob" McLaren came to the Laboratory 32 years ago as a technician in the Instrument Room. Ten years ago, he transitioned to Tactical Defense Systems Group, where he has since led the design and fabrication of hundreds of RF system assemblies supporting the U.S. Air Force Red Team. "The main role of the Red Team is to help us understand what threats we may face. We do this by prototyping systems, many on airborne platforms," said Dr. Marc Viera, Assistant Division Head of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance and Tactical Systems Division. "Bob has been responsible for building the back-end of these systems. He's responsible for thousands and thousands of parts, and making sure they work when they are in the air. He has built true masterpieces that enable our work to get done."

McLaren's "masterpieces" enable critical testing of systems. A typical project involves McLaren meeting with a Laboratory engineer who describes system specifications and requirements. He then translates their vision into a real-world design in a chassis or assembly.

In addition to technical work, McLaren has been a mentor to other technicians throughout the years. During his acceptance speech, he emphasized teamwork. "Thank you to my fellow technicians; it's a pleasure to work alongside you. Your leadership and friendship has been a big reason for the success of all the technicians in the group. Knowing how appreciated we are drives us to be the best that we can be," he said.

In the Administrative category, Curt Heintz of the Information Services Department (ISD) and Irene Oliver of the Financial Services Department (F$D) were awarded. When the Laboratory's prime contract—the legal document that allows for the operation of the Laboratory—was most recently signed, Irene Oliver worked with the Laboratory community and Air Force administrators to ensure it was implemented in an efficient manner. And when one of the largest cyberattacks ever—the WannaCry ransomware—attacked more than 200,000 computers across the globe two weeks ago, Curt Heintz acted to safeguard Laboratory systems.

As the deputy chief information officer for ISD, Heintz provides leadership support for the technology and infrastructure services offered at the Laboratory. "Curt has been and continues to be invaluable in helping me get my bearings as the new chief information officer for the Laboratory," said Bob Solis, Department Head, ISD. "I am grateful for that, and look forward to many successes in the coming years working alongside Curt."

Since joining the Laboratory in 2009 as the team lead for the ISD Server Team, Heintz has been responsible for a broad suite of service areas. "Curt has been instrumental for many years in fostering a culture of team cooperation within ISD and across the Laboratory," said David Martinez, Associate Division Head, Cyber Security and Information Sciences Division. "He excels in his IT technical knowledge and he is committed to high standards for him, his team, and across the department."

Heintz is humbled and overwhelmed to have been selected for the award. "This recognition gives me new energy and a desire to continue pushing the boundaries of what one can do, and make a difference."

A senior financial analyst in F$D, Irene Oliver establishes critical working relationships with Laboratory and Air Force personnel to ensure that government funding is processed efficiently. "By establishing communication channels across the Laboratory and with the Air Force contract administrators, and by demonstrating a collaborative approach and professionalism, Irene produces work that is a fine illustration of the importance of the administrative staff supporting the mission of the Laboratory," said Patricia O'Riordan, Department Head, F$D.

Each year, Oliver coordinates the processing of approximately 1,300 funding documents, 60 contract modifications, and 100 new programs. Her favorite aspects of her job are working in a fast-paced environment, balancing many tasks, and, most of all, helping people. "Irene is one of the most dedicated and talented people I've worked with," said Stephen Kent, Contracting Services Department.

"Receiving funding into the Laboratory can be difficult at times," added Eric Bardzik, Division Business Manager, Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control Division. "Irene is the point of contact for everything funding related and she somehow tracks all the packages and funding documents with ease. She goes above and beyond and is truly an asset to the organization."

At the award ceremony, Oliver thanked her colleagues, the Airmen who came out to support her, and her family. "This is one of my proudest moments. It's nice to know that I have a full team of support."

Posted June 2017

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