New employees build a network ... and houses

Photo of LLNEN New Hire Build Day Laboratory employees Emily Grosse and Anna Bethke lay gravel under a wheelchair access ramp on a new house built in Bedford by Habitat for Humanity.

The Lincoln Laboratory New Employees Network (LLNEN) hosted a "New Hire Build Day" in July while participating in a new outreach activity, Habitat for Humanity.

Rotating teams of volunteers worked in Bedford, Massachusetts for three days in four-hour shifts, renovating an old farmhouse and preparing two new homes. LLNEN members worked together to seal a foundation, lay gravel under walkways, plant trees and a shrub, and install a basement drain system, among many other tasks.

Jessica Brooks, an employee in the Engineering Analysis Group since summer 2009, proposed the idea of a New Hire Build Day. She said "Habitat for Humanity is a great match for us because they work to find the right family who needs help but also wants to help themselves by building, soliciting sponsors, and paying back the cost of their home. This methodology helps these families better themselves for the future. Lincoln Laboratory employees should be able to appreciate that since our work betters technology for the future."

The chairperson of LLNEN, Bryan Reid, who joined the Laboratory's Optical Systems Engineering Group in spring 2009, said, "Habitat for Humanity was a great opportunity to give something back while advancing the Laboratory's connection to the community." Reid believes the event should be continued in the future and potentially expanded. This outreach event was open to all MIT Lincoln Laboratory employees. More than 100 employees attended the information session prior to the build days, and, after the dates were set, 25 people represented the Laboratory in this effort, from only three members during one four-hour shift, to as many as 13 for another.

Photo of LLNEN New Hire Build Day Laboratory volunteers and LLNEN members Brian Rybicki, Jessica Brooks, Bryan Reid, Shaheed Rahim, and Peter Radecki brush tar onto a foundation wall to seal a basement during their build day for Habitat for Humanity.

Another LLNEN committee member, Ngaire Underhill of the Weather Sensing Group since summer 2008, said "Since our build site was local, it really helped new employees make some connection to the community, giving them a greater sense of connection and belonging." After taking part in Habitat for Humanity, Underhill indicated that the site will always be something the volunteers can look at and say "I helped those people. It really personalized the effort," she said.

The LLNEN creates opportunities to socialize, network, and get to know Lincoln Laboratory better. How long one can be considered a new employee has been the topic of debate at several committee meetings. "We concentrate our help for people who have been at the Laboratory for less than three years," says Underhill, "but we're trying to help all employees acclimate—not just work at the Laboratory, but feel as if they are a part of the Laboratory by being connected through other employees and programs."

The planning committee for LLNEN meets once monthly to plan social and professional events. The group's wiki page offers helpful Laboratory links and tips, information about services available on the Air Force Base, lists of clubs to join, and outreach activity ideas. The website also has area information and provides ideas for time away from work, such as places in the area for lunch and links to weekend activities.

The LLNEN committee consists of Bryan M. Reid (chair), Rodolfo Cuevas (assistant chair), Cathy Ho (secretary), Ngaire Underhill (treasurer), Sara James (webmaster), Jessica Brooks (event coordinator), Kelly Moran (event coordinator), Kevin Carter (welcoming coordinator), and Jessica Olszta (welcoming coordinator). Membership in LLNEN is open to all MIT Lincoln Laboratory employees.

After the last day of building a house with Habitat for Humanity, Brooks reflected on the event and said, "I think the event was really successful, and I am excited to help LLNEN make this an annual summer activity for the Laboratory."

Posted September 2010

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