UPF CNS Deputy Project Director credits Y-12/UPF as ‘highlight of her career.’
Taking a first-of-a-kind facility from design through major construction milestones is something many engineers dream of doing. For Cathy Flavin, Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) CNS deputy project director, it has been her reality. Flavin joined the project 9 years ago, working on the initial planning and design for the multi-facility concept. She had worked a year for another Bechtel project in the United Kingdom before moving to East Tennessee during the CNS contract transition when a project engineering manager was needed for UPF.
As UPF CNS deputy project director, Flavin focuses on the project’s relationships with Y-12 and NNSA, primarily the Y-12 Acquisition and Project Management Office. With each of the area project managers for the Main Process Building, Salvage and Accountability Building, and Process Support Facilities subprojects reporting to her, Flavin manages overall project performance and the escalation of issues. She provides leadership for planning and reporting, as well as guidance for implementing process improvements.
Flavin’s professional journey into engineering began at Michigan State University, when she entered as an undeclared engineering major. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in science and math, and she eventually chose electrical engineering as her focus. After graduating, her first job was working at the Savannah River Site and, from that point on, most of her career has focused on executing projects for the Department of Energy.
At UPF, many of Flavin’s colleagues endearingly refer to her as the “project historian” because of her deep understanding of the technical requirements and aspects of the site. Flavin believes her knowledge of the project and DOE processes is one of the best things she can bring to the table.
“Because I was the engineering manager during the design process, I am pretty familiar with a wide range of processes and builds happening on-site. One of the things I enjoy most about working at UPF is being able to see the renderings and designs on paper actually transformed into this history-making facility,” said Flavin. “Being a part of something like this at Y-12, whose mission is one I deeply believe in, has truly been a highlight of my career.”
What is your favorite aspect about your work environment?
Working as a team to solve problems has always been my favorite part of the job. Watching our team come together and rise to the challenge is a big motivator.
What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
All of them really speak to me daily on the project. If I had to choose, I would say setting high standards and having a questioning attitude. It’s important to challenge the status quo and make sure we do the right thing for the right reasons. Those are pillars of success that have been engrained in me throughout my career; we want to make sure we do our jobs right the first time as engineers. It doesn’t do any good if we build the building or facility but then it can’t be used by the workforce.
As an employee, what do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for being helpful and trustworthy — someone who others can depend on. On a lighter note, I want to be remembered for helping people laugh. On a project before UPF, I was told by a colleague that I could always be found on the site just by listening for my laugh. What we do is serious work, but it’s important we also look on the positive side, and humor can be the best way to maintain positive energy. It’s important to me to be a great person to work for and work with.
What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Y-12 or UPF?
Read the procedures.
Just kidding. Well, still do that. My biggest piece of advice is to find someone you look up to and ask that person to be your mentor, and when you gain experience, mentor other people.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Definitely teleportation, because I could pop all over the world without the headache of traveling. I would travel first to see my kids and family all over the country. A lot of people don’t know I have four kids who all have their own careers. I would probably go to Los Alamos first, and then Utah, followed by New York and Delaware.