A minute with Holly Lett, head of talent development

Professional portrait of Holly Lett

Head of talent development at Fermilab, Holly Lett, sees her role as helping people get to their next level, career-wise. Photo: Ryan Postel, Fermilab

What kind of work do you do at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory?

I’m the department head for Talent Development in human resources for the laboratory. In collaboration with other leaders, I’m responsible for Fermilab’s talent development strategy.
I see my role as helping people get to their next level, career-wise. Tell me where you want to go; tell me what you’ve got already; let’s take a look to see what’s missing; and let’s fill in those gaps. My job is to help individuals maximize their potential. I love it because it’s a wonderful thing to help people realize their goals.

What brought you here?

For about three years on and off, I contracted with Fermilab facilitating leadership communications and coaching courses. At the time, I was running my own business: I was traveling all across the country, presenting seminars. I had built a good relationship with the former talent development manager at Fermilab, so she told me about a potential opportunity. I applied, interviewed and was offered the position.

By contracting with the organization first, I got a feel for the culture here before taking a permanent position. My experiences working here were positive while engaging with different leaders during classes. I had a good feeling about the people here. I thought, “I really think I can work with these people. They’re super smart and have great senses of humor.” That’s why I decided to go back to working for an organization because I was vehemently against it until I met Fermilab.

What programs does your department oversee?

A lot comes out of my department. In addition to me, there are three people, and we do an enormous amount of work. For example, the TAP program, which is the Tuition Assistance Program; the mentoring program, Fermilab management practices, FRA scholarships; those are scholarships for the children of Fermilab employees. We also manage Fermilab’s harassment discrimination training, and we’re responsible for the instructional design of our web-based training for [non-safety-related] courses.

We’ve also recently launched the Emerging Leaders Development Program. Past climate surveys recognized that individual contributors were looking for opportunities to develop their leadership skills before becoming a leader. Emerging Leaders Development program was created to address this need. We currently have 12 participants in this year’s pilot cohort, and we’re monitoring the program closely for improvements along the way. It will be interesting to hear what the participants think of the program once completed.

Do you have a favorite program that you’re working on?

One of my favorite projects right now is the Course Catalog Cleanup Project. It was identified that our current web-based training, in many instances, is very content-heavy and needs to be consolidated and streamlined. Additionally, we want to update and refresh the look of our web-based training and go in a slightly different direction than we have in the past.

We work for a national laboratory, so we have a lot of training. However, we can trim down some things to make the trainings more succinct and impactful to the learner. We’re not trying to water down content by streamlining it, but really trying to bring the best of the content up to the surface in a way that’s engaging, modern and keeps the interest of the learner.

Another benefit of this project is the development of a standards guide that provides guidance on Fermilab branding, content development, images and font usage for e-learning. This way, there’s consistency in the quality of training developed at the lab.

I’m so excited about this project because I wanted to do it a couple of years ago, but things just didn’t line up; we didn’t have the resources to do it. Now we do.

What are some of your favorite things about working at Fermilab?

When you come from a corporate background, it’s a lot different coming to a place that’s a little corporate, a little academic, a little this and a little that. That’s what I like about Fermilab — it’s a combination of many disciplines. It’s not just one thing, so there’s a diversity here that you don’t get at other organizations.

I also think the work and the research is worthwhile. I think the science is incredibly interesting. I love dark matter. Don’t ask me why I love dark matter, I just do; I think it’s fascinating. And neutrinos I feel are like my hair: all over the place. I just love neutrinos.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I have two grandsons. They are about 15 months apart. So when I’m not working, I’m typically babysitting and spending time with the grandkids.

I’m also finishing up a Master of Science in leadership and organizational development. I’ve got one more class to go, so that will be taking up a lot of my time as well.

And, I do enjoy Netflix and reading.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.