Young Professional 2019: Marcus Aranda

Marcus Aranda, Project coordinator for Veolia Nuclear Solutions Federal Services

Marcus Aranda (Photo courtesy Rich Breshears of Breshears Photography)

Age and hometown: 32, Pasco

How long have you worked at Veolia? 4 years

Describe your company: Veolia Nuclear Solutions Federal Services specializes in the facility clean up and treatment of radioactive waste. Specifically at the 222-S Laboratory, VNSFS performs the analytical services production functions. The 222-S Laboratory is a 70,000-square-foot Hazard Category 3 Nuclear Facility that handles highly radioactive samples for purposes of organic, inorganic and radio-chemistry analyses. These analyses support tank waste characterization, tank waste retrievals and tank closures for the Hanford Tank Farms. Analyses also support Vadose Zone Program analyses.

Education: Bio-chemistry degree from Washington State University and an associate  degree from Columbia Basin College

Family? Pets? My wife Christina who is a corporate accountant for HPMC, Medical provider for the Hanford site, and two children, Maxwell, 5, and Savannah, 2.

How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? 32 years

What word describes you? Persistent

Biggest flaw? Overanalyzing

Biggest pet peeve? When people are not resourceful

Dream vacation? Cancun

Favorite book? “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

 Favorite movie? “Fast and Furious”

Favorite musician? Post Malone

Favorite sports team? Seattle Seahawks

Favorite website? Real estate websites—always dreaming of investments

Favorite Tri-City restaurant? Tacos Palomino

Favorite thing to do in Tri-Cities? Take my kids to various arcades for games and pizza, bike around the Columbia River, go out to listen to my friends DJ, and take my wife on dinner dates.

What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? I owned and operated a company named Dick Danger Productions LLC and have been involved in event and nightclub promotions for the last seven years. I have planned and promoted events for 2,500-plus guests. (Boat Race Bash). We brought in full concert sound and lighting, laser systems, a total of 17 subcontractors for a single night. Event promotion and production is sometimes referred to as gambling. It can be very stressful, issues have to be resolved immediately and you only have one night to recoup a large investment.

Describe your job and how you got into it: My current job title is project coordinator. My duties include managing and coordinating projects to ensure timeliness and quality of final analytical deliverables. Collaborating with the analytical department, laboratory management and laboratory customers to ensure that project reports are completed according to regulatory and customer requirements. Interface with laboratory customers to establish sampling plans and customer objectives. Author reports and review analytical data for completeness prior to issuing final reports to customers.

I started out as chemist at Columbia Basin Analytical where I worked from 2011-14. There I took on multiple roles beyond a chemist, such as project coordinator and LIMS (Laboratory Informational Management System) administrator. I then moved out to the Hanford site/222-S Laboratory as a quality assurance scientist where after six months and a contract transition I was placed in the interim quality assurance manager role. I performed that role for two years and have been a project coordinator for one year.

In addition to my everyday job, my wife and I are real estate investors. We have one duplex and are currently working on land development. We bought 2.5 acres and have subdivided it into four lots. We are putting in the sewer, utilities and the road system. We will be selling off three lots and keeping one for ourselves to build our dream home. After our home is built, our plan is to add a new rental property to our portfolio every two years.

Who are your mentors? Sue Kon, our laboratory director, is my mentor. The most important thing that she has taught me is to have a vision and be passionate about your work. She takes great pride in grooming and promoting personnel within the company into management roles. She has a vision for the laboratory and the personnel who work here. She also has been very passionate about the work completed here, ensuring that the laboratory does all it can do to support the Hanford cleanup mission and to do it efficiently and with integrity.

Toughest career decision? The toughest career choice I had to make was moving from quality assurance to project management. I was on the path to become the quality assurance manager, rather than the interim manager, when the project coordinator position was presented to me. Both are great opportunities and I initially turned down the project coordinator position. It was a tough decision because I was already familiar with the QA manager job and the other was an unknown but something I knew I could be good at with my previous experience as an event producer and my personality in general. Sue Kon, my mentor and boss, also could see that I would excel in this position. However, the position had a high turnover rate, and I was concerned that I would be leaving a job I enjoyed for something that others clearly didn’t care for. After making the switch, a few months into it, I was performing well but felt like I had made a huge mistake career wise, that I had ruined the entire trajectory of my career and I even asked for my old job back. After some time, I became comfortable in the position and started to make process improvements and began to enjoy what I was doing. I ended up sticking it out and am now glad that I made the decision to switch.

What do you like most/least about your job? I will start with what I like least about my job: sometimes I am not in charge of my own destiny. A lot of my work is dependent on others completing their work on time and sometimes the laboratory will experience a huge surge in samples or issues where it becomes difficult to complete analyses on time.

Fortunately, that sets up my favorite part of the job, which is problem solving. Determining what items should take priority, speaking with the client and letting them know the lab’s current situation and setting up plans to make sure that deadlines are met.

What was your first job? My first job was working for my grandfather on his farm (Swanda Farms in Pasco). The most important thing I learned from him was work ethic and to take pride in your product. My grandpa could outwork anyone and had a no-quit attitude—where there’s a will, there’s a way.

There are stories upon stories of my grandfather’s work ethic and the lengths he would go to get a job done.

How do you achieve work-life balance? My dad showed me how to achieve a work-life balance. He has had a very successful career out at Hanford but has always made time for our sporting events, school plays, etc. I have learned that you can measure success in different ways. Some only judge success by how much money you make or net worth. I judge my personal success on how good of a worker I am, how good of a husband I am, how good of a father I am being to my children, and recently I have had to take a step back from some of my extra activities and make sure that I am taking care of myself as well.

Community involvement and service: I am on the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program Scholarship board. To date I have raised $35,000 for the scholarship program. While I never received a HAAP scholarship myself, the certificates that I received throughout my lifetime motivated me to be better, and I believe that their mission is life changing.


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