Our employee spotlight shines a light on one employee at a time. We value diversity and inclusion and welcome diverse thinking. It takes a village — through collaboration, living safely and driving innovation we realize our goals and help our clients achieve mission success. Our mantra is people first, mission always. In February, we’ll focus on Black History Month (BHM). The next spotlight is this Q&A with Sonya Johnson, Communications, Community, Diversity and Workforce Development Programs Manager, UCOR.
How did you come to join Amentum?
After spending 20 years at DOE sites in the western part of the country, I decided to move back east and accepted the position as Communications Manager for Amentum led joint venture UCOR, the cleanup contractor for the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation.
What is your professional and personal background?
Over the past 35 years, I have worked in Communications at various DOE sites — most notably I headed the public involvement effort for Yucca Mountain and later moved to Washington state where I became director of Communications for Hanford’s Central Plateau cleanup contractor. In the 1990s I was part of the team that spearheaded the East Tennessee Technology Park Reindustrialization effort in Oak Ridge and in 2018 I returned to the area as Communication Manager.
Describe the work you do and how you think it makes a positive impact.
I lead an exceptional team of professionals who communicate the great story of cleanup on the Oak Ridge Reservation. We rely on video, social media, publications, and partnerships with our community to share our successes and experiences. I also lead the diversity and workforce development effort for UCOR. The impact of this work is that we continue to get the needed support for the important environmental cleanup work we are doing – this benefits the environment, the community, and ultimately, the American taxpayer. My work also helps ensure that there is a diverse pipeline of talent for current and future work in environmental management.
What are some of your accomplishments and/or what has been your proudest career moment?
I’m very proud to have provided communications oversight of the ETTP Reindustrialization campaign in the mid-1990s, which would ultimately lead transformation of the former gaseous diffusion plant to a multi-use industrial park. One of the other highlights of my career was leading the public involvement process that led to U.S. presidential approval to develop Yucca Mountain as the nation’s high-level waste repository. In my current assignment, I established a robust video services function within UCOR to provide more dynamic avenues to tell our story. Recently, I advanced our DEI efforts and facilitated MOUs with two HBCUs.
What do you enjoy about working for Amentum?
I enjoy the exceptional leadership. I’m proud to be part of a management team that finished the historic cleanup of East Tennessee Technology Park four years early and $80 million under budget. UCOR’s management and Amentum’s oversight are the best in the business.
What are you passionate about?
I enjoy the workforce development aspect of my job, and in particular, the outreach to disadvantaged communities. We are committed to diversity and inclusion, and I’m honored to be involved in efforts to recruit bright, talented individuals who make UCOR a stronger team.
What’s your career advice?
It’s important not to be afraid to take chances and to approach problems with unique solutions that others may not have thought of. There is usually a solution for any issue and finding a resolution can take some ingenuity.
What does safety mean to you, or do you have a favorite safety tip?
When I joined UCOR, I was amazed at what a safety-focused company it is. I find myself applying principles that we adhere to at work to my home life. My favorite safety tip comes from a common phrase at UCOR—Walking is Working. We should always be cognizant and looking for tripping hazards, slick spots, etc. when walking.
What’s the best invention in the world and why?
It may seem a bit obvious, but the cell phone has helped us stay in touch, both personally and professionally. The second greatest invention is the instant message function, which allows me to quickly communicate with business associates and, most importantly, my 90-year-old tech-savvy dad!
What does Black History Month mean to Sonya Johnson?
Black History Month allows us time to observe and appreciate the many contributions by African Americans that are just as significant the other 11 months of the year. It is a time to honor those who we may not be as familiar with but whose contributions are an essential part of the fabric of America.
Anything else you would like to share from a personal or professional perspective?
I think it is important to maintain a sense of balance in your career and personal life. You must nurture yourself professionally and in your homelife — making selfcare a priority, to perform at your optimum level.