STEM Professional of the week

Julie V. Cordero, PE, CFEI      
Sandia National Laboratories

Julie Cordero was raised in Lyden, New Mexico on a a 5-acre hilltop homestead with an appreciation deeply rooted in the cultural and spiritual traditions of her family. Julie spent her childhood working alongside her father on the family farm. She developed a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility through her experiences and her parents own can-do spirit.
From her earliest days, Julie was encouraged to study hard. In high school, she began preparing herself by enrolling in a Business Professionals of America course, designed to help prepare students through problem solving and real-world business skills. This experience would set Julie on a path to success. At 15, she was hired for a summer internship at Los Alamos National Lab, one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world.  After graduating from high school, Julie opted to take college courses at the local University of New Mexico (UNM) branch campus. When it came time for Julie to choose a major, she recognized that a technologist degree would allow her the opportunity to have more hands-on work.  By happenstance, a scientist who worked in her building suggested she pursue an engineering degree instead, and she followed that advice. Her major would require Julie to transfer to UNM’s main campus about two hours from home. With the understanding that school wouldn’t pay for itself, Julie applied to as many scholarships as she could and worked part-time while taking courses. During her first year as an undergraduate student, Julie was hired as an intern at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), where she has made a steady climb up the rungs of the organizational ladder ever since.

Always an achiever, many of Julie’s superiors recognized her drive and determination early on. During her third year as a mechanical engineer in the Facilities department at SNL, a manager encouraged Julie to obtain a master’s degree in fire protection. Unfamiliar with that particular field, Julie took it upon herself to research and quickly determined that a fire protection degree would put her in an extremely specialized and highly demanding field. Tapping into her hard working roots, Julie decided to pursue her master’s, while balancing her family and professional life. Today, Julie is serving as a Fire Protection Engineer and Acting Manager of the Fire Protection & Assurance Department at SNL, where she aligns fire protection programs at Sandia sites and oversees seven staff members. Since 2011, Julie has fulfilled the role of the New Mexico Site Fire Marshal and received delegate authority from the National Nuclear Security Administration, Sandia Field Office for all fire protection matters. Her responsibilities include the oversight of fire safety operations in nearly 900 buildings totaling approximately 6 million gross square feet, with a replacement plant value of approximately $4B. Julie is the first female fire marshal at SNL and the youngest and only female fire marshal in the Department of Energy complex. 

Over the years, Julie has committed herself to helping young students who are trying to find their path in life as she once was. She is involved with numerous organizations and mentorship roles that motivate young students’ interest in STEM fields. She was instrumental in beginning a local chapter for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and also helps coordinate activities for the annual Hispanic Heritage Month at SNL. In addition, Julie mentors young women pursuing high school and college degrees through the Sandia STAR program and Sandia Women’s Action Network (SWAN). She has also coached aspiring engineers in Great Minds in STEM’s HENAAC College Bowl, providing directives on their resumes for possible job opportunities. 

Julie holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in fire protection from the University of Maryland at College Park. Julie also holds licenses and certifications as a Registered Professional Fire Protection Engineer and a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator. 

View More Professionals of the Week