For Edna Annis, a walk in San Francisco led to a career at Berkeley Lab. Edna, newly arrived from Singapore, was strolling a San Francisco street when she saw a sign for a job fair. She walked in, met a recruiter, and a few weeks later received a call that put her on the path to a career at the Lab. Annis, now the Lab’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer, said she knew little about the Lab when she showed up that first day.

“Finding my interview appointment in Building 50 was the first challenge,” said Annis. “I was hired as an administrative assistant supporting EH&S, creating documents and forms, and anything else that was needed. It was a good way to learn about the Lab.”

As a child in Singapore, Edna Annis’ job was to go to school, bring home good grades, and work towards a career. That was what her parents expected. Her first paying job before college was making balloon arches for an event-planning company in Singapore. Through that job, her boss eventually became her sister-in-law when a young man from the U.S. came for a visit. The spark was ignited, and the couple exchanged mail and packages while Annis concentrated on college.

“He was a prolific writer, so for every two pages I wrote, he would send me 30. Then, we decided to send unconventional things in the mail to see what the post office would allow. We put stamps and an address on a remote control holder shaped like a mannequin hand, and you know, what? It got delivered.”

“I applied for a role at the Lab but was not selected. As things turned out, it was for the best. If I had gotten that job, I would have gone down a different path and wouldn’t have been happy in the long run.”

Edna Annis

Q: What, if anything, interested you as a child that led you to your current position?

A: As a child, I was interested in foreign places, and the foreign service seemed like a good career path. This led me to pursue a double major in Southeast Asian studies with an emphasis on Vietnam alongside Philosophy. I learned about Vietnam and the Vietnamese language and spent a little time there during my final year in college. Although my journey didn’t lead me to the foreign service I initially envisioned, I find immense fulfillment in being a part of the vibrant international community here at the Lab.


Q: Who was your most influential mentor – formal or informal – and how did they shape your career path?

A: I had fantastic mentors in my supervisors and managers, such as Kim Williams, Terry Hamilton, Sue Bowen, and Becky Cornett, who allowed me to grow at the Lab. In addition, I learned so much from different Lab colleagues I connected with along the way by simply reaching out to them to grab a coffee with me.  It doesn’t need to be about career advancement. Reaching out to others is a great way to learn about the Lab and make connections. I have also regarded my team members as mentors and learned much from them in my career journey.

With my supervisor’s support, I moved into an administrator position with Internal Audit and studied and received the necessary auditing certification to become an Internal Auditor. The mentoring from my team member, Harry Lorsbach, helped me grow in this career. After my time in ETA as a business manager, I moved into the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, OCFO, as a manager in Procurement, eventually becoming the Lab’s Chief Procurement Officer, then the deputy CFO.


Q: What job in your career journey has impacted your personal life the most?  

A: From a personal point of view, my job constructing balloon arches led me to my husband, so that impacted my life the most. 


Q: What is the best job you ever had?

A: Most of my career has been at the Lab, and I can’t say I liked one job more than the other. They were all fun and exciting, but I was probably most inspired when I worked in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), now the Energy Technologies Area. I was a business process analyst and then a business manager. I enjoy learning new things and felt closest to the Lab’s research mission in that position. I knew I needed to leave to make a more significant impact at the Lab, so while I won’t say I regret leaving, it was hard to leave that group. 


Q: What career setback or mistake has helped you to succeed or grow?

A: I applied for a role at the Lab midway through my career but was not selected. Of course, it was disappointing initially, but as things turned out, it was for the best. If I had gotten that job, I would have gone down a different path and wouldn’t have been happy in the long run. I believe everything happens for a reason. The best advice is to keep your head up, keep learning, and keep moving forward. Another door will open. 


Q: What is the most important piece of career advice you have learned? 

A: Early in my career, I realized the immense value of learning from those around me. All I had to do was ask! In doing so, I gained insights and made connections I would not have otherwise. In addition,  I discovered a willingness to listen and help from colleagues throughout the Lab and generosity in sharing experiences and knowledge.

A career at Berkeley Lab offers a range of opportunities supported by training, mentorship, and career development programs. Whether you choose to build a career at the Lab or take your skills to other organizations, a career path to and at the Lab sets you up for success.