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Bill Oliver Looks Forward to Mondays

Bill Oliver is reminded daily of the time he spent in the U.S. Navy. All he has to do is look at the screen saver on his Laboratory computer monitor—a photo of the USS Swordfish, the submarine he served on some 40 years ago.

Bill considers himself a fortunate veteran. He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in math. Through the ROTC program, he was commissioned in the U.S. Navy for five years, during the Vietnam War. The skills he learned in the service, coupled with his college degree, helped him launch a career in process control and factory automation after his discharge. In 1996, he joined LLNL as a control systems worker in the Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation (AVLIS) program. He subsequently completed a master’s degree in computer science while working full time.

Today, he writes code for an application called GRIZ, which is used to visualize finite element analysis output. Bill notes with pride that the Navy employs this program, and the Army and Air Force have expressed interest in it. GRIZ can be used to understand how a vessel’s hull responds to shock loadings, for instance. Bill says that he enjoys software development because it requires both creativity and a solid grounding in mathematics. He has no plans to retire. “It’s one of those jobs where I look forward to Mondays,” he says. “Why would I want to retire? My work keeps me challenged, and it’s good exercise for the brain.”

The Navy not only provided Bill with valuable skills and experience, it also provided him with a lifelong community. For the past few years, Bill has been working to give back to that community. In 2011, Bill saw a brochure about joining the American Legion. “I realized that I was not doing any kind of community service. That was the catalyst for me to start thinking about what I could to do to help our veterans,” notes Bill.

After learning that veterans suffer from an above-average unemployment rate, Bill committed to helping veterans pursue their educational and career goals. He partnered with several other Laboratory employees to present workshops on resume writing, interviewing, and social networking to veteran audiences and helped to develop a formal Laboratory outreach program for veterans. Most recently, Bill worked with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter to create a textbook assistance fund to support veterans attending a local community college. The fund is now part of LLNL’s annual Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) employee charity drive.

“I want to show today’s veterans they are valued,” he says. He notes that these outreach efforts ultimately benefit LLNL as well. For instance, some individuals supported by the book program will go on to complete a technical degree and might eventually prove ideal candidates for Laboratory positions. Not only does Bill love his work, he is also passionate about helping others find career paths that will make them eagerly await Mondays, too.