Erin harbin

Visible Spectrum is a series to spotlight talented and dedicated women employees across the Lab

May 17, 2022

Erin Harbin has been at Berkeley Lab for the past 15 years and is currently the Principal Administrator in the Building Technologies and Urban Systems (BTUS) Division. She leads the administrative and operations staff and helps operationalize and navigate complex business processes so that researchers can focus on their science. Erin is also heavily involved in the annual operating planning process for the Lab’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) portfolio as well as a number of California Energy Commission projects.

Outside of the Lab, Erin can be found with her 7 year old and 5 year old, whether it is exploring, playing at the park, cooking, cheering them on at sporting events, or shuttling them to dance class.

What inspired you to work at Berkeley Lab?

I worked in property management before the Lab and then started in the facilities division as an administrator where I spent about 6 years learning about capital construction projects and the overall operations side of the Lab. After completing many capital projects and obtaining my MBA, I transitioned over to the research side by joining BTUS and have really grown in this environment.

I am constantly in awe of the research going on across the lab and in the Energy Technologies Area. I’m excited to be a part of team science, working with and supporting great leaders and researchers conducting innovative and creative research to advance energy efficiency.

What have you been most proud of in your work?

One thing I am proud of is how I have been able to engage with diverse stakeholders and strengthen the Lab community. In my role, I interact with a variety of people which provides me the opportunity to communicate business needs, but also am able to weave in the IDEA principles to the work that is underway at the Lab and keep the conversations active. In addition to my day-to-day role, I also serve on the IDEA Chairs Council and am the IDEA Working Group Co-Chair for the Energy Technologies Area, so I partner with my brilliant colleagues and thought leaders across the area and Lab.

One project I was proud to be part of was developing a new onboarding program and resource for all new Lab employees. I am a firm believer in relationship building and people management, so I strive to promote inclusion and a sense of culture and belonging in the BTUS division. The Lab is a strong community with great resources and I am proud to contribute to a team that is making large impacts in energy efficiency.

Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter and/or succeed in your field of work?

To be successful in this kind of role, you need to be resourceful and flexible. Approach things with self awareness. Each day will bring you a different set of challenges and opportunities so you have to be open to listening and thinking things through. In addition, the Lab is a large complex organization, so the day-to-day is rarely about one person, but broader goals to advance the overall mission. That’s why I try to align my day-to-day activities with the division’s research mission and goals.

How can our community engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?

By participating in community outreach events and getting more people involved in the great programs that the Lab has to offer, such as the After School Science Hour and the Lab Ambassador Program to name a few. Now that I have a young daughter, I am more aware of the importance of setting an example by showing her women in STEM, talking about it, and letting her know how big the world is and how much opportunity is out there. I believe that having these conversations and normalizing STEM topics and activities in everyday conversations for kids contributes to raising trailblazers.