Distinguished Member of Operations Staff Award Winner Kelly McIltrot Has a Passion for Helping Win Competitive Funding

Proposal Operations Group Manager Humbled by Honor

June 5, 2024 | By Jeffrey Wolf | Contact media relations

When asked about winning one of the inaugural Distinguished Members of Operations Staff (DMOS) awards for 2024, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) Kelly McIltrot could only shake her head in disbelief, her mouth open in amazement.

A woman smiling at sunset.
Kelly McIltrot. Photo from Kelly McIltrot, NREL

“I opened up my email and there was an email from NREL Director Martin Keller, and I was just kind of in shock,” she said. “I just felt really humbled by it.”

McIltrot is the Proposal Operations group manager in the Innovation, Partnering, and Outreach (IPO) Business Management Office, and her group has responsibility for centrally supporting the entire laboratory. When she joined NREL seven years ago, it was just her, and now her group has grown to six employees.

“It’s hard not to look at the other people in this category and to know their impact and to think you’ve had an even similar impact,” she said. “So many people I admire and know the quality of work they bring to NREL.”

This is the first year of the DMOS awards, modeled after the Distinguished Members of Research Staff (DMAS) awards. NREL created the new category to recognize operations staff as well as research staff.

Proposal Operations supports NREL researchers in having the tools, process knowledge, requirements, guidance, points of contact, and best practices to develop high-quality, compliant, and hopefully winning proposals. Kelly’s team collaborates with the NREL General Counsel’s office, Communications and Finance Offices, U.S. Department of Energy Golden Field Office, and all NREL science and technology directorates.

“We cross collaborate with every directorate,” McIltrot said. “And our processes and engagement have helped increase the win rate for the lab. When I first arrived, our annual prime win rate was 17%, and at one point a couple of years ago it was up in the 48%-win range for our prime proposals. We have made an impact, but it takes all of us.”

McIltrot is quick to recognize the team she built up for making the real work happen.

“Any success I have is because of them, their organization skills, their willingness to help others succeed, and the work they do to support our researchers,” she said. 

When she is not at work, McIltrot spends time with her husband, 19-year-old son, and 17-year-old daughter. Her daughter plays competitive softball, just graduated from high school, and has committed to continue playing at the college level in South Dakota this fall.

Four people smiling.
Outside of work, Kelly McIltrot enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenage children. Photo from Kelly McIltrot, NREL

In her free time, McIltrot enjoys going to concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater and elsewhere. One of her favorite memories was being in the second row to see Prince in the late ’90s at a different venue, and she said Duran Duran last year was also one of her favorite concerts at Red Rocks.

McIltrot’s team plans to grow to meet the needs and demands of the thriving laboratory, and they continue to streamline processes, encourage strategic engagement, support compliance, and help improve the quality of every proposal submitted on behalf of NREL and its partners.

Tags: Awards