Deborah Johnson is long-time employee of NASA, who has spent her entire government career at the agency. Not all NASA personnel are astronauts and scientists. many like Johnson support the Mission Directorates and are the staff who keep the agency functioning at all levels–from administrative tasks to the “cool stuff” like public outreach. Below Johnson talks about her career and motivations.
How long have you worked for NASA HQ?
I have worked for NASA Headquarters since September 9, 1978
What made you want to work for NASA?
I am a Washingtonian, and as a kid, I would visit the museums on the Mall. I had always been curious about space travel. I would visit the Air and Space Museum frequently to satisfy my curiosity for new discoveries in space travel and how dividends from space could be applied to everyday challenges here on Earth.
Have you worked in more than one office? If so, in what capacity?
I have worked in more than one office but the majority of my career at NASA HQ was spent in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), where I worked for 37 years. I started off working in the SMD in the Planetary Division, as a secretary. I processed grants and performed administrative functions, which included preparing monthly status charts.
Within five years I was ask to apply for a position to support the Deputy Administrator for SMD as his secretary. I applied and was accepted–a great promotion! In this position I scheduled meetings, prepared travel requests, attended and scribed weekly meetings and prepared presentations for the deputy. Moreover, I met and greeted several NASA program managers and those of other federal agencies, Universities, as well as the private sector. This position really broaden my horizons and further sparked my curiosity of space travel.
Ten years later I became an executive assistant in SMD. In this position I worked for Associate Administrator for SMD, many of which were astronauts. My duties included scheduling the AA calendars, prepared general request for information, meet and greet visitors, prepared travel, briefing presentations for various meetings, submitted security clearance. I also traveled with the AA to provided administrative support and high level meetings and conferences.
Twenty-Two years later, I enjoyed what I was doing but I felt like I needed a change. I decided to take charge of my career, I worked with NASA Training Office to develop goals for my career path. Over three year period I took training at NASA HQ and US Graduate School. Training Taken: power point presentations, excel spreadsheets, leadership and management, writing effective government memorandums and emails, how to deal with difficult people and IT Training. I then approach the Director of the Planetary Division and requested a detailed to work in his Division and he agreed. I was so excited that I landed my dream position Program Planning Specialist. I did event planning for shuttle launches and missions. I also was on the guest launch team and public outreach. The coolest job ever, I was now truly enjoying my positon.
Describe your current position.
Three years ago I was approach by an attorney within SMD about an upcoming position in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for program management analyst. This is just one of many times during the course of my career that unofficial mentoring has helped to propel me forward and enhanced my career prospects. The lawyer in SMD said that I was such a dedicated employee and had such a “can do” attitude, and invited me to apply for the position. I was very reluctant because I was extremely happy in my then-current position. But she continued to urge me to apply; I did so and was accepted. But, I struck a deal with Science and OGC to still allow me to do the cool stuff in Science (Program Planning Specialist). My current duties include hiring and recruitment, submitting award nominations, budget analysis, training coordinator, IT point of contact. In addition, I also handle sensitive issues like security clearances. Last but not least, I still get to do public outreach (coo stuff) for Science when my schedule allows. I now have the best of both worlds. I am truly living my dreams at NASA!
Image Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky