I started at NASA during the busiest week possible, the week prior to the International Space Apps Challenge! It was a flurry of excitement as I began my detail as a Presidential Management Council Interagency Rotation Program candidate serving as a Digital Strategist in the Office of the Chief Information Officer’s, Technology and Innovation Division. It was the perfect opportunity to jump right in and make myself useful and in the process learn about collaboration, technology and innovation.
And sometimes they even let me launch rockets…. just kidding!
Space Apps opened my eyes to all of the amazing things that are possible with citizen engagement. The solutions produced in 48 hrs by individuals around the globe were jaw dropping. I reviewed all 949 solutions and worked individually with external organizations and NASA challenge owners on how they could leverage the ideas generated by all of you. I even had the opportunity to judge Space Apps Next Gen, which was the inaugural hackathon event for high school students held in NYC this year.
Space Apps was the springboard to many of the projects I was able to work on during my six months at NASA. One of my favorite initiatives is the “Women in Data” program which began as an observation of the uneven ratio of men to women participating in Space Apps. Through this program, I worked with several female leaders at NASA and in the tech and maker communities on how to address this issue and as a result, T&I launched the Datanauts program. One track of the Datanauts program focuses on mini-challenges users will receive monthly. I was able to collaborate with passionate experts on creating these challenges for the next class and now I can talk about orreries with anyone!
As a result of the work the team did to increase the ratio of women who engaged with NASA's data, I participated as a “Women and Tech” panel member at the State Department’s documentary screening of “Code:Debugging the Gender Gap” and presented to the most engaging group of young women from the TechGirls program (who I hope will all host or participate in Space Apps this year!!!).
I was able to collaborate with agencies across the government on open data policies and ways to increase transparency and improve services for citizens. I reached out to individuals throughout the world to share their perspectives about Space Apps and tell their stories about what they accomplished with NASA’s data. I even had the opportunity to work with a rock star! Tom Delonge (from Blink 182) came to the office to discuss some of the initiatives NASA leads for a project he is working on about space.
Additionally, I went on the road visiting the Goddard Space Center, Langley Research Center, and Kennedy Space Center to meet with project managers, engineers, and scientists. I worked with those individuals to listen and learn and find out how the T&I team could help make their project data available and accessible to the public.
However, none of what I was able to accomplish during my detail would have been possible without the support of my leadership from my host agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the amazing T&I team who were incredibly patient and encouraging. It’s been a great experience working at NASA and I’m glad I can continue to leverage what I learned as I resume my duties at the VA. I want to express my immense gratitude to the team for all their help and look forward to seeing all of their future accomplishments in the important work they do!