Farewell NASA: The Circular CIO
Posted on Apr 02, 2013 08:59:08 PM | Linda Cureton
When I was a
school-aged math student, I always held a special fascination for circles. I loved trigonometric functions and would
play with identities just for sport. So,
here I am now, a more “seasoned” girl and I find myself thinking again about my
love for circles.
define a circle. It is a set of points
on a plane equidistant from another particular point which is its center. It has no beginning and no end. It just goes around, and around, and around –
from beginning to end to beginning again.
And here I
am at the end.
NASA. Retiring actually. Well, kinda.
Ending my Federal NASA career and starting a new post civil servant
Way back in
May of 1980, I started a nearly 34-year professional career at NASA at Goddard
Space Flight Center. I was a GS-7 1520
Mathematician. I was in the professional
internship program (PIP) and had to have great grades to get in and do great
things to get promoted. I met another
GS-7 1520 Mathematician – a shy young girl named Stephanie Gayle Henry who ended
up being a BFF for life. I was a systems
programmer on the IBM 360/95 working in Code 500 for Jack Balikirsky. IBM Assembler Language was fun. Not for wimps, for sure.
But I left
NASA. Got married (the first time), to a
guy who wanted to move to Seattle. Twenty-five
years, 4 additional Federal agencies, and stint at Boeing Computer Services…
later, I divorced and came back to an agency I never wanted to leave. I came full circle. Now, I am leaving again – at the end of the
As I begin
and end, I want to mention a few great NASA leaders that I had the pleasure of
serving under this time. They all have
something in common – they are tough … some perhaps in some cases rather mean.
mention them in pairs, which are almost as good as circles.
and Rob Strain. They were pretty tough
and mean. On the surface, they were
quite different – in stature and in academic background. But, at the end of the day, Ed was a thug
from the South Side of Chicago shaped by the hope and despair that surrounded
him; and Rob was a thug form Flint,
shaped by the hard work and long hours of the tireless men and women in the
auto industry. Both men are tireless
leaders whose love of space made NASA a better place. One focused his telescope on heavenly bodies
light years away and the other focused his on Earth objects and business
systems that just kept things running.
Thanks Ed and Rob.
and Charlie Bolden. Pretty tough and
mean – well, maybe some think Charlie isn’t mean – but he is a Marine. Get it.
Hoorah. So, Charlie is an
astronaut and Lori is a policy wonk.
Yet, this Odd Couple often accused of not getting along have the most
awesome thing in common. Great
leadership and love of EVERYTHING space. Thanks Lori and Charlie.
personal story. My husband’s first wife
wasn’t especially fond of me. And I
stayed clear of her. Then our mutual
love, her grandson, broke his foot and was in severe pain. We were both in the orthopedic surgeon’s
office crying – because this little boy we both loved was in a bad way. We loved the same thing. Therefore, we loved each other – the associative
property of love. That’s the real Lori and Charlie.
So, I’m at
the end again. Really at the
beginning. What am I doing next? Just Google that. But, I sign off on my last NASA CIO blog
saying that I am leaving and agency I love to start a new beginning again.
for being at my center. Cureton Out.
Cureton, NASA CIO
Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Posted on Oct 25, 2012 09:01:24 AM | Linda Cureton
One of the greatest challenges I face as the NASA CIO is how to empower the NASA community’s use of emerging technologies while ensuring that use does not compromise NASA and the NASA mission. This balancing act is a critical part of the decisions I make in leading the organization forward. As each new advancement becomes the “must have “technology, security stands up to caution the community and ask that we take a few moments to ensure that the new technology will not harm the Agency in the long run. This pause often feels like a lifetime; however, the few moments we are asked to wait for the next best thing is invaluable.
Without effective security practices, our achievements and innovations are easily lost, stolen, or misused. There is only so much I can do from my organization. The NASA community must take security considerations into account if NASA is going to maintain its technological and innovative edge, and to help ensure that NASA’s important work in furthering aeronautical and space research and technologies does not fall into the hands of others who may use it against our nation and our nation’s citizens.
The safety and security of NASA data is determined by actions taken, or in some cases not taken, every day by members of the NASA Community. While you may consider it cliché, NASA truly is only as strong and secure as its weakest link. During the month of October our focus is directed towards the important role day-to-day security practices play in securely enabling the NASA mission. We aim to help everyone in our NASA community to become a stronger link in the security chain. NASA kicks off cybersecurity awareness month with the NASA National Cybersecurity Awareness Month Training Event on October 3rd at NASA Headquarters. Throughout October, NASA will host a series of cybersecurity awareness activities at each Center. These awareness events are designed to highlight cybersecurity roles and responsibilities, and provide the opportunity to ask cybersecurity professionals the IT security questions you have always wanted to ask (e.g., “You really expect me to remember 24 passwords, each with 12 unique characters, without writing them down. Why/How?”).
Understanding and implementing the fundamentals of cybersecurity is a critical component of our ongoing success. I want to remind everyone in the NASA community to STOP – THINK – CONNECT, as NASA Leaps forward … in Cybersecurity.
Linda Cureton CIO, NASA
The Out of This World Reality of the Virtual NASA
Posted on Sep 23, 2012 10:04:35 PM | Linda Cureton
Well we are on our way. We launched a pilot of a large meeting of NASA senior executives. This is a precursor to Administrator Bolden’s a virtual Executive Summit – all remote using collaborative technologies. While the pilot contained up to 80 participants, the real virtual summit will have well over 600 executives agency-wide, nation-wide – perhaps even in low Earth orbit.
We had 9 speakers from across the country
who shared 10 different files consisting of documents, spreadsheets, videos and presentations. Nine speakers across the county shared documents, spreadsheets and presentations. We even looked at a movie clip of Apollo 13. We were able to see each other on video and web cameras in our new desktop ACES desktop, laptop, and mobile device environment.
Using chat and webcams, we were able to get a reasonable sense of the mood of the attendees. After we worked through some of the idiosyncrasies of the technology, we navigated pretty well by asking questions and making comments for the records. We even got a few good jokes in to loosen up the room and saw a great close up shot of the administrator’s tie.
As the CIO, I nearly had a nervous breakdown (occupational hazard). The technology was new to the participants and the headquarters wireless network was in a bouncy mood that day. But at the end of the day, we were one giant leap closer to implementing Administrator Bolden’s vision of an anywhere, anyplace, anytime organization.
We also demonstrated several of the fundamental tenets of the Administration’s Digital Government Strategy
. In reminding us about the need for a mobile environment, the strategy states:
“Mobility” is not just about embracing the newest technology, but rather reflects a fundamental change in how, when, and where our citizens and employees work and interact. Mobile technology – the devices, infrastructure, and applications required to support a mobile citizenry and workforce – is a critical enabler of mobility, but is only part of the profound environmental shift that mobility represents.
Technology will not (yet?) replace the human contact required to build trust nor the complex interactions typically used in multilateral problem solving. But we got one step closer to augmenting the ability to collaborate in a virtual if not more cost-effective way.
Linda Cureton CIO, NASA
The IT Revolution
Posted on Aug 18, 2012 09:37:59 PM | Linda Cureton
well … the IT Revolution is
here. Who knew? Well, CIOs did, of course. It really feels that way anyway.
I was the
accidental recipient of an email this week.
It was about me, but not intended for me. Basically, the writer of the email said, “Can
you believe it; she is trying to take
over our meeting?” Well, excuse the heck out of me for trying to
help by offering my conference room. It’s
no surprise that a CareerBliss.Com survey reveals that this
job is rated the worst.
But, it’s no
time to whine about how hard the gig is.
It’s really time for CIOs to perhaps take on the same role as our
founding fathers did during the infancy of our government. It wasn’t easy back then, and it’s not easy
now for CIOs to lead in times of change, stay focused on mission, and implement
the right changes in their IT Governance to establish perfect unions.
American Revolution, our government was basically in a big mess. There was no money and threats were all
around us – the unknowns of a western frontier, pirates threatening marine
commerce, and an unhappy motherland back across the pond. Furthermore, the citizens in the nascent country
still wanted to feel the benefit of their new independence and the resources
available were meager.
back then, were concerned about having a government that was focused on its
citizens and ensured that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” would
maintain its strategic importance. Having
just recovered from the centralized rule of a monarchy, the notion of a
federation that would “provide for the common defense, promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty” was now an absolute right.
In the IT Revolution, we see the same things
happening. The Bring Your Own Device
(BYOD) craze, gives us IT citizens who want the freedom of accessing data with
any device they want, anywhere they want, and any time they want it. Furthermore, the cyber threats are increasing
beyond anyone’s individual ability to provide a credible defense.
of Management and Budget (OMB) is asking its Federal CIOs to be the founding
mothers and fathers of this IT Revolution
in supporting a Digital
Government Strategy, a cross-cutting Cybersecurity Strategy, and
framing cost-saving strategies that leverage cloud
computing and smart
Yes, the IT Revolution is here. It calls for a new IT Governance that is of
the end-users, by the end-users, and for the end-users. It requires CIOs to lead with courage,
emotional intellect, and political resolve to give the people they serve what
they really want and need.
Cureton CIO, NASA
Mobility: Now That's Rocket Science
Posted on Jul 07, 2012 04:05:16 PM | Linda Cureton
NASA Kennedy Space Center Office of Launch Services in partnership with the Center CIO Mike Bolger (pictured here) developed this cool little educational app that teaches kids (and old CIOs like yours truly) about rocket science. It’s called Rocket Science 101 and is a great example of how these technologies make things like science a more personal experience.
When I found out about it, I started playing with it … er …. evaluating it.
I launched a mission (successfully) with a Delta IV and an Atlas rocket. Before I knew it, I got caught up in it and felt like a genius. Mike lamented that his 12-year old daughter got excited and started asking him all kinds of questions. Well, Mike, at least now “there’s an app for it!”
Innovative use of technology like this is encouraged in the US Federal CIO’s recently announced 21st Century Digital Government Strategy. It gets the information to citizens in a very intimate way.
NASA IT is also developing a Mobility Strategy to complement our Administrator’s “Work from Anywhere” initiative. This strategy seeks to create an experience for our workforce that will be enhanced by the use of mobile technology allowing them to function more efficiently or effectively from wherever they are and whatever device they are using. Supporting this, we developed a tightly-managed way of delivering internal in our apps store, while external mobile apps will be made available using existing commercial sites. As new services are developed, they will be done so with mobility in mind and in a device agnostic manner to the extent practicable and securely.
Mobility is all the rage now with an ever-increasing amount of hype. At the end of the day, when all the hype settles down, it will simply be about getting information out to those who need it, wherever they are, any time, any amount, securely. Now I have to run – I need to go intercept an asteroid.
Linda Cureton, NASA CIO
IT Reform at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Posted on Jun 08, 2012 09:42:28 PM | Linda Cureton
The NASA IT community has worked diligently during the past year to implement meaningful IT reforms to better serve our Agency’s mission and the American people. These reforms represent the start of a journey that affects our very culture by changing the way we do business, innovate, and use technology to the benefit of our diverse customers. Improved investment management practices, the use of cloud services when appropriate, and the use of shared services as a provider and consumer are core tenets in our IRM Strategic Plan released in June 2011. To underscore the importance of this shift, I identified a Deputy CIO for IT Reform, Gary Cox, in 2012 to provide an integrated focus on IT innovation and service delivery to ensure that our services are effective and efficient from our customers’ perspectives.
In the area of investment management, we collaborated across NASA during two TechStat evaluations in the past year. The TechStat for the Integrated Collaborative Environment (ICE) in March 2011 resulted in actions that improved the governance and usability of the robust management software capability for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. In April 2012, we held a TechStat for our IT Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) to ensure that the requirements were aligned with Agency business needs and that the investment should continue as planned. The outcome was that the critical capability should continue but more focused governance and performance measures were necessary to improve user acceptance. Two Center-level TechStat investment evaluations are being planned for later this summer.
Our use of cloud technologies has benefitted NASA as well as the public. To engage the American people in space exploration, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) loaded 250,000 pictures of Mars into a Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform. This “Be a Martian” initiative has been very popular, serving over 2.5 million data queries from crowd-sourcing applications and proving that the cloud can be a terrific way to reach and engage the public and support STEM activities in our schools. NASA is the midst of deploying SERVIR, a project in partnership with USAID, to a cloud-based geospatial information technology infrastructure. SERVIR integrates satellite and ground-based data with forecast models to monitor environmental changes and improve world-wide response to natural disasters. Finally, NASA shifted to a new web services model that uses Amazon Web Services for cloud-based enterprise infrastructure. This cloud-based model supports a wide variety of web applications and sites using an interoperable, standards-based, and secure environment while providing almost a million dollars in cost savings each year.
We have also implemented several other major reforms. During the last 18 months, we laid the foundation to streamline and improve transparency into our IT operations by deploying centrally-managed end user services, communications services, web services, and enterprise application management and development capabilities. We also launched a central business office and working capital fund to support several major IT contracts and we have been integrating the industry-best Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process guidance into our service frameworks. In parallel, we have closed 20 data centers to date as we continue optimizing our computing capabilities.
We also implemented new, innovative technology to support our scientists and engineers so that they can work from anywhere, any time. Our Chief Technology Officer for IT, Dr. Sasi Pillay, is also working with industry partners to expand our mobile strategy and improve our ability to attract young employees by allowing them to use their own technology devices on our networks. And, our Center for Internal Mobile Applications is developing mobile applications that expand our employees’ ability to develop new scientific and engineering breakthroughs for the nation’s space program.
Finally, while I serve as the co-Chair of the CIO Council’s Strategy & Planning Committee to facilitate improving Federal IT management, I am committed to ensuring that NASA is an avid consumer of idea sharing and best practices from other Agencies. For example, NASA’s Strategic Investments Division (SID) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Treasury to implement Performance Measure Manager to drive efficiencies by facilitating the input of Agency performance data and providing a consolidated archival capability. Only by working together, collaboratively and in an open environment, can we continue to achieve long-lasting Federal IT reform.
Linda Cureton, NASA CIO
Sourcing Strategies and Innovation – Diversity and Inclusion Create Big and Strong Organizations
Posted on Jun 02, 2012 07:55:01 PM | Linda Cureton
think of diversity and inclusion issues as it relates to people and
organizations. The benefit of thinking
in this dimension comes from bringing in groups of people with a broad range of
experiences, styles, and approaches to solve organizational problems in
applies to sourcing strategies for plugging in outside organizations with our
own. This is relevant to contracting,
partnerships, and strategic alliances.
Sourcing strategies give us the opportunity to reflect on the strengths
and challenges of our organizations and be intentional about what kind of
outside company can provide the biggest advantage. These successful strategies are key to
building an organization that is constantly learning and organically
Christensen in “Innovator’s Dilemma: When
New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” talks about the factors that affect
an organization’s ability to be creative and innovative. These three factors which “…affect what an organization
can and cannot do [are] its resources, its process, and its values.” He goes on to say that large companies usually
reject promising opportunities because smaller companies are better positioned
financially, culturally, and process-wise to pursue them.
Many of us
spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that it is so difficult to innovate or
leverage technology in government because of how we budget, procure, and bureaucratize.
But is it really that bad?
of Management and Budget (OMB) put out an intriguing memo. For those non-bureaucrats, we live and die by
OMB memos – we even give them names and numbers. It’s sort of like when your mother tells you
to do something – always listen to your Mom.
This memo is commonly known as Mythbusters.
Here, myth #10 tells that tells us to
that getting broad participation from a variety of vendors is good for us. If we do this, we’ll grow up to be big and
strong – Mom, uh… I mean OMB has a point here.
Here’s the fact:
”The government loses
when we limit ourselves to the companies we already work with. Instead, we need
to look for opportunities to increase competition and ensure that all vendors,
including small businesses, get fair consideration. “
leaders will create an ecosystem where strategic partnerships exist in which
each partner or vendor has an important role to play. Consider a shipping analogy – after all, for
those who know me, it’s all about cruising.
tend to be slow and difficult to maneuver.
They are like agencies or large companies with entrenched cultural
traditions and a heritage of processes.
These ships need the help of pilot boats or tug boats to help them maneuver
tight channels or clear reefs in order to have a successful journey. These smaller ships are like smaller agencies
or small businesses that are able to go into places the big guys can’t fit and
are nimble, quick, and flexible. Finally,
we have yachts and other small pleasure boats that can run circles around
everyone – like the tender boats that ferry people back and forth to shore much
more effectively and safely than the big guys can.
a Harvard Business School professor, a Mom, or a frequent cruiser, the value of
the variety and capabilities that we apply to sourcing work in organizations is
a key to success.
Cureton, CIO, NASA