The Connected CIO

This is a scary blog to write.  This will be one where I will receive comments that refer to babbling nonsense, or perhaps give me a “good girl”, or perhaps to say, gee, I loved your post or maybe nothing.  But in reality, it doesn’t matter much.

We marvel at the amazing capabilities that these Web 2.0 tools give us.  As the so-called “social CIO” I lamented that blogging wasn’t as interactive as I thought.  I found the reason why in a mirror.  Oh, yes, we can write blogs; we can speak to the world; we have a global reach; blah; blah; blah.  But do we listen? Do we connect?  And what happens when we do?

I wanted to find the answers; therefore I did something in a recent blog.  Don’t really know if anyone noticed, but I noticed.  I actually replied to every comment.  So what could possibly happen?  Oh the questions we ask … the answers we seek. Yes, Linda, things actually happen when you listen. Listening changes the listener.

One of my reasons for blogging is to use this Web 2.0 capability as a leadership tool.  Perhaps this introverted hermit can use this technology to connect to people in unique ways.  I must admit that as a technologist, I find some amount of comfort in hiding behind impersonal technology.  As if, I can only reveal certain parts of me.  As if I can allow some people in … and dare others to tread.  But, the fallacy of it all has struck me recently and prompts me to summon the leadership courage to blog about it.

An Oscar Wilde quote is probably most applicable here:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

In hiding behind this mask of technology, I find that I have revealed more truth about me as a leader, a woman, a daughter, a granddaughter, a wife, a friend, a public servant, and as a CIO than I ever dared reveal even to myself.  In the miracle that revelation, I found that I was able to connect to others in an almost a supernatural way.

“Your will is the ego part of you that believes you’re separate from others, separate from what you’d like to accomplish or have, and separate from God. It also believes that you are your acquisitions, achievements, and accolades. This ego will wants you to constantly acquire evidence of your importance…” – Wayne Dyer

John C. Maxwell, in The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader says that leaders will “…take the time to get a feel for who each (follower) is as a person”.  To me, this is a high calling whether or not your followers are readers, stakeholders, or employees. It’s quite easy to espouse this as insincere rhetoric, but I find myself drawn close to tears as I actually get a feel for each person I connect with.  I now wish that I was actually on an island and stood alone, but I don’t any longer.Technology on a desert island

For example, as I drove to Stennis Space Center from New Orleans, I could feel the pain of the loss of those who endured the suffering from Katrina and the gratitude of those able to find solace and purpose in doing small but mighty activities on rocket stands in the Mississippi Delta; as I ate Tex Mex in Houston, I could feel the anguish of uncertainty as this nation’s space program transitions to a new era; and as I read and contemplated the comments to my blog, I could feel the passion and purpose of a global citizenship that is connected to me and to NASA in ways that perhaps I can only just begin to understand.

I have one more person to connect to. It is a little boy from Tampa, Florida – Cody.  I don’t know if Cody is a real person or perhaps an industry lobbyist with a great imagination and tremendous creativity.  Yet, I deleted this doubt and felt compelled to give Cody’s letter response.  I will also give him a more personal reply later as I remain committed to answer every comment in one specific post. 

Cody wanted me to save the space program.  I wondered if Cody knew that I was just a poor struggling CIO trying to hold together an email infrastructure with duct tape and PVC pipe.  I wondered why Cody addressed a letter to me and sent me a picture.  My ego initially convinced myself that maybe he sent it to everyone.  But I neutralized my ego in an attempt to connect with a humble little boy from Tampa. 

My ego tells me that as a capable NASA executive I am confident of the future direction and strategy of the nation’s space program.  However, I can’t shake the passion, concern, and dread that I feel from the connection that I made with Cody.  If I am to help NASA inspire a nation, how can I do it if I can’t inspire a little boy?  See why this blog scared me?

Maybe it doesn’t matter to Cody or others that I am scared.  I close with this.

“It may sound corny, but it’s really true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Linda Cureton, NASA CIO

10 thoughts on “The Connected CIO”

  1. Linda Cureton

    I fully understand their difficulties in maintaining a dialogue with “outsiders.” The day I realized that you answered the comments on his blog at first I could not believe it, found it extremely good to be true. But it was true. I tried to show you that compensated to do what you did, making an interesting comment, but unfortunately I was excited and upset me. This happens. You’re NASA for what is Meryl Streap to Hollyhood and Madonna to pop music. You’re a star NASA, too bright, not only for what you do at NASA, but the writing here, which is high quality.

    Actually if you put yourself in our level of spectators, many good things can happen, and things not so nice. I appreciate the effort and understand the difficulties. Just makes me wonder. I just hope they do not abuse their good will and not make inappropriate comments, nasty, resentful. Or take advantage to attack NASA, the NASA policy, the history of NASA. If possible a civilized dialogue, is certainly very commendable attitude. Actually we can leave the cold of isolation. We more than a simple exposition of ideas, going for a dialogue, where the truth really come out and consensus.


  2. From your post, I suspect that we are in good hands. It is also my belief that you solidified a lifetime of inspiration in a boy named Cody.

  3. “Yes, Cody, there IS a future for America’s apace program…”

    Linda, if you’ve ever read the story of the girl who wrote the newspaper doubting the existance of Santa Claus, you understand where I’m going.

    You work for an agency that makes history; this is your chance to influence history.

    Five years ago, after touring KSC and saying farewell to Sean, I was invited to speak in front of my son Philip’s eighth grade science class. I prepared what I thought was a good presentation, gave it, answered as many questions as possible within the alloted time, and the end result? “Your father is amazing!” was the science teacher’s comment, and nobody beat Philip up or called him names.

    Pam Adams (KSC) tasked our family with becoming ambassadors for NASA, and that’s a responsibility we all take seriously. We stand up for space, and science in general. We follow what the agency does, and are well-equipped any time someone goes off about how much money is “wasted” by the agency.

    Those of us who know and understand have a duty, a responsibility, to promote these ideals in which we strongly believe.

    While it may seem as if everyone has an axe to grind these days, there are many of us who look up, instead of looking down, hoping someone has dropped a dollar.

    Yes, Cody, there IS a space program, and if we have anything to say about it, it will be alive and well when you graduate from college and take your place.

  4. We are all going through an emotional roller coaster of understanding where the Agency is headed.

    I have been at NASA for 20 years and we, the OCIO, have done some amazing things to support the Mission. We tend to get bogged down in the day-to-day data calls.

    CIO has gone from a mismash of networks across the Agency to establishing standards and implementing them; logins for each and every system to a login for those in the IDMax; consolidated public facing pages that provide consistent structure and search; and listening to the requirements of the Mission. These may sound like such small things over 20 years. At times it seems like the networks are string and cans; the logins process gets stuck; the main public page doesn’t let me be creative; and Mission just wants IT to buy stuff. We must remember IT was not invited to the Agency table and now has a seat at the Agency strategy table. Just being invited is a step.

    While there is still plenty of work for OCIO to accomplish – which is a good thing – there are many steps that have been completed that allow us to now focus on those architecture governance and integrations. This is the harder work! Working in stovepipes and doing my specific job is easy yet not very efficient. OCIO and their capabilities can provide those integrations. It’s not easy. Space flight is not easy and yet we choose to travel there as well.

    Chin up! There IS a future for America’s space program and OCIO now gets to work with the engineers and not for them.

  5. I really appreciate your blog posts Linda. I work here at Goddard and have recently moved from Satellite Communication (SCaN) to the brave Web 2.0, standing up a Wiki environment for Orlando (and now Dennis) and folks.

    There are so many exciting things go on, I find that I can’t get more than 5-6 hours of sleep every night. I have been working with Emma, now at GSA, Paul, Curt, Heather in 702 and many in 500 who are really excited about all the possibilities of the new interactions (like this blog!) these tools can enable.

    I am incredibly pumped that Chris Kemp is joining you as your CTO. Between Nebula, semantic work that is already leaking out, and a incredible vision, Chris is going to blow us all away.

    I have yet to meet you, but hope i can in the near future.

    Keep up the vulnerability, its contageous and lights the path for the rest of us….

  6. Great presentation on Web 2.0 technology today at the NASA Software Assurance Working Group Technical Interchange Meeting!

  7. don't be scared, a blog is a blog is a blog. Does that make sense?

    You need to know about your subject and I can see that you do.

    Write what you want, what you feel and how you are feeling. I felt the same as you but I had a go, have a look,
    its not earth shattering I know but it is me an thats all you can do.

    I look forward to reading more

  8. It’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to admit it, just the same as knowing nothing and admitting it to yourself… that’s okay too. I was in a situation that really scared me recently, and the old paranoia returned. I shook it off the last time, but this time it just may become a lifestyle again. Funny how the past can affect us sometimes. Just remember what scares us most is usually ourselves.

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