Technology Divas

Ok, so I’m on a cruise and writing a blog about technology.  I’m not weird; I’m a CIO – same thing, right?  At sea with two girlfriends who work for NASA on our annual winter vacation.  Maybe there’s something about working at NASA that makes us overly integrated with Information Technology.  Attached here is a picture of Stephanie, Tonjua, and I on a New Jersey shore overlooking Atlantic City in extreme gratitude of a much-coveted cell phone signal.  Or perhaps “bleeding NASA blue” means more than just a mindset, it’s a lifestyle. 

Jason, We Have a Problem

I went as long as possible before I finally turned data roaming on so I could check my email.  Email is like crack … it hooks you and is addictive, especially if you get hundreds per day.  After the email finished downloading, I thought I’d peek at just a few only answering the most important ones.  After a while, I got sucked in and the tempo of my replies started to increase exponentially.  Finally, I got a nasty reply from my special assistant, Jason.  WILL YOU STOP REPLYING AND SENDING EMAILS — YOU ARE ON VACATION!  Oops.  Busted.

I got revenge the next day though.  He asked me to approve something really quick.  Sadly, I had done a reset system clear on all the passwords stored in my head.  I guess life somehow will go on. 

Let Me Check My Book

We were blessed on our cruise to share a table with Brian D. from Baltimore.  Sometimes, it’s a crapshoot about who you get matched up with during dinner, but this time we got lucky and were with him and two of his lovely friends, Aunt Erika and Aunt Veronica (who we found out hits back).  The Divas and I invited them to an event coming up soon and Brian said he would “…have to check his book, which is up in the cabin”.  A book?  Yes, he does not have a cell phone or a smart phone and uses paper and pencil to keep his schedule.  That was a jaw-dropping moment for sure.  But, as a thought of it and reflected all the Enterprise Calendar problems I’m dealing with, maybe his technology works better than NASA’s. 

Compare and contrast this with our laugh of the week from girlfriend and cruise mate Tonjua.  Earlier this month she was waiting for the designated time to pick up her daughter Maleah.  Out of the blue, she got a call from her 10-year old.  After checking the caller id, Tonjua questioned her about what phone she was calling from.  She declared it her phone.  Maleah’s mother reminded her that she did not and could not have a cell phone.  The young tween then explained to her mother and NASA Enterprise Architect about how she found the app on the internet that works with the new iPod Touch she got for Christmas (based on specific engineering requirements she gave to Santa Claus).  She told this maternal technologist that she has unlimited texting and ten minutes of voice free each month.  Mom is devastated.  Now she has to impose security restrictions on the application layer!

Security is Personal

Finally, I learned a bit about security from my fellow cruisers.  This cruise happened a few scant days after a disturbing cruise disaster at sea. 

In IT Security, CIO’s spend a lot of time with “check the box” compliance.  We do all kinds of things to make people feel secure – 12-character passwords, two-factor authentication, and nice familiar logos giving assurance that someone is looking out for you.  However, at the end of the day, we need to look out for ourselves.  

The cruise is always started the lifeboat drill.  Most passengers merely tolerate this annoyance and view it as a delay for their week of fun.  This particular cruise, the Baltimore passengers were even more annoyed because it interrupted the last two minutes of the playoff game between the Ravens and the Texans.  Cell phones were forbidden and we had to line up at our muster stations and listen to the obligatory safety instructions.  But, this time, a hush came across the crowd as the captain explained the procedures for evacuation and use of the lifeboats.  I felt even safer knowing that others, like me, were figuring out how to use the lifeboats themselves. 

I guess the Technology Divas might survive this week with limited use of technology and television.  Hey, but someone on the back row did sneak in their cell phone during the lifeboat drill.  We were getting intermittent game highlights sandwiched between important safety information.  Houston had a problem that day, because Baltimore beat them in a game exciting to the very end.  

 Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA