Will They Cheer For You?

Will They Cheer For You?

Today, I attended the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Awards Ceremony. It honors the Goddard Space Flight Center workforce for their dedication to many vital areas, including leadership, management, science, engineering, mission support, and customer service.

The Management Award recognizes managers, supervisors, and organizational team leaders who, while providing day-to-day direction to work units, demonstrate through their management behavior, style, and approach, exceptional levels of achievement that creates a positive and productive work environment for their employees. Garcia Blount was recognized today for exemplary management and leadership qualities that make his Branch, Code 547, and Goddard, a technology leader in manufacturing support.

When his name was called, six people, obviously from his team, let out a tremendous and loud cheer that pierced my heart and touched my soul today. There were six sitting next to each other. They had to have come together, early in fact, to get adjacent seats in the crowded auditorium. They all had cameras, screaming and cheering as they called his name. Their excitement touched me. The frantic clicks of their cameras matched the tempo of what must have been their pounding of their hearts. And I heard it. I didn’t know Garcia, but I thought he must be one heck of a leader.

Now as a CIO Blogger, I am sensitive to being controversial and inciting unbridled emotions in readers; after all, this whole Web 2.0 thing is still pretty new. I will push the envelop here – in Washington, DC – and talk about (gulp) football. I’m fascinated by the New England Patriots. Most of the time, you might hear sound bites like – Terrell Owens and the Dallas Cowboys; Payton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts; Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers … er .. I mean the New York Jets; Gladys Knight and the Pips.

You don’t hear the Tom Brady and the Pats sound bites that often. So, I’ve pondered various aspects of what might be Bill Belichick’s leadership acumen that consistently produces team leaders, quarterback leaders, and winning teams. Clearly skills a CIO would be interested in. After all, IT Transformations and Super Bowls – seems like the same thing to me.

Consider this quote from Randy Moss when talking about Brady’s season-ending knee injury (Source ESPN.COM):

“We saw Tom today,” Moss said in a national conference call.

“I am not sure how much longer we are going to see him, but he is here today and has been uplifting and keeping a positive attitude. I think that goes a long way with not only him but the team as well.”

They are going to miss him. But, his leadership helps them feel they can win without him. Well actually, they will always have him with them even if he is on crutches. And even if he is on crutches, they will still cheer for him. And he will cheer for them.

When Garcia walked down the aisle today, proudly carrying his plaque, he smiled at his team. Click-click-click. He was proud of them. Though he walked across the stage, he knew that they were the ones who made it all happen for him. I saw the look on his face. HE was cheering for THEM.

Linda Cureton

But I Blog

But I Blog


I am often asked why on earth do I blog; why would a federal CIO want to blog; and where do you get the courage to do this. All fascinating questions that I thought about when I started and revisited as I got an email from a CIO colleague last week.  Here’s the email:


Hi Linda,


I saw this article in Forbes and thought of you.  I have been very impressed and amazed at your level of comfort sharing details of your job and yourself with the world.  I am learning a lot by reading your Blog and Twitters, and I hope to get as comfortable writing (not to mention as skilled) as you are.






I read the article which challenges us on the fear of blogging.  Jim shouldn’t have been so impressed.  I’m scared to death. The truth of the matter to Jim and to others is that I am not comfortable and I am afraid.  So, why do I blog?  Here are my reasons:

  • To learn and demonstrate the value of Web 2.0 technologies supporting the spirit of innovation that should be required of a NASA CIO
  • To communicate to stakeholders and customers the activities and issues related to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center IT Transformation
  • To focus my thoughts and learning to the things that matter in my role as the CIO
  • To increase my leadership abilities to those I serve by providing a means for them to get to know what the “real” me is like


To learn and demonstrate the value of Web 2.0 technologies supporting the spirit of innovation that should be required of a NASA CIO


Web 2.0 and social networking provide amazing technology innovations that empower the end user and gives us the ability to make quantum leaps in IT.  Using and understanding this technology is helpful for me to learn and demonstrate its capability and helps me walk the talk as a CIO.  The CIO of the future must learn and behave differently.


We know the solution to acquiring this knowledge and these abilities is largely through training and experience. It may require a significant investment of time and effort; it may take CIOs and aspiring CIO’s out of their comfort zones, but it is learnable – Colleen Young, The Futuristic CIO, Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2008


To communicate to stakeholders and customers the activities and issues related to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center IT Transformation


Leading extreme change requires extreme communication through many channels in many ways.  This is just another one. From the feedback that I’ve gotten, my message is getting out, but I’m not completely satisfied the efficacy of this as being an interactive medium.  There are more effective ways to do that, at least so far. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and many ideas that have been helpful to the transformation efforts.  This isn’t and shouldn’t be the only communication channel.  It’s just one of many.


To focus my thoughts and learning to the things that matter in my role as the CIO


I’m a kinesthetic learner and learn best by doing.  I want to: learn about Web 2.0 technologies, hone my leadership skills, and think through NASA’s burning issues relative to my CIO leadership agenda.  The act of writing down my thoughts and wrestling with key concepts and issues gives me additional clarity and understanding. Before I take the plunge of putting my words into the world, I will take the time to analyze and think.  I strive to pause and think on a weekly basis: what I did and what I need to do to take one byte (sic) at time out of the elephant called IT Challenges of the Goddard Space Flight Center; what did I do and what do I need to do to inspire and motivate a workforce; what did I do and what do I need to do meet the mission needs of the organization that I humbly serve.


To increase my leadership abilities to those I serve by providing a means for them to get to know what the “real” me is like


The road to hell is littered with well-intended and capable NASA CIOs.  There are many reasons why these challenges look so easy to bystanders.  But the leadership stamina required is tremendous.  (As an aside and on a personal note, I recently lost a lot of weight.  Anyone who is overweight knows how hard this is … and have also heard from many bystanders how easy it *should* be for us.  But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean we should whine and make excuses.  Suck it up and do what needs to be done.) A CIO needs trust in order to be an effective leader.  People need to know who I am and what my intentions are in order for me to be an effective leader.   But this is just one means, no silver bullet here.


It takes a whole lot of time, but I blog.  My writing skills are passable, but I blog. Personal communication is critical, but I blog.  I have to produce results for NASA rather than words, but I blog.


The note from Jim came on the heels of a hurtful criticism of my blog.  I was reminded of an incident that happened when I was a teenager.  I had to play a Mozart French Horn concerto.  I made a mistake, freaked out and ran off the stage crying.  The band director made me play again.  I practiced more and made it through, but barely.   I don’t think I ever recovered from that stage fright; and there are many times when this blogger wants to run off the stage crying, but I blog.


Linda Cureton, CIO NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Social Architecture: My 145 BFs

Social Architecture: My 145 BFs


I just noticed that I had 145 best friends (BF) on Facebook.  So, I decided to look at my other social networking gizmos.  I have 123 followers on Twitter and 81 people in my LinkedIn network.  So what?   


Well, I am probably more “socially active” on Facebook, so I pondered on that a bit.  As the tall, introverted bookworm in school I had a #1 best girl friend (BGF), a #2 BGF, and a #3 BGF.  That’s it!  The number 145 is starting to “feel” like a lot and I wondered why.  Is there a limit to the number of BFs I can have?


Social networking technology has helped this introverted school girl expand her social network from 3 BFs to 145.  I don’t think this replaces the traditional live contact, but it augments my ability to socialize.  The blog, Real World Marketing for the Social Web, suggests that digital relationships, while admittedly low-resolution, are as legitimate as real relationships. 


So, my husband, who in my opinion, is socially gifted with old-fashioned, engaging, West Virginia charm looks at me incredulously.  Why do you read that stuff (Facebook)?  I tell him it’s like going to happy hour and catching up with friends, except I’m drinking my bedtime tea, listening to the news, and can get it done in five minutes.  Here’s a sample of what I get from my BF’s status on Facebook:


  • Chris got a haircut.  I actually saw him at ELC and he looked pretty good – too bad he’s on the radio and you can’t see him.
  • Martha’s daughter is in town again.  She’s going to be in a really a good mood at our next meeting.  I’ve got to remember to get a dinner meeting w/ her.
  • Helene’s feeling blue because of layoffs at her job.  I need to make a note to call Dale to see how he’s doing.
  • Leslie’s off to Nicaragua again.  She’s going to save the world one brick at a time.
  • Dan is off on his motorcycle again.  He won’t be able to move in the morning.
  • Pete is sucking a lollypop.  He doesn’t need sugar; it will make him more excitable.
  • I have no clue who Henrí is, but I learn a lot from his interesting posts. 
  • Emma said the colloquium topic on prediction markets went well.  Wish, I had a chance to go.
  • Alvin is singing today.  He needs to whistle while he works and email me that paper.
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is still in the chamber.  We’ll all be glad when it gets out.
  • LCROSS Lunar Impactor is having a good run of successes. That’s good news; I guess I’ll hear more at the Friday program reviews.
  • Casey is feeling patriotic and wants to buy a of couple cars.  I’m sure she’ll change her mind and just buy a couple of pairs of shoes instead after things settle down at GSA.
  • My brother and sister-in-law are spending the weekend in St. Michaels.  I’m glad he called our Mom today.


This technology has proven valuable for my leadership needs as a CIO.  I am able to learn faster and stay in touch a little better with my customers, peers, stakeholders, and employees.  In Consumer Evolution, Charles Grantham and Judith Carr suggest that the outcomes are invaluable for leaders:


… [We] get access to a larger social network, which speeds up learning, and decreases information search costs. …. [However, we] see more stress from being overwhelmed by information, anxiety coming from a more fluid social and, a lack of individual identity because of the invisible nature of our new social life. 


Stress huh.  Dunbar’s number suggests a reason that my brain may be thinking, “enough already!”  This number, commonly sited as 150, was suggested by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, to be “the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity … on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”  Ok BFs, there’s only room for 5 more!


Well, the Wall Street Journal article, Sorry, You May Have Gone Over Your Limit Of Network Friends, suggests that “just as humans have developed and harnessed technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information” the social networking technology will enable us to burst beyond our Dunbar’s number.  I guess this begs the question of defining exactly what a relationship is. 


I am vigilant to not become like Dr. Frankenstein and let this monster … uh … valuable technology tool … called social networking relationships destroy me – or let social networking destroy my relationships.  I had an occasion to attempt to hook up with a colleague and we had dueling text messages.  So, it occurred to me, duh, why don’t I just pick up the phone and call? While these Web 2.0 gizmos are excellent learning and networking tools, they augment but don’t replace live interactions. 


I truly love my husband’s warm, folksy old-school charm.  Alas, you don’t get that in Web 2.0.  But, then there’s always Web 3.0. 




Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

A CIO Thanksgiving: Poopsies,Oopsies,and Technologies

A CIO Thanksgiving: Poopsies, Oopsies, and Technologies


As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many people are pausing to give thanks for what they have.  After I graduated from undergraduate school, my first job was Mathematician at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  Today as the journey of my career through several Federal Agencies, 28 years later, brings me back to Goddard, it feels almost like another first harvest time for me.  Thus, it seemed apt for me, a thankful CIO, to take time out to reflect.




These are people in my professional life, who in some form or fashion, have captured my heart and my gratitude.  When I thought about it, I’ve had a good run lately. 


A CIO’s role is to advise the head of the organization about IT stuff.  My last two just “got it”.  Rob Strain and Ed Weiler – I didn’t have to pull out crayons; I didn’t have to cry; and I didn’t have to take off my shoe and beat the table.  IT is of strategic importance to an organization AND the tactical stuff still needs to work.  I tried in vain to impress Rob, who has a reputation of a scratch golfer, with my 40 handicap.  Mercifully, he overlooked my challenged short game and let me operate my long game strategically.  Ed, who advised me that I had a horrible poker face and that I had a “type A” personality (I refrained from beating my shoe on the table) kept me from going all-in with a pair of eights. You have a better chance winning with a better hand.


The boss I had before I came to NASA, Skip Bailey was part of that good run too.  He’s from Salt Lake City and I’m from Washington, DC.  We were as different from each other as DC is from Utah.  I recall a joke he tried to tell me about his wife thinking that John Denver was a country and western singer.  He thought that was hysterical, I thought, “well isn’t he a country and western singer?”.  I still don’t get it really.  But, one thing I got is that people who are very different from you add so much to your life.  Knowing him and working for him was very enriching. 




Some time late this summer, a couple of friends were lamenting, on distinct occasions, about how bad things were.  I thought that it may actually be good to be thankful for bad times.  The good thing about bad times, is that they always precede good times.  Sometimes, bad things make good things good.  You don’t need courage if there isn’t fear; you don’t need faith if there isn’t doubt.  Early Thanksgivings were celebrated during times of unfavorable events being followed by favorable events. 


I’m thankful for the worst job I ever had —  cleaning out test tubes in an infectious diseases laboratory.  And this was from age 15 to 19! This job was stinky – literally … and I had to learn fast to handle my duties appropriately … I always feared that the next thing I opened up would kill me.  Though it sounds a lot like a CIO job, a CIO’s job is better.  Mostly. This week, one of our Assistant Director’s was facilitating us through some problem-solving.  She posed the possibility that she not in the right job.  She was wrong of course, but I did offer the possibility of the CIO job.  I think she said something like,  “Oh, my goodness NO!” … and then she caught herself.   


And then there’s the proverbial thorn in my side – for which I am thankful.  I was once asked in an interview question what was the biggest mistake of my professional career.  I made lots, but this one I sealed in my memory to make me better. I set the naming convention for email at Department of Justice.  For the WHOLE Department – firstname.middle-initial.lastname@usdoj.gov.  I liked it because it was easy to do for various technical reasons.  My customers hated it because someone had to know your middle initial to guess your email address.  And plus, most folks abbreviated Department of Justice “DOJ”.  So, it wasn’t really that intuitive.  But I did it for my own selfish technical reasons, not for customer fulfillment.  Today, I still have colleagues there and every time a send an email to them, I’m reminded of my lack of duty to my customer and my selfishness.  I don’t want to ever make that mistake again.  A CIO should put her organization’s needs first – I’m thankful for that lesson. Thankfully, my side still hurts.




As stated in earlier posts, my Myers-Briggs type is an INTP.  So, I’m an absent-minded professor.  So, it’s not surprising that I am thankful for one of my favorite technologies — the keyless entry for my car.  I used to always misplace car keys. Now, I just need to keep up with my purse – it’s bigger so I’m more successful.


I am thankful for my PDAs – all of them.  I’m not apologizing!  So, I was thankful when I was on a cruise and my Blackberry worked. It was just comforting to know what I was NOT doing!  And I am thankful for my navigation system.  I love knowing where I’m going.  And how to get back.


Finally, I’m thankful for the whole Web 2.0 thing.  This post was easy to bang out until I got to this sentence.  I didn’t really understand fully why.  Except to say, I had an opportunity to use the technology of blogging to express gratitude for a subset of the many things that I am thankful for.  I’m being touched by new Poopsies, most I don’t even know – this is scary really.  My European Poopsie that reminded me of humility; my Grouchy Poopsie who reminded me to draw on courage; and my RT Poopsie who just is. 


The convergence of CIO leadership and this technology may seem a strange non sequitur to some – and it was certainly my going position when I started. But, it has added richness to my CIO life and taught me a little bit more about what this viral technology can do.  For this, I am thankful.


Linda Cureton, The Grateful CIO of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Doorways to 2009 CIO Leadership Strategies

As January approaches, the time comes for many to look back at accomplishments and look forward to set goals for the year. 

Roman deity Janus with two faces looking both forward and backwards

In fact, January gets its name from Janus, a highly-regarded deity in ancient Roman mythology.  He was the god of doorways, gates, beginnings and endings.  He’s often depicted with two faces – looking both forward and looking backwards simultaneously.


As I pen this blog, whose purpose is to serve me as a CIO leadership channel as I serve NASA, I find it difficult to parse out the “pieces” of “me” to discuss.  I’ve often been asked about work-life balance.  This balance is achieved by recognition that I am not 10% this and 90% other … but rather, I am 100% wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend, teacher, CIO, leader, senior executive.  And it is through this struggle that I received 1000% richness and fullness in the life that this CIO enjoyed for 2008.  I find it no coincidence that the beginning — my professional career starting at NASA — and the ending — being again at this nation’s space agency at the end of my first half century of life – intersect at this gate of eye-opening self revelation.  2008 was indeed a great year. 


It’s all about the mission and the people.  My 2009 goal suddenly became a 2008 accomplishment.  The Goddard Space Flight Center Director, Rob Strain, signed off on the reorganization of the IT Directorate.  The reorganization formally recognizes several significant changes in how we will manage our IT resources.


We made some significant accomplishments as a directorate in 2008 and I am proud to serve as the Director of the IT and Communications Directorate and the CIO of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  We’ve provided mission critical communications services; business essential applications; delivered capabilities through project management rigor; supported desktop requirements for end users; fulfilled the voice, data, and video needs of NASA’s world class scientists and engineers; all enabled by crucial administrative financial, contract, and other support services.  This is no silver bullet, as an organizational structure is just a series of lines and boxes that describes organizations and functions.  It’s the people inside the boxes linked to the mission that makes this a success.


As we look forward to 2009, my leadership team will be suiting up — putting on the whole armor of leadership – needed to meet the challenges ahead.  My organization has been through a lot – and during these times of changes, we all have been through a lot personally.  But, I have no doubt that in 2009 we will continue our relentless pursuit to ensure that our IT services fulfill the mission needs of our nation’s space program.


Process isn’t glamorous, but neither is chaos. In a later post, I will blog about the importance of IT Governance especially as it relates to the challenges of IT security.  In 2008, Goddard Space Flight Center gained momentum in its IT governance processes. 


This is not the evil menacing villain CIO –arch enemy of truth and justice — destroyer of all life forms and networks as we know them today.  Nor is it the super hero Wonder Woman CIO — savior of mankind — enemy of evil hackers (though the bullet-proof fashion accessories might be useful).  If IT Security threats are likened to Goliath, then IT Governance is the slingshot to hurl well-placed stones that can slay this giant IT problem. 


I look forward to shedding my “geek-speak” in 2009 (but I’m keeping Cosmopolitans!).  So, let me practice.  In English, IT Governance is all about how the “collective WE” make decisions about IT.  It is not a unilateral monarchy run by a Queen-CIO; it is a multi-lateral Federation with decision rights, “laws”, principles and processes. 


In 2009, we’ll “provide for the common defense” by planning and developing Network Architecture.  We will “promote the general welfare” through an informed investment management process.  We will “secure our blessings” by making sure that we focus on the things that we need to perform our mission. 


It’s not all about technology. Last, but not least, in 2008 I jumped into this powerful and amazing technology called Web 2.0.  Ok, so I expected to determine its efficacy as a communication medium; and I expected to learn practical aspects of its use; and I expected to get the hang of this transparency stuff.  I didn’t expect to make the people connections that I made that so enriched my life.


I connected with QuarkSpin through Twitter.  He made me look back fondly at my systems programming days of creating REXX routines while on my pot-of-coffee-a-day habit.  Today, though I drink only about 16 ounces of coffee daily, his message of optimism and faith will stay with me and help frame my outlook for 2009.


I connected with Harold on Facebook.  It’s amazing that I’ve known him in real life for years.  As we were both going through what ends up being a routine bout of insomnia, he shared with me through Facebook some seemingly random thoughts.  Random indeed.  He was observing Rosh Hashanah and discussing the idea of asking for forgiveness from those you hurt during the year.  Today, even though I wonder why it took me so long to know the man behind that shy smile and mustache, his message of trying to be a better person — wife, daughter, friend, CIO, etc — will help frame my outlook for 2009.


I connected with RT through blogging.  I read with wonder his fascinating tales of growing up in the Southwestern part of the United States.  His youthful adventures which emanated from his life in the great southwest sure put a different perspective on the life of a NASA CIO, which emanates from southwest Washington, DC.  Perhaps you know him – maybe he held the door for you as you entered the store; maybe you passed him on the street and said good morning; or maybe he walked by as you were pumping gas.  Today, SW USA and SW DC seem to be right next door, and his message of inspiration, courage, focus, strength, and commitment will help frame my outlook for 2009.


I suppose a CIO’s IT Strategy should look at people, processes, and technologies.  It seems that it all boils down to people though — being a good and humble servant to the people you lead, being a better person no matter how you parse yourself it out, and valuing the people in your life. 


 Linda Cureton, CIO/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Email to MARS

I just had a wonderful visit with my staff at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.  Many do not know that the Wallops Flight Facility is NASA’s ONLY owned and operated launch range.  A short 45-minute  “E-ticket” ride on NASA 8 takes you to one of NASA’s amazing best kept secrets (I suppose I am dating myself to say I remember when you had to have paper tickets for some of the “good” rides at Disneyland).  Nestled quietly between chicken coops and the powerful surf of the Atlantic Ocean, Wallops Flight Facility is home of MARS – not the planet – but to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.  Just think, the quip “to the moon, Alice” would only take a short three hour drive from our nation’s capital to the charming Delmarva Peninsula to reach a full-service space port. Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility


One of my superheroes, Scott Webb, gave me a scenic tour of the manhole infrastructure on Wallops Island.  My mind drifted a second to thoughts of the Maytag Repairman and the bane of every IT service provider – Email.  I really, really hate Email.  I hate it because it has grown to be such a mission essential technological service, yet it has its genesis in Rudy-Poo “best effort” capabilities.  Yet CIO service providers must find a way to make it work.  The infrastructure can’t fail and must be reliable.  And if we succeed, we will be like the Maytag Repairman – forgotten.


Along a marsh-wrapped causeway is a technology infrastructure that is reliable, scalable, and serviceable.  It’s often easy to overlook the engineering fetes of the network superheroes when they do good work.  It’s the loneliest job in the world when your infrastructure works – people forget you.  It’s also the loneliest job in the world when Email stinks – people don’t forget that.  It’s a tough gig to aspire to be forgotten.  At first blush, driving along the road looks like dirt and round metal disks; but it’s an invisible marvel of technology that most people will forget.  It just works. 


And as NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center begins to provide more and more essential services for our nation’s Space Agency, the need for reliable mission communication services enabled by that often-forgotten underground infrastructure becomes more critical.  Pay no attention to that man or woman in the man hole – that’s your unsung hero on Chincoteague Island, VA; Greenbelt, MD; Fairmont, WV; or New York, NY – providing communications services to infinity and beyond. 


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

What CIOs Want

It is the tradition of some to exchange gifts during this time of year.  My family usually agonizes over what to get for me.  They tell me that it’s frustrating to just try to “read my mind” in order to come up with ideas.  One year, my husband just slammed down a piece of paper and a pencil in front of me and said, “Please do your friends a favor and write something down!”  I recently had the pleasure of reading the wish list that belonged to my nine-year-old niece Alyssa.  It went like this:


Dear Santa:


As you know, I’ve been a very, very good girl this year.  Thanks, in advance, for getting me the things on my list.


Love Alyssa


I would like: My own laptop, blue topaz ring, television, digital camera, magic kit, SpongeBob Season One, decals for my fingernails, crayons and coloring book, etc. (actual list truncated for editorial brevity)


Ok, so assuming that a NASA CIO would actually have friends, or a Santa even, that would want to know what she wants, I will write down a wish list.  So here goes:


Dear Santa:


As you know, I’ve been a very, very good girl this year.  I’m especially grateful that Goddard’s Center Director signed off on our IT strategy.  Thanks, in advance, for making it possible to get the things on my list.


Love Linda


I would like:


·        A strong, happy, and healthy family

·        To live happily ever after

·        Peace on Earth

·        Oh, and one more thing … a ring


A strong, happy, and healthy family. A motivated, capable IT workforce to help transform IT management at Goddard.  We’ve been through a lot of turbulence for the past few years.  I would like for us to learn about making choices and taking actions.  I would like a strong and courageous leadership team who will be capable of leading the workforce through times of change.


To live happily ever after. I would really, really like to see IT be a stronger enabler that helps Goddard meet NASA’s mission needs.  Some people just think about desktops, laptops, and email – all of this HAS to work, I know.  But, I’d like to also see IT better help our scientific and engineering heroes win proposals, build and launch spacecraft and deliver superior science products. 


Peace on Earth.  IT Governance has to do with: Who makes decisions about IT? How are those decisions made? What is the process of informing those who make the decisions? Are we investing in the right thing? And why? I know this is a lot of work, and may even take years, but if we get this working well, we will have improved security, more interoperability, better information sharing, and better delivery of IT services.


Oh, and one more thing, a ring. I’d like to consolidate the infrastructure as much as practical so that we can reduce costs and increase our ability to secure the perimeter.  If we can reduce costs, the savings can be reinvested.  If we reduce the cost to secure our perimeter, we can make this problem more and more solvable.  Oh, and it will be easier to share information and collaborate with other boys and girls.


Ok, that’s all for now.  I really, really, really hope I get what I want.  I can hardly wait to open my presents. 


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Visiting Virtual Worlds: A Short Weekend Road Trip

Visiting Virtual Worlds: A Short Weekend Road Trip


My old boss Skip, used to say that people who spend time in Second Life need to get a First Life.  Well, there has clearly been a lot of hype surrounding virtual worlds such as Second Life.  Perhaps the hype has many wondering about the practical aspects or business benefits of such environments. 


Many associate virtual worlds with gaming and social activities.  Even with this Web 2.0 science project that I?m in, I hear nuances of time-wasting garbage technologies.  There?s no doubt that many of these applications are for social purposes.  But look at these examples:


        Wii Technology Used in Brain Rehabilitation

        Wall Street Turning to Game Technologies to Speed Analytics

        It?s Not All Fun and Games: Virtual Worlds Abound in Useful Business Applications


There are some real applications.  Technology strategists need to get past the hype, begin to look for real applications and find ways to measure the value. 


In Gartner?s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2008 (Whit Andrews, et. al), Web 2.0 and Virtual Worlds are in the Trough of Dillusionment?  ?because the technology does not live up to its over-inflated expectations, it rapidly becomes unfashionable and the press abandons the topic.?  This stage precedes the Slope of Enlightenment where ? ? [f]ocused experimentation and solid hard work by an increasingly diverse range of organizations lead to a true understanding of the technology’s applicability, risks and benefits. Commercial off-the-shelf methodologies and tools become available to ease the development process.?  Nevertheless, Gartner has predicted that by 2011, 80% of all Internet users will be members of virtual worlds. 


As I?ve said in previous posts, I learn kinesthetically.   It?s been my goal to learn about the value of these virtual worlds by actually getting in and trying it. When I was asked by 1105 Government Information Group to do a panel on Second life, I figured I had to learn about it quick.  Frankly, I welcomed the opportunity to moderate and to stop procrastinating about it and learn.  So I decided to go visiting this weekend ? traveling to virtual worlds. 


Here are a couple of virtual spots I checked out this weekend:


NASA JPL: Explorer Island


Explorer Island is founded and maintained by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The island houses many interactive mission exhibits and several meeting places. I picked up a tee-shirt, but I can?t seem to find it.


NASA: Virtual CoLab


The virtual CoLab is a dedicated ?island? in the ?Second Life? online virtual world. NASA CoLab is a member of the SciLands “continent.” Provides educational content and helps to foster communication of NASA?s mission.  I sent my husband a postcard.


NOAA Virtual World


Virtual adventures where you can soar through a hurricane, rise gently through the atmosphere atop a weather balloon or search for a hidden underwater cave on a side trip from a NOAA submersible. This world was content rich, but being a rookie in SL, I seemed to have ?picked up? something I can?t figure out how to put down.


Electric Pixels


Those who know me, know I hate shopping, but since I was in the ?neighborhood, I did stop by a friend?s store.  My friend is a business owner, builder and explorer of Second Life. He owns this particle effects shop in Second Life. These are pretty cool visual effects that people can buy. I didn?t buy anything though. 


IBM ? Innovation in Virtual Worlds


Provides advice to customers about doing business in a virtual environment.  Offers guidelines to its customers about how to conduct business in a virtual environment.  Gives advice for leadership in a virtual environment.  In particular, lessons learned from the gaming industry. 


It was kind of fun doing this exploration, safely from my kitchen table.  I have barely  mastered walking, I got ejected off of someone?s island (I think I got offended, but I?m not sure), and my Second Life client kept crashing.  Though I did run into (literally) someone in the Electric Pixels store and I didn?t interact with anyone.  I do see the practical possibilities here though. I look forward to traveling around some more.


Linda looking at the Earth from orbit


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center



Consumerism and the Irrelevant CIO

iPhone, uPHone, we all scream for iPhones.  The NASA CIOs just had a CIO-like conversation about iPhones.  And so, I can check email and get reservations at Ruth’s Chris on the same end user device.  Wow. But what does that really mean? Is there really room for this consumer device in the Enterprise?


Consider Consumerism and the use of Web 2.0 technologies.  At Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council we posed, what I affirm, is a bar room question, how do we harness the power of Web 2.0?  Harnessing Web 2.0 is analogous to taming a wild mustang.  You can do it, but it would be wrong.  How can you tame the untamable?  The power Web 2.0 is atomic and it’s viral.


My brother-in-law, Eric, was complaining about his IT Department.  He needed a snazzy little application that would help his productivity in meetings.  Of course his IT Department wanted written requirements, an IT security plan, and a risk management plan.  So, I said, look on the Microsoft Template Gallery, you’ll find something.  And he sure did.  By the next day, he had what he needed.  Surely any Federal CIO will tell you how important it is to meet requirements, ensure security, and manage risk.  But, how do we get to YES faster while still tending to the things we need to tend to in a responsible manner?


During this Thanksgiving holiday, I noticed an interesting image.  I have a kitchen table that sits six people in the breakfast area.  I was sitting at the table with my two sisters, and my two brothers-in-law.  We were all working on our laptops.  Gee, five laptops — I had a data center in my kitchen.  Oh, and everyone had RSA tokens hanging around their neck, so we were a highly secure data center even.


As CIOs and IT service providers we are used to managing technology.  But what does it mean to lead technology?  The tempo of consumerism moves like a speeding locomotive down a railroad track.  CIOs who jump in front of the speeding train and pretend like they are leading will get run over.  CIOs who lay track that moves the train towards their organization’s goals have the right leadership stuff. 


In a CIO.COM  article, User Management – Users Who Know Too Much and the CIOs Who Fear Them, Ben Worthen challenges CIOs to still think about security, manageability, scalability, and Federal regulations but to do so strategically, not draconically. 


The employees in your company are using consumer IT to work faster, more efficiently and, in many cases, longer hours. Some are even finding new and better ways to get work done. CIOs should be applauding this trend. But when you shut down consumer IT, says William Harmer III, assistant vice president of architecture and technology of financial services company Manulife, “You end up as a dissuader of innovation.”


Growing up as a mainframe systems programmer, I still remember my IT “childhood” when the IT Department became irrelevant with the advent of client server computing.  We were called dinosaurs.  Those of us who didn’t adapt became extinct. I suppose we all learn things from our childhood.  Consumerism is the comet that threatens the Jurassic CIO.  The fittest CIOs are the ones with the right amount of courage, creativity, vision in their leadership DNA.


So is there room for iPhones?  The right answer for the Relevant CIO must be yes, just give me a few seconds to get to yes … but next time, I’ll anticipate your question.  Do I *have* to endure an eighteen month development cycle?  Well, no, here are some resources we can point you to.  Oh, and before you even ask, let me tell you about the atomic power of Web 2.0.  And finally, let me introduce us, we are your Relevant CIOs.


Linda Cureton, CIO/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Turning Ideation into the Greatest Nation in the World

This week, I attended a meeting of Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council.  It was a fascinating week of learning about how old organizations are using new technologies in new ways.  Not surprisingly, there were many conversations about Web 2.0 technologies.  There were also several discussions on the process of creating ideas, ideation.


My Myers-Briggs type is INTP. So, assuming one believes in those instruments, I am suppose to be an idea-generating machine who “… starting with only a vague intuition, can construct a whole new world of ideas.”  But this notion of ideation had been bugging me for a while, but I really couldn’t put my finger on why.  I was reading a passage in Judy Estrin’s book “Closing the Innovation Gap” which shed a little light on my irritation. 


“There are a half a dozen words in the English language that are substitutes for substance.  Three of them are innovation, accountability, and leadership,” says retired Intel CEO Andy Grove. “Companies that let people get away with murder talk too much about accountability. Those that don’t have the courage to leave the handrail talk incessantly about leadership. And people who are incapable of changing what they are doing, or even analyzing what’s wrong, go on and on about innovation.”


Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband would tell you that I am probably an impractical true-to-type INTP. But, what good are ideas if they never develop into anything of measured value, use or purpose? Drop back ten and punt? And then again, how do you know whether or not you’re on the very brink of inventing the next wonderful thing? Fourth and short – go for it!


Time Magazine just recognized the 50 Best Inventions of 2008. Two missions from NASA made the list – Goddard Space Flight Center’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (#3); and though not entirely a Goddard Mission, the Mars Science Lab (#18) will carry Goddard’s own microwave-oven-sized instrument suite, Sample Analysis at Mars. I am clearly fortunate to live in what Estrin calls an Ecosystem that has bred such marvelous engineering wonders of the world.  But, how does a CIO create and nurture an Ecosystem that breeds the IT wonders of the world?  It’s all around me and I don’t want to just talk about it, I want to do it.


In looking back at great innovations, they seemed to have come about as a result of the right environment, for the right people, given the right resources.  These people, and their supporting leadership, also had a courage to persist that was fueled by passion and inspired by a nurturing culture. 


Maybe ideation seemed to me to be a mindless paint-by-numbers process.  It’s probably not.  I think it just seemed strange to define a process that was so natural to me.  Whatever.  But, the supernatural part comes in when we understand how to apply the right dose of leadership, passion, power, and purpose to inspire ideas into reality and into masterpieces of innovation.


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center