“Let Me Tell You About It”

I spent many years teaching entrepreneurship and innovation programs designed to develop great ideas and to also make these ideas reality. There are many important lessons learned from this that transcend into my work at NASA.

One of these skill sets is to talk about the work you do, to inform and also to gain support. I am on the receiving end of such pitches and I often wish that more people – especially technical and science experts – attended some of the type of classes that are typically part of the entrepreneurship programs.

Let me focus on the two mistakes that  I see:

  1. The motivation and importance of the work is not clear
  2. The pitch does not consider who is listening 

To address the first mistake requires that the the speaker knows “the why” behind the organization or the projects she/he works with, and how her/his work relates to their overall objectives. Without a good understanding of that, pretty much any subsequent explanation falls flat, unfortunately.

The second issue is about a lack of understanding of the recipient of the pitch. The level of detail, the level of jargon, etc., should adjust depending on whether you pitch to an entry-level employee or a senior executive, whether you pitch to a technical expert or a business-focused  specialist.

Listen to these experts from NASA’s Glenn Research Center work on tough engineering problems, but they manage to bring across to me why their work matters to NASA, and I would like to learn more about each and everyone of them.

Amjad Almansour, Materials Science Researcher at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. 

Taylor Pember, Data Systems Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

John Wang, Computer Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

Ariel Dimston, Materials Engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

Humanity’s Search for Life Beyond Earth

Originally Published: Aug. 1, 2018

I testified on Wednesday to a senate committee about Space Science and especially about research we do in regards to “finding life beyond Earth”. Ellen Stofan, David Spergel, and Sara Seager were expert witnesses with me – it was an honor to be on stage with them.

A question asked by Senator Cruz was truly interesting: “Why is it important to search for life elsewhere?”

Each of us was asked to respond and – I believe – together we came up with the most compelling answer I ever heard to this question.

So, why is it important for NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration to search for life beyond Earth?

1) It is to make history – answering this question in a compelling way will be one of the most important breakthroughs in science history. It will not only change what we know, but how we think, as a human species. At NASA, we want these breakthroughs to come from the USA.

2) It is to drive transformative industries – asking big and very hard questions has benefits that we cannot even guess. The internet, integrated circuits, and so many transformative technologies came from asking big science questions and reaping the benefits. This is not about creating a few startups, it is by opening up new, paradigm altering Industries.

3) It is because this question matters to everyone. Everybody is affected by this question somehow, no matter what the background. Together, this can provide motivation to engage and inspire and connect to science in a fashion that is rare.

4) It is because working on this question can inject a whole new workforce into the STEM community, a workforce that will advance prosperity and well-being of all similar to the transformative effect they the Apollo program had onto the US economy.

This is precisely why we see this question as one of three themes that drive all of NASA science!