Great Transitions (Part 1)

The blog’s been dark for too long… mainly because I haven’t known how to break this story. I guess I’ll just do it normally:

My life is changing again.

For the last few years I’ve worked at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California, and lived in Lancaster, 45 minutes away. It was my first real job out of college, and ever since I had picked aerospace as a possible career opportunity, I was elated to be serving my country by furthering scientific research in any way I could. It turns out, I am pretty good at it. I worked with some people who had their hands in a sizable amount of American history, and I set out to absorb as much as I could, leaving no stone unturned in the process.

Somewhere after the second year, I started to feel the crushing weight of the governmental bureaucracy. After working through college applications and post-grad transcripts, I was pretty comfortable with the function of paperwork, but these folks take it to a whole new level. As I started to understand how things worked, I was made privy to the numerous methods that higher-ups used to allocate resources. In order for us low-level folks to do our jobs, programs and projects had to be defined in vague ways; bundles of research were planned around the same congressional milestone. We get the work done that we’re asked to do, and then we do so much more on the same dime. It’s a great achievement, given all of the hoops we jump through.

Of course, as I was crushed, I started putting out my hands trying to catch something to help me up. A job in a different area of NASA that worked more effectively, or even a private sector job. If I couldn’t find something, I knew I would be stuck for a while. I could make the best of it: hope that Congress and the President started seeing eye to eye on research, requiring a cleanup of the way NASA works. I became eligible to apply for leadership development or graduate education programs, which required I stay a minimum of 2 years after the programs ended.

My friends outside of work encouraged me to seek out other places, get me out of the small desert suburb in the armpit of SoCal. My forward-thinking coworkers either commiserated with me or kept trying to figure out how we could team up and change the system from within. We had some great discussions, and they might actually be successful. I’m just glad I could keep up mentally and politically, when I could.

Interestingly enough, thanks to an introduction, some group collaboration, and some dumb luck, I caught hold of a good opportunity, and I never let go.

Next up: the new job.

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