Vanessa E. Wyche, Director, NASA Johnson Space Center
How did you get your start in the transportation industry? I’ve had lots of very exciting positions throughout my career, starting as an engineer with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluating medical devices, to developing projects to perform biological studies on astronauts at NASA. I oversaw entire Space Shuttle missions as a flight manager and led an organization of scientists and engineers developing plans for human missions to the Moon and Mars.
All these positions helped prepare me for my current position as Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where we are training astronauts to go into space to the International Space Station, partnering with SpaceX and Boeing on developing new spacecraft to launch astronauts to low Earth orbit, and developing new spacecraft such as Orion, Gateway, and other systems and technologies – like spacesuits – to explore the moon and then take humans to Mars.
Who are some women who’ve inspired you? My late mother, Inez Bethea Ellerbe and Barbara Jordan, late Congresswoman from Houston.
Best advice ever received? Dance to the beat of your own drum.
What is your superpower? Curiosity.
How do you keep up with what’s going on in the world? News via traditional and non-traditional media and networking.
What do you do for self-care? How do you make self-care a priority? After a stressful day at work, I love to go for walks and ride my bike and my happy place is on the golf course and the beach.
List three positive words to describe you. Resilient, honest, caring.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Switching jobs because I was not satisfied with my position. It was viewed as disloyal by some within the organization I had to leave, and the Manager had a lot of influence within the larger organization, but I knew I had to make a change. It proved to be the right move, but it took courage.
What’s the quality people most admire about you? Leadership.