An interview with my favorite Rocket Scientist – meet Joe Williams

I’ve been fascinated by space ever since I was a kid. I still remember the night when it all began.  My friends and I had pitched our tent in the back yard for a sleep-over and were toasting marshmallows over the barbeque when Mom and Dad called us all inside to watch history happen.  Before our wondering eyes, American Astronauts took their first steps on the moon.  It inspired me, encouraged my love for science and technology, and made me proud to be an American.  It made a difference.

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m proud to say I know one.  Meet Joe Williams of NASA, my favorite Rocket Scientist.  More than your ‘Average Joe” he’s a husband and father seeking to make a difference in all that he does whether its dancing with his daughters in their dance recital  or in his professional   work, as a “rocket scientist” contributing towards establishing a sustainable and permanent human presence off Earth.

I first met Joe through Twitter (he’s @RikerJoe) and by reading his blog titled Leading Space (one of the best blogs out there if you are a student of leadership like me.) Online conversations evolved into emails then phone calls and this week I even got to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston to meet him along with  some of the team in person – what a treat!

As part of our ongoing People Making a Difference series, here and on Little Life Stories, I asked Joe a few questions.  Here is what he had to share…

“Be a leader, be a friend, be of service.”  Joe Williams

JKW:  Can you tell me a little bit about what you are up to at NASA these days?

Joe:  My current project is working with our team in determining how NASA’s mission operations in Houston acquires the goods and services it needs to fulfill its role in human spaceflight.  About 85% of NASA’s budget is spent on procuring goods and services from the private sector, and mission operations is no different.  Whether it is Mission Control, our training facilities where we train astronauts, or the people who work in them, we are heavily reliant upon our contractor workforce to accomplish our mission.  With the recent policy shift mandated by the White House for NASA away from the certainties associated with near-term Moon landings and into the uncertainties and ambiguities of new technology development, the task before me is made even more difficult.  What is the near-term role of mission operations?  How do we procure the goods and services we need to fulfill that role?  I love a good challenge, and it’s here!

JKW:  That’s going to take a lot of leadership focus.  Who are some of the leaders you have worked with and been mentored by who inspire you.

Joe:  I’m inspired by Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.  A few years ago I served as his Executive Officer for a five-month period while he was an Associate Administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.  Scott has the amazing blend of a strong technical background (his is in physics as is mine), a grasp of the subtleties of space policy, and the ability to formulate and articulate the combination of both in an amazing way.  Scott inspired and encouraged me to stretch myself in many ways.  Two of these in particular are to be comfortable working with leadership at least two levels above my pay grade, which is paying tremendous dividends in my current work.  The second is that we are capable of handling a tremendous volume of work – that the only impediment is our own self-imposed limitations of what we think we are capable of doing.  Scott always smiled when I would report to him something along the following lines: “I’m working two dozen items and I believe you would like to hear the status on six of them.”

JKW:  A key to leadership is understanding what really matters – what ‘matters’ to you?

Joe: I’m rooted in my three core values: learning and discovery,  fairness and respect, and excellence.  NASA’s mission and results align with all three.  Therefore, NASA gives me the opportunity to make a difference directly in creating a sustainable and permanent human presence off Earth.  I feel strongly it is our destiny to eventually leave Earth and settle other places.  It’s part of our heritage as a nation to explore and discover the world and universe around us.

Family is incredibly important to me.  My wonderful wife JoAnn keeps  me grounded so that I never forget what’s important at home, even when I am hyper focused on space exploration and our NASA mission. Together we are creating a better future for our daughters.  She’s an important reason why I can what I do.   On the lighter side – I am a HUGE Texas Longhorns fan.  Burnt Orange is my favorite color especially when cheering for my favorite team.

JKW:  If you had three wishes, what would they be?

Joe:  My three wishes are tied to my three core values:

  1. That everyone can get the education he or she needs to make a difference;
  2. That we can treat each other with fairness and respect; and
  3. That each of us will demand excellence from ourselves and from each other.

In the final countdown…

Spending time with great leaders is an “out of this world” experience.  What I learned in my visit to NASA is that The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is more than just about space exploration – it’s a breeding ground for our nation’s leaders, a crucible for innovations of all kinds, and a source of inspiration and pride for Americans everywhere.

NASA history began when John F. Kennedy said: “”I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”  That one goal sparked thousands of innovations, new technologies , new industries, and through them hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs for Americans, yet in a time when we need them more than ever, we may be missing the opportunity to set new and equally aggressive goals.

Perhaps it’s time to reengage the American spirit with a new goal.  I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out,…. Washington…are you listening?

Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Growing a business is serious stuff…Right?

An article at Mashable.com got me thinking this morning.   Growing a business is serious stuff.  But occasionally a little humor, a novelty, or even a contest or prize can help you business gain the attention of your target market and grow that much faster.

After all it’s about getting your customers and your potential customers talking about you and eventually actually buying from you. 

Whether your business is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) a dash of creativity and a bit of buzz can help move you up the growth curve.

A great way to see a selection of creative marketing ideas is to spend a little time on YouTube … so that’s just what I did.  And here is what I found…

“If you want to market something – create a social object.”

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XQAjSAMqAs&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

(You can find more from InfernoPR  at their YouTube Channel._

What is a social object?  Well let’s look…

Stan Schroder of Mashable included a great one from Twitter’s early days featuring Biz Stone.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGnMThF_2Lo&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

 

A favorite of my friend Lon Safko, of The Social Media Bible fame.  The Will it Blend series has attracted millions to their site and sent LOTS of blenders out to customers.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx4QgK_xEfE&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

 

And as a Mom, my personal favorite, Evian’s Roller Babies.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQcVllWpwGs&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

 

Not everyone hits with millions of views on YouTube – but that’s OK.

There are lots of other ways to draw attention to your product by capturing the customers imagination and attention.  Here are some more…

  • Todd Davis of LifeLock is so confident of his company’s service that he posts his Social Security number all over the place – he said it on Oprah, put it on billboards, and pasted it on the back of a bus and drove around the U.S.
  • Shwaag founders Eric Keosky-Smith and Michael Edwards are building a business around Giving Away really cool stuff.  Audiences love it and so do the companies whose products they promote.

So maybe it’s time to try something new…

You never know where it might take you…or your business.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

Free – Isn’t

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to Lon Safko, co-author of the Social Media Bible speak to a group of counselors from SCORE and the SBDC as a prelude to Greater Phoenix SCORE’s Social Media Event this January 14th and 15th.

During his presentation, Lon kept emphasizing the reasons, excellent ones BTW, that businesses need to pay attention to and utilize social media.  And repeatedly he punctuated his message with a continuing theme…Oh Yes!  It’s FREE!

But is it?Continue reading

Promise and Compromise

You’ve probably had the  experience where through the diverse objectives and perspectives of the people on your team, what you set out to create and what you got where not exactly the same.   As concessions are made to reach a point of consensus, a completely different animal begins to takes shape.Continue reading

Just a bit of Auld Lang Syne – Farewell 2009

The year 2009 will be a year to remember- fondly by some and less by others.  But however you feel about this year soon past – 2010 is just around the corner. (Or as my Aussie friends remind me – It’s already here!)

As the clock strikes Twelve – New Years tradition is to gather with friends and family to wish them well – sing a song and exchange an embrace.  We’ve all heard the song and probably sung it – most of us badly – at least I have. 

It is believed Robert Burns wrote the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne in the 1700’s. (Most say in  1788.)  The 1700’s were  challenging years for the Scots – and in January of 1788 – it was the passing of an era with the death at 68 of the long exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie.

This video has Auld Lang Syne as sung by Dougie MacLean on his album Tribute.  

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acxnmaVTlZA]

As we sing Auld Lang Syne to this challenging decade of zero years,  let’s take a page from from the song and put it behind us with fond memories of what was good and focus in on where and why we might raise our ‘cup of kindness’ to the decade to come.

Looking Back on the Big Zero

The decade of the Big Zero was not all bad – it had it’s highs and it’s lows.  But the highs for me included starting my own company (CorePurpose turns 8 in July), publishing my first book, leading an inspiring team at ASBA for two years, working with the team at Parenting Arizona and OTEF to make a lasting difference in our community, helping RiboMed move forward in it’s quest for new methods of early cancer detection so we can catch it early and stop the spread before it harms the ones we love, and watching my sons grow from boys into men that their Dad and I can be very proud if.   All in all, not a bad list.

Looking forward to the Big One

As I look towards 2010  and beyond – let’s call it the Decade of the BIG ONE – I’m starting a To Do List – not resolutions to break – just actions to take.

  • Help someone find a job they love.
  • Have lunch with a  friend to share ideas on a regular basis
  • Pick an OLD Problem and Solve at it in a NEW way at least every other day.
  • Recognize someone’s leadership potential and commit to be their mentor
  • Accomplish  ‘Small Things” as suggested by Rebel Brown in this post at Phoenix Rising.
  • Dust off that Five Year Plan and Refine it for 2010 and beyond
  • Identify What We Do Best – Focus our energies there and outsource the rest
  • Zero in on finding my QUEST company and get it growing.
  • Help my son Nick (he’s 18) write his business plan for HIS dream business so that when he writes his  2019 Look Back List he can say – “The Decade of the Big One was when I launched my business – and look what we have achieved.”

So, there you have it – my Look Back List and my To Do List going forward.  Have you started yours?

Thanks for stopping – best wishes for a Safe and Happy New Years and a record breaking 2010 and beyond.  Get ready – this decade will be the BIG ONE. 

Joan Koerber-Walker