Stephanie Stilson, Flow Director Lead for Discovery, NASA Kennedy Space Center
"In my personal life, my paternal grandmother was the type of person who said 'do whatever you want to do.' She was very confident in my abilities, telling me back then that I could be an engineer even if the field was male dominated."
"When I first hired on to NASA, Payloads and Shuttle were two of the largest organizations at KSC, and there was a healthy tension between organizations. Although I had spent some time as a co-op in Shuttle, I was never really entrenched in it. I essentially grew up professionally in Payloads. So when I made the decision to leave Payloads and go to Shuttle, I faced a difficult transition. It was challenging, with a brand new set of acronyms, procedures, day to day differences, and cultural changes. Most of the people working Shuttle had done so for their entire careers. As such, they were skeptical of me coming into a leadership position without having gone through the same experiences they had over the years. In fact, my direct counterpart was a contractor who had been at KSC since the Apollo days. He didn’t make things easy for me and it took several years for me to gain his respect. Eventually we were able to work well together and also become friends. Although I didn’t see it then, he helped mold me into who I am today, and I will always be grateful for that."
"I accepted that he felt “I didn’t belong here because I hadn’t earned my stripes”, but at the same time, I didn’t give up because I had a job to do. Eventually I was able to convince him that we were in this together, and I wasn’t looking to take anything away from him. I admitted that I could never know the sheer amount of information about the Shuttle in the way he did."
NASA, Photo via NASA