Taking On a New Position as Chief Financial Officer
In March 2010, Julie Baker was appointed Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Elated with the good news, Baker recollects 1978, when she began her career path at NASA.
Her career began as a Presidential Management Intern in the International Affairs Office at NASA Headquarters. As part of the intern program, she spent several months in NASA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer. It was this assignment that encouraged her to pursue this career further. “It was in line with my interest in space policy and it was clear that all of the work on the budget really drove what the Nation’s space program was all about,” Baker says.
Baker has held various positions at NASA. While at NASA Headquarters she worked in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer from 1979 to 1998. She was a Program Analyst on the Space Science and Applications program, as well as the Space Shuttle program. In her last Headquarters position, she was involved in the Agency budget formulation process, where she was responsible for the material and the justifications for the Agency budgets requests sent forward to the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Congress.
In 1998, she came to Goddard to lead the Program Analysis Office in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. She was accepted into the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program in 2004. After completing the program in 2006, she was named Deputy Chief Financial Officer of Goddard.
When asked if she ever imagined becoming Chief Financial Officer when she arrived at Goddard, Baker says it was the furthest thought from her mind.
In her new position, Baker has goals that she wants to achieve as CFO. One of her top priorities is to support NASA’s effort to receive a clean audit opinion. For the last 7 years, NASA has received a disclaimer opinion owing in large part to the transition to the integrated accounting system in 2003 and lack of detailed records for all the Agency’s buildings and property.
Baker says, “The audit findings are important because they represent an independent assessment of the Agency’s ability to document its business transactions—to ensure that proper controls are in place to prevent fraud and abuse, and to establish credibility that we are following proper rules of accounting standards.”
To support the Agency’s efforts, Goddard has focused on making sure our books are in good order, says Baker. She mentions that making progress towards a clean opinion is much more than just having proper accounting records. Baker says, “The audit opinion is a piece of establishing NASA’s credibility with Congress and the American taxpayer that entrusting the Agency with taxpayer dollars is a wise investment.”
Baker has words of encouragement for individuals who would like to follow her same career path. She advises anyone interested in resources and finance work to purse a wide variety of opportunities, so they can witness how different organizations work together. This kind of exposure will likely open doors to other opportunities.
Individuals may argue that the resources and finance world is dominated by men, but Baker strongly disagrees. Baker believes that the willingness to work hard and being open to a wide variety of experiences plays a vital role in people’s ability to attain these positions. With positive thinking and aiming for greatness, Baker has reiterated these words of encouragement throughout her success. “Do what you love and love what you do,” Baker says. She says that even though demands might be extensive, when you’re doing what you love, it gives you the energy and focus to keep pushing through.
April C. Thornton
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center