When Snowflakes Fall on Goddard, Ray Rubliotta's There to Catch Them
As “Snowflake 1,” Ray Rubilotta has the job of calling the Center Director by 4:45 a.m. on snow days to recommend the Center’s operating status.
Deputy Director, Management Operations Directorate
Formal Job Classification:
Same as above
Organization He Works For:
Code 200, Management Operations Directorate
What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?
On a typical day, I work with Tom Paprocki to manage the day-to-day Center services for all Goddard employees at Greenbelt, Wallops, GISS, and IV&V with the exception of IT, finance, and human resources. This includes snow removal. I have an office but I work all over Center as well as our field sites.
We do some neat facilities engineering work. The coolest project I have ever done involves the utility tunnel that connects the Building 31 power plant, Building 32, and Building 33. You can enter Building 31, go down into the utility tunnel, walk underground, and come out at the building 33 loading dock and never see the light of day. You will walk past all the chilled water,
|› View larger image
Photo of Ray Rubilotta. Credit: NASA
steam, and electrical support for those buildings. The beauty of the utility tunnel is that you do not have to dig up the grounds, but they are a bit more expensive to build.
Working together, I would like to be able to meet everyone’s needs. We are a very educated group here at Goddard, so when people have concerns they may have a strong scientific reason for them. When folks have a problem, I encourage them to contact our organization to discuss and resolve their issues.
Also, at the end of the day, when we see the infrastructure that we have provided being used to help support the Agency’s mission and goals, our staff really gets energized. It makes us feel connected to the brilliant science and engineering being done here.
What was the biggest snow event you handled and what did you do?
The 2009–10 snow season was one of the biggest snowfall amounts in Maryland in over 100 years. We had so much snow that we had to actually close off part of Explorer Road to use as a snow dumping site. My Goddard radio handle is “Snowflake 1.” When we get snow, we have a cadre of civil servants known as “the snow desk” who oversee the contractors who do the snow removal at Greenbelt. If a snow event is imminent, we make sure that everyone is in place. A contractor provides real-time meteorological data to the snow desk. I am in contact with the snow desk before and throughout a snow event. They tell me how the removal is going on Center and then, based upon our conversation and what other Federal Agencies in the area are doing, it is my job to contact the Center Director or Deputy Center Director and provide a recommendation for the Greenbelt operating status for that day. If it is an overnight snow event, I call the Center Director at about 4:45 a.m. He usually answers, “Hi, Ray.” He then makes the ultimate decision about the operating status, which is then communicated by the Office of Communications. Time is of the essence because people are starting to go to work. Our snow decision is communicated to our employees no later than 5:30 a.m. Because Goddard is such a large campus, Goddard makes a snow decision independent of the Office of Personnel Management. By the way, I shovel the snow around my own house.
What makes Goddard a great place to work?
I just really enjoy the wide variety of activities that go on here. I cannot think of a work or personal interest a person may have that doesn’t have an associated organization here. This is very unique.
|› View larger image
Ray and friends enjoying the victory of the Ravens over the Jets. Credit: R. Rubilotta
What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their career at Goddard?
One very important lesson that I learned, and I learned this early on from my first supervisor, is to always take a chance on trying something new or different. In the almost 25 years I have been here, I have worked in five different Directorates.
Another important lesson I have learned is that although we are all technology-driven, we can become too dependent on various hand-held devices. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than talking to an individual face-to-face, especially in their own office or cubicle. Doing so really builds a relationship on a personal, not merely electronic, level. I believe in managing by walking around and talking with people.
Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, or activities outside of work that people do not generally know (like you run ultra marathons or work on a NASCAR pit crew on weekends)?
I remain close friends with two other guys from kindergarten. When we were in college, we would always take a two-week annual vacation together. In 1987, we decided to go to California for our trip. Prior to leaving, we arranged to get tickets to be in the audience for several television shows including “The Price is Right,” “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, and “The People’s Court.” So I can tell you from personal experience that the audience for these shows really is live!
Do you have a favorite way or place to kick back, relax, or have fun?
I am a big Baltimore sports fan. I have had season tickets to the Ravens since they came to town. In 2001, when they played in Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida, I was there and saw them win. I also have had a mini season ticket plan to the Orioles since 1986.
› More Conversations With Goddard
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.