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NASA Engineers Selected for Exclusive Leadership Program
April 17, 2013


Bob Granath
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

Two NASA engineers from the Kennedy Space Center's Engineering and Technology Directorate recently were selected by the Asian-American Governments Executives Network (AAGEN), to participate in a special leadership program. They will join 18 participants from other federal agencies across the nation.

Johnny Nguyen, chief of the Fluids Test and Technology Development Branch, and Khoa Vo, technical integration manager for the Control and Data Systems Division, were selected for the year-long Senior Executive Services (SES) development course.

The program is sponsored by AAGEN with participation by the White House Initiative on Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, the Office of Personnel Management and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"It's an opportunity to be mentored and learn from some of the most experienced federal leaders," Vo said. "It's exciting to be chosen."

Nguyen agreed that it is an honor to be selected.

"I'm looking forward to the sessions," he said. "I know there is going to be some homework."

Founded in 1993, AAGEN is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of top Asian-American, Pacific Islander career and appointed executives in the federal, state and local governments. The SES development program curriculum consists of two to three days of class work in Washington, D.C. once each quarter. The sessions include speakers, networking and classes focusing on personal branding, risk taking, communication and building trust as a professional.

Vo believes the SES program will be personally valuable, but also allow him and Nguyen to add value to NASA.

"The program should help us continue to grow and be more effective and better equipped as leaders," he said. "That will better position us to help the agency."

Nguyen also is looking forward to the program.

"It should be an opportunity to learn new leadership skills and better understand how the federal government works," he said.

A Space Coast native, Nguyen grew up in Port St. John, Fla., and attended Titusville High School.

"In 2001, I graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a degree in mechanical engineering," he said. "I started working for NASA at Kennedy as a co-op in 1998 while I was going to school."

Nguyen went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from UCF in 2004. He now manages personnel, resources and technical skills to ensure that technology activities support all programs and projects for fluids technology development at the space center.

"Its exciting work," he said. "Space exploration improves life on Earth, and our work is part of that mission."

Vo immigrated to the United States from Vietnam as a teenager and now lives in Orlando.

"I studied computer science at UCF, graduating in 1998," he said. "I went to work for Lockheed Martin the next year."

He was a software engineer for both Lockheed Martin and United Space Alliance before going to work for NASA in 2004. Vo also earned a master's degree in software engineering in 2006.

Today, Vo leads and coordinates the Engineering and Technology Directorate's implementation of the safety-critical command and control capabilities that are required for re-establishing our nation's ability to launch humans into space.

Like Nguyen, Vo appreciates his job with the space agency.

"It's an opportunity to help define where we go in the future," he said. "We're currently in a transition phase. Now is the time to make a difference because what we do now will have an impact for decades to come."

Both Nguyen and Vo believe the SES development program will aid in helping define NASA's direction.

"I hope to get some insights into some of the struggles other agencies are facing and some of the things that have been successful," Nguyen said. "Hopefully, I will learn best practices to bring back to NASA."

"We will use these to learn and share other perspectives," Vo said. "That will make us mindful of big pictures and issues that are affecting our federal government and learn more about applying diverse approaches and opinions."

Johnny Nguyen, left, and Khoa Vo, right
Johnny Nguyen, chief of the NASA Fluids Test and Technology Development Branch, left, and Khoa Vo, technical integration manager for NASA Control and Data Systems Division, were selected for the Senior Executive Services (SES) leadership development program.
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NASA/Bob Granath
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