NASA People

Center Snapshot: Jenny DeVasher
04.27.09
Jenny DeVasher. Image above: An 84-page notebook of acronyms helps Jenny DeVasher keep track of NESC meetings. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Jim Hodges

There are NASA Engineering and Safety Center meetings in which entire sentences, perhaps even paragraphs, of conversation pass without an identifiable noun or a verb.

Meeting topics can be vehicles for space exploration, aeronautics, wind tunnel operations, batteries for operating the Hubble Space Telescope.

As executive administrator, Jenny DeVasher's primary job is keeping the minutes of those meetings, then transcribing them for the participants.

It's a long way from writing notices for neighborhood meetings in Hampton or reports on dog licenses in Newport News for a weekly supplement for a daily newspaper.

DeVasher has done that, too.

"The board members are dealing with amazing, sometimes life-or-death matters," said DeVasher of NESC, for which she works as a contractor with Tessada and Associates at NASA Langley. "It's fascinating to sit in on the meetings and hear their presentations."

DeVasher began her position in November, after working for a year as a technical editor with CIBER, another contractor. "That work really helped prepare me for this job," she said. "It involved some of the things I do here."

Much of what she did with CIPER involved writing and editing instructional material for the NESC Academy, a series of seminars led by NASA Technical Fellows for young engineers.

What also helps on her job now is a black loose-leaf notebook with 84 pages of acronyms. "I've only had to call once for an explanation of an acronym," she said, laughing. "And the best part is that some acronyms mean different things to different people."

Her job is a far cry from the newspaper career in which she spent many years. She was community editor with the Daily Press when it became clear that a career change was in order almost two years ago.

As community editor, she dealt with local news and notes, and with many inexperienced writers who challenged her editing skills.

But in a way, that also helped her prepare for her job at Langley. It taught her that there are writing standards. Cast forward to her job now, it made her understand that every technical article is not read by a technical person, so there are times when questions are in order.

"I've found that (engineers) here want to make sure that they are clear in what they are saying," DeVasher said.

Also, that they will take the time to make sure of that clarity if the writer will only ask.

Time away from NASA Langley is mostly spent raising a pair of 5-year-old twins, Henry and Maggie. And keeping in contact with the newspaper business through husband Bryan, who is a page designer and new media guru with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"It's all so different now," said DeVasher, reflecting on almost two years away from the business.

But that's the past. She is focused on the future now. She has to be, because NESC is and that means more and different projects for the executive administrator to keep up with – and more acronyms to describe them.