I am GSDO: Jessica Parsons
Cross-Program Systems Integration Lead
Ground Systems Development and Operations Program
My name is Jessica Parsons, and I am the cross-program systems integration lead in the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, or GSDO. I've worked at Kennedy Space Center for about 13 years. I have a background in fluid systems engineering. I worked in the International Space Station Processing Directorate and did payload processing for different experiments that were going to the station.
I support the cross-program integration team. As part of this team, I am responsible for managing a group of different cross-discipline and cross-program technical teams. They develop different integrated products which have to do with anything program to program, interfaces to integrated test and checkout products or operation maintenance requirements, avionics and software, plans and processes. I manage and ensure that all these teams are supporting the different programs and that they develop the right products.
The coolest part of my job now is that I get to work in something new and something that is different. This is the first time that we're building a rocket of the huge magnitude that the Space Launch System is. At the same time, we're utilizing a new process for systems engineering and integration. It's the first time we've used this approach where it's pretty much a virtual team. We have teams from all the different programs, from the Space Launch System, Orion Program, and GSDO. We are the ones that do the integration by ourselves, so this is very different from anything we've done before. I'm really proud of being part of that because we're trying something different and it's working. It helps the program limit the resources they spend for this type of integration and be able to use some of those resources to develop the hardware.
The biggest achievement that I'm proud of was being able to set up the virtual organization. We're responsible for systems engineering and integration. I started working on it from the beginning and I've seen it transform to where it is now. So it's very rewarding to me to know that I had some input into it and see it function and being implemented. It's probably the biggest accomplishment I have been involved with in the program.
I think what led me to work for the GSDO Program was the fact that this was the direction that NASA was heading for the future. It was something new that we're doing.
We're going to build this heavy launch vehicle and we're going to process it here at Kennedy Space Center. So, I wanted to be part of the new vision where NASA was going to. We're building and modifying hardware that's been here for the last 40 years or more, and we're modifying the infrastructure, like the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Mobile Launcher, Launch Pad 39B, and I think it's very important for the future where the agency's heading. That was the biggest incentive to me—to know that I would be able to contribute to this program, and then, hopefully, in a few years from now, we'll be seeing that rocket launch out of our backyards.
I first became interested in space when I was young. I don't remember how old I was, I just remember looking up at the stars and thinking, "Wow, it's crazy that there's another universe out there, outside of our Earth. Who knows what else is out there, so how cool it would be to go into space and explore." That was probably the first time I became interested. And then, when I started high school, the first thing I did was ask my high school counselor what courses I needed to work for NASA. She told me engineering, so I made sure that at that point I took all the classes and everything that was needed to pursue an engineering degree so I could work for NASA one day.
I grew up in Cali, Colombia, and I moved to Miami, Florida, when I was 15. That's where I finished my high school education. I attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, for my Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering. I have a couple of master's degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, in space systems.
I would advise somebody that is interested in pursuing a career similar to mine to follow their dreams and never give up. I think if it wasn't for persistence and me trying to follow my dreams, I wouldn't be where I am today, working for NASA and doing what I love to do for the space program. I think the engineering field is a very diverse field.
Since I've been working for NASA I've held multiple jobs where I've been able to apply my engineering skills. It's the skills you learn when you're in school that help you understand engineering challenges and be able to apply them to different jobs.