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Women’s History Month: Meet Denise Ryan

Headshot of Denise Ryan over a faded black and white aerial image of NASA Armstrong. There is text that reads “Women’s History Month – Denise Ryan, Flight Management Specialist.”
Denise Ryan
NASA Graphics

In honor of Women’s History Month, we recently sat down with Denise Ryan, flight management specialist and member of the Women’s Networking Group (WNG) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, to learn more about her role and working at NASA.

What do you do at NASA and how do you help support Armstrong’s mission?

I am a Flight Management Specialist and work in the Flight Operations Office where we schedule various ground and flight operations for Armstrong Flight Research Center. I manage the scheduling activities for our diverse fleet of aircraft ranging from a simplistic TG-14 motor-glider to a complex airborne science platform such as the DC-8.

Why did you choose to work at NASA and how long have you worked here?

I chose to work here at Armstrong because I needed a change – prior to getting a job here I was a Trust Operation Manager for a trust company and teleworking fulltime after moving to the area. Since I prefer in-person interaction, when I was offered a job as an Acquisition Specialist, I took it. From there another opportunity opened in the Flight Operations Directorate, where I was hired as a Flight Operations Scheduler. I’ve worked here at Armstrong for 13 years; 11 years as a contractor and 2 years as a Civil Servant.

What has been your proudest accomplishment or highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career is the NASA Honor Award for Exceptional Public Service that I received in 2020 for “Exceptional service as Flight Operations Scheduler”.

Do you have any advice for others like yourself who may be contemplating a career at NASA?

Go for it! I’ve enjoyed my time working at NASA and would always encourage people to apply for opportunities here when they’re available.

What is the most exciting aspect of your job?

In Flight Ops, the most exciting thing about my job, besides the people I get to interact with every day, is that we are part of all the flight missions that take place at Armstrong. From ground test to first flights and even last, we are involved in many different aspects. I have a unique job that allows us to not necessarily be tied to one mission or one project, but almost all of them, and that’s exciting.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Did you think you would ever work for NASA?

I honestly didn’t have a solid plan – I remember telling people that my goal was to be happy and would find out what would bring me that happiness as I went through life. That eventually got me to NASA and I would say I’m pretty happy, so that’s a win.

What’s the strangest tradition in your family? Or a unique family tradition?

We have a tradition that if it’s your birthday, after we sing, we smear frosting on your face. The other traditional that isn’t strange, but I think is valuable is that we sit together for dinner as a family.

If you could master a skill without any work, what would it be?

I think mastering a musical instrument would be my choice – specifically the Cello. I can play basic chords on a Ukulele and Guitar, but I’m far from being a master, more like a beginner.