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Sislyn ‘Pauline’ Barrett: Procuring the Perfect Engineering Services

Procurement manager Sislyn “Pauline” Barrett takes great joy in helping people go beyond what they think they can.

Name: Sislyn “Pauline” Barrett

Title: Procurement Manager

Formal Job Classification: Supervisory Contract Specialist (1102)

Organization: Engineering Procurement Office, Procurement Division (Code 175)

Pauline Barrett is a procurement manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Courtesy of Pauline Barrett

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

I manage a wide array of procurement actions for the center and agency. In my role I serve as a highly skilled senior level manager with a contracting officer’s warrant. I am responsible for the management of multiple complex high value acquisitions, including pre-award through post award. My team supports all contract types including large service contracts, the development and administration of space flight hardware instruments, and research and development.

What I most enjoy is the ability to pour into others who are assigned to me and to watch them grow and become more knowledgeable and proficient at their jobs.

What is your educational background?

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1987
  • Master’s in Acquisition Management from the University of Maryland, University College, 2011
  • Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland, University College, 2012.
  • Project Management Certification from the University of Maryland, University College, 2022.

Where did you work prior to coming to Goddard?

After graduating from college in 1987, I was hired as a buyer for the University of Maryland, College Park. I procured goods and services for the university, specifically in the food division, where I procured food on a daily basis for the campus community, and the police division, where I procured the motorcycles for the University police department.

In 1999, I was hired as a senior buyer with Prince George’s County procuring mostly IT equipment.

In 2001, I began working for the District of Columbia government as a contract specialist, initially supporting D.C. Public Schools and then was elevated as a contracting officer to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

How did you get to Goddard?

I was always interested in procurement at the federal level. In 2009, on a whim I applied for a contract specialist position via USAJobs and nine months later, I began my career here at Goddard.

Where have you worked at Goddard?

I began my career here at Goddard supporting the Earth Science Division as a contract specialist, eventually becoming a contracting officer/team lead. In 2013, I joined the Headquarters Procurement Office on a 12-month detail as a procurement manager. In 2014, I joined the Space Science Division as a permanent procurement manager and stayed there for seven years. I currently work in the Engineering Procurement Office and have been here since 2021.

What excites you about working in the Engineering Procurement Office?

Procuring the services needed to perform the work required here at NASA, has been enlightening. What I mean by that is NASA is such a niche area, and as such we cannot just buy your typical services from anyone (i.e., GSA) to do the type of work we perform here. We procure specific types of services that comes with specific educational requirements and experiences, thus we have specialized and unique contracts, like the big IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) service contracts that my office manages to obtain services, or the hardware needed to perform our work. So, knowing I have been a part of making that happen is exciting.

As a mentor, what is the most important advice you give?

When serving as a mentor, my initial meeting is to understand what that individual would like to work on, or what they want to gain from our interactions. Based on their response, I offer suggestions on how they can get to where they want to be by generating an action plan and provide guidance on achieving the goal they set.

For example, in my arena, if a contract specialist wants to become a contracting officer, I suggest things such as taking specific classes, that will increase their knowledge, giving guidance on tools they can utilize, such as looking for those challenging work assignments that will help them grow. I share with them that it is not only doing the work, but it is being able to understand the process and speak to it. If you understand something well enough to explain it, then you really know the subject. A “want” becomes a “need” with a path there.

Thus, it gives me great joy to see people go beyond what they think they can. I love helping them grow. In a leadership class, I learned that you know people are growing when you see them go further than you are.

What is your role with the African Diaspora Employee Resource Group (ADERG)?

I am a member of the African Diaspora Employee Resource Group (ADERG) and have been so for over five years. In this group, we come together as a community to talk about common things that are important to the African American community, such as Juneteenth and how it became a national holiday a couple years ago, and what that represents for us. Our group tries to expand people’s knowledge about African Americans and their place in our country’s history through various programs and activities.

We also enjoy and celebrate things such as Black History Month. In 2022 our group led the first agencywide Black History Month celebration where our administrator participated, and we had great speakers like the late Curtis Graves, who was a noted Civil Rights activist. Graves walked with Dr. Martin Luther King. He was also a member of the Texas House of Representatives, and he worked at NASA’s Academic Affairs Division and was the director for civil affairs. Most recently our own senior Champion Cynthia Simmons was appointed as the deputy center director.

We share ideas, we support each other, and we talk through whatever is affecting us here at Goddard. When we have significant issues, our chairs bring them to the attention of the center director.

Why do you love being at Goddard?

I love being at Goddard because of the diversity of people here. You can meet a Nobel Prize laureate and you can meet a young man or woman just out of college who is excited about science and engineering. You can meet someone who has been here for years and get their perspective, and you can meet a junior scientist or engineer, who just started and is excited about working at Goddard. NASA is the Mecca of space, and so I want the next generation to see NASA Goddard as someplace they want to be. Those are some of the things that makes me love working here.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy reading, all genres, and am a member of a book club.

I love to travel. I have been to China, Denmark, Switzerland, Sarajevo, England, Scotland, Mexico, Belgium, Bahamas, France, Italy, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Greece, Brazil, Holland, and Germany. Next, I want to go to Australia and New Zealand.

I love to exercise. I enjoy cardio, weights, anything that will keep my body active.  I am in the gym every morning at 5  a.m. working out. I do a bootcamp fitness class and I also like walking Goddard’s campus.  

What is your motto?

Wherever you are, whatever you do, if you become unlearned then you are no longer good to the organization because we all should be learning every day.

I also say, “Keep your faith, whatever your faith is, and everything else will follow.”

What is your “six-word memoir”? A six-word memoir describes something in just six words.

Always learning, always teaching, ever growing.

By Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

A banner graphic with a group of people smiling and the text "Conversations with Goddard" on the right. The people represent many genders, ethnicities, and ages, and all pose in front of a soft blue background image of space and stars.

Conversations With Goddard is a collection of Q&A profiles highlighting the breadth and depth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s talented and diverse workforce. The Conversations have been published twice a month on average since May 2011. Read past editions on Goddard’s “Our People” webpage.



Last Updated
Feb 06, 2024
Madison Olson
Elizabeth M. Jarrell