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Carlos A. Gomez-Rosa - Leading the Charge for Goddard to Mars
March 12, 2013

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Software Engineer Carlos A. Gomez-Rosa makes the most of his opportunities, from working on MAVEN to being a supernumerary for The Washington Opera.

Name: Carlos A. Gomez-Rosa
Title: Ground Data Systems Manager and Mission Operations Manager for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) project.
Formal Job Classification: Software Engineer
Organization: Code 581, Software Systems Engineering Branch, Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard's mission?

I'm in charge of the overall design and integration into operations of the ground system for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) project. The MAVEN spacecraft will orbit Mars for a year and will explore its upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind. After launch, I will be the Mission Operations Manager. This is the first Goddard-led Mars mission, which is very exciting to me.

On a typical day, I begin by calling people to see what will happen that day and to find out what everyone is doing. Communication is critical especially as this is a big effort and people are not all in the same location. A good leader listens and then makes a decision based on what his people tell him. I also recognize when I have to be flexible and sometimes modify my decision. Things change so sometimes decisions have to change too.
Photo of Carlos A. Gomez Rosa› Larger image
Photo of Carlos A. Gomez-Rosa. Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk

Why did you start working at Goddard?

I came to Goddard in 1988 right after graduating from the University of Puerto Rico with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. I only had $250 in my pocket and no credit cards. Goddard recruited me right before graduation. I have always felt comfortable at Goddard because there are many others here from the University of Puerto Rico. To succeed here, you don't need to be rich; you just need to be smart.

What makes Goddard a great place to work?

I love the many different opportunities here. Goddard is also a place where you are encouraged to continue learning. There is a lot of coaching and mentoring. Recently, I completed a year-long Leadership Alchemy Program, which was the best thing I ever did in my life. This course taught me how to be a true leader.

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody from the University of Puerto just starting their career at Goddard?

In order to do your best work, you really need to enjoy what you are doing and have fun. Also, don't let fear hold you back. Be courageous enough to change when necessary.

I would also tell the new recruits to take advantage of the many opportunities here so they can continue to learn and to grow. I would never have imagined that I would be doing what I am now doing. I took the time to identify and follow through on these opportunities. My mother is thrilled that I did a video about my work for MAVEN. She told all her friends that I will be in one.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work that people do not generally know?

My work is very technical so in my free time I like to do something completely different. For several years, I was a supernumerary or extra for The Washington Opera. My parts included delivering letters, being a servant, and other non-singing roles. My pay was dinner and free parking. I met Director Placido Domingo many times. We called him "Maestro." He is incredibly humble and down to earth and clearly loves what he does.

What is your favorite opera?

My favorite opera is Puccini's "Tosca" because my role was to chase Tosca until she leapt to her death. The audience did not see that she actually jumped onto a thick mattress. Thankfully, "Tosca" never held it against me.

Related Links:

> Profile Video of Carlos A. Gomez-Rosa
> More Conversations With Goddard

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