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Financial Manager Matt Ritsko Is A Man With A Mission
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Financial Manager Matt Ritsko gets a thrill out of being part of a mission that allows him to give back to something greater than himself.

Name: Matt Ritsko
Title: Financial Manager
Formal Job Classification: Financial Manager
Organization He Works For: Code 463, Gravity and Extreme Magnetism (GEMS) Project, Flight Projects 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 make sure that our scientists and engineers have the resources they need to do their jobs. I lead the Business Team for our project, which consists of five people. The diversity of a team comes in many aspects including different personality types and backgrounds. I try to get to know everyone personally. I want to know why other people act as they do, what motivates them, and how they view the world. This helps me appreciate what each individual team member brings to the table.

Everybody ultimately just wants support. The better you know your project team members, the better you can perform your job and help them perform theirs.
Photo of Matt Ritsko› Larger image
Photo of Matt Ritsko. Credit: NASA/GSFC

You recently completed the Leadership Development and Excellence in Management (LDEM) Program. What is the most important thing you learned about yourself?

Like most of these programs, there was a bit of self-discovery. LDEM teaches that there are four personality types. Based on the program’s assessment, my personality type is a “fire.” Basically, fires are highly creative, driven for results, and easily bored. We are always in motion, physically and mentally; we’re fast. The downside is sometimes people view us as abrupt. LDEM taught us how to understand the motivations of the other personality types and how they interact together.

What makes Goddard a great place to work?

There is nowhere else in the world that does what we do. Supporting our missions allows you to give back to something greater than yourself. I think that is something very humbling.

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

It is important to learn the key fundamentals of your job, but also to try to understand how your role relates to other work around you. For example, I focus heavily on budget data every day. I may not understand the intricacies of the science and engineering on my project, but I know how my financial data relates to or impacts the project’s engineering and science objectives, which in turn helps me provide better insights to my management. Being able to communicate your specific area of expertise in terms others can understand allows everyone to be more successful. So, taking the time to learn about your project and why things work will make your career more interesting and productive.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be and why?

Without a doubt I’d be a secret agent. I’m always asking questions. I really like understanding information and raw data. But I also enjoy figuring out people’s motivations, what makes people tick. I think I’d get a lot of adrenalin rushes being a secret agent. Plus, I love reading spy novels and watching spy movies.

Matt Ritsko meeting with President Obama after he won the SAVE award.› Larger image
President Barack Obama talks with Matthew Ritsko in the Oval Office, Jan. 9, 2012. Credit: Official White House Photo/Pete Souza

You recently won the 2011 White House SAVE Award for suggesting that Goddard create a tool “lending library” for NASA flight projects. What made you enter the White House contest?

It was a totally spontaneous decision. I was working late one night and decided to submit it after reading a few emails on the contest. There were roughly 20,000 other ideas. What happened is an example of how a small, innocent thought can receive a lot of unexpected attention.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most famous Japanese samurai and one of the best swordsmen in the world [1584–1645]. He also wrote a book on strategy, tactics, and overall life philosophy.
I’ve always been interested in philosophy and Asian culture. Musashi was able to look at the world as a warrior poet, which is a fascinating perspective.

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

In the little spare time that I have, I do Jujitsu, a Japanese martial art. I started about four years ago and just do it for fun.

I also collect lapel pins of places I’ve visited and events I’ve attended. They are a memory lane. I don’t have a favorite; I like them all. I have over 300 now.

Related Links:

› NASA Feature on Matt Ritsko Winning the SAVE Award
› White House SAVE Award website
› White House Article on Ritsko's Win
› More Conversations With Goddard
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.