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Steven Scott - Makes Sure Things Work at Work
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Goddard Chief Engineer Steven S. Scott makes sure that our projects meet their requirements and that they work.

Name: Steven S. Scott
Title: Goddard Chief Engineer
Formal Job Classification: Aerospace Engineer
Organization He Works For: Code 500, 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 am the Goddard chief engineer, which makes me responsible for technical excellence across all Goddard missions. I’m involved with technical reviews, trouble shooting, technical standards, processes and procedures, and making sure that our projects meet their requirements and that they work. In addition, other centers often ask for my help with technical reviews and solving technical problems. As of right now, I cover about 42 different projects totaling a few billion dollars. I am also the lead technical consultant to center management and am often asked spontaneous questions on a wide variety of technical subjects. If I don’t know the answer, I talk to the experts, find out and report back.

I work very closely with other people, especially the chief engineers of the divisions (including Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering) and lead systems engineers from across the center. I practice “management by influence,” meaning that I try to convince people to do the right thing based on our shared technical knowledge and experience rather than forcing the issue by virtue of power of position or authority. I “manage by influence” both downward and upward.
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Steven Scott at Goddard. Credit: NASA

I try not to worry too much about change. The universe is chaotic, so I guess I’m comfortable with random events, change and chaos.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?

I do something cool here every day. Each year we have several missions launching. We are always operating dozens of missions and processing scientific data for the public in the Earth and space sciences. There are plenty of engineering challenges every day as well. No one is ever bored here.

What makes Goddard a great place to work?

All the people at Goddard are very enthusiastic, highly intelligent and extremely hard working. You learn something new each day from somebody here. Goddard is like a very large university campus.

What educational opportunities has Goddard allowed you to pursue?

I have a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s in systems management with a specialty in space operations, a second master’s in remote sensing and geographical information systems, and I am working on a third master’s in engineering technical leadership. I am an underachiever and I am actually a terrible student, but I think higher education is important and necessary to keep on top of things. Although my background is in physics, I have been practicing engineering for almost 30 years. One great thing about Goddard is the many opportunities to develop different interests. Goddard paid for all my degrees beyond my bachelor’s. Goddard certainly endorses, encourages and almost demands continuing education.

If you could meet and talk to anybody, living or dead, who would it be and what’s the first thing you’d ask them?

I would like to meet Phillip K. Dick, the late science fiction writer. His book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” became the movie “Bladerunner,” which is one of my favorites. He had an incredible imagination and thought of so many prescient ideas, which became reality. He is now one of the “it” guys for movie scripts. In Hollywood, to be “Phillip K. Dickian” means to be very imaginative and forward-thinking. Other books of his which became movies include “A Scanner Darkly,” “Next,” “Paycheck,” “The Minority Report,” “The Adjustment Bureau,” and “Total Recall.”

Do you have a favorite book or magazine?

I read about 30 books and 100 magazines a week. Most are about science, engineering, and history, but I also read every book on the New York Time’s fiction best-seller’s list. I buy the actual magazines and books and then pass them along to my friends. I don’t get a lot of sleep, only from about 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM. I’m not staying awake because I am worried. There are just too many interesting things to pursue and do.

Do have any hobbies?

Yes, I enjoy long walks and runs with my dog Greta, a Border Terrier. I have taught her over 50 tricks. My favorite trick is when I tell her to “curtsy” and she takes a bow.

OF NOTE: Steven S. Scott is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Fellows Class of 2012.

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD