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Sharon Wong's Passion for Diversity Has Taken Her From DC to China
September 07, 2011
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Director of Diversity Sharon Wong’s passion for inclusion and diversity has taken her from the White House to China with plenty of hikes in between.

Name: Sharon Wong
Title: Special Assistant to the Center Director for Diversity
Formal Job Classification: Administrative Program Manager
Organization: Code 100, Office of the Director

What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

In 2000, Goddard created the position of Special Assistant to the Center Director for Diversity. I am the first one to fill that position, so I got to define the position, which has been fun. My job is to facilitate the creation of an inclusive work place where everyone can perform at their maximum potential. Diversity means all the similarities and differences that each of us brings that make us unique and make Goddard richer. Diversity is about driving innovation. Inclusion is the means to effectively use diversity to accomplish our mission. Inclusiveness is about creating the environment from which we can become innovative and creative. Diversity and inclusiveness are everyone’s responsibility. Changing a culture starts with every single individual on Center.

When you are talking about people and their issues, there is never any typical day. I have to be ready to deal with whatever comes up.

The tools of my job are the ability to listen and to have a dialogue with people. Then I can decide on a course of action that involves teamwork and collaboration. I am an avid Tweeter and am on Facebook a lot after work hours, but I still feel it is very important to have face to face meetings. Everyone is unique. I cannot get to know a person unless I meet them in person, which helps me understand what is unique about them.
Photo of Sharon Wong
Photo of Sharon Wong. Credit: NASA

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

In May 2011, which was also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the White House Initiative on Asian American Pacific Islanders invited me to write a post for the White House Blog. I wrote about the work that I do and why diversity and inclusion are important. My parents were very proud. The White House also invited me to speak later that week at a roundtable of Asian American Youth at the White House. I spoke about opportunities in the Federal Government. It was a little scary but I had a good time. My parents were even prouder.

Sharon following her passion of hiking.› View larger image
Sharon Wong partaking in one of her passions, hiking. Image credit: Sharon Wong

If somebody asked you, “What is Goddard,” what would you tell them?

The first thing that I think of is that Goddard is its people and the passion they have to accomplish our mission. Goddard gives you the opportunity to be the best you can be. In my case, I worked as a software integration engineer for fifteen years. During that time, I was also active in diversity advocacy on my own time. When my current position was advertised, I thought that my background in diversity advocacy would be helpful. Goddard gave me the chance to have a second very different, but equally interesting, career.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work, that people do not generally know (like you run ultra marathons or work on a NASCAR pit crew on weekends)?

Something people do not know about me is that I love to spend all day on long hikes. I sometimes hike on the C&O Canal Towpath with friends. Also, I have participated in the annual One Day Hike from White’s Ferry, Maryland to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, which is about 32 miles. Basically I stay in training all year round. You get so used to training, that even when a particular hike is over you still go out and train.

Is there someplace in the world that you want to visit, or someplace you have been and want to go back?

I am of Chinese descent. I have been to China three times. Although my parents and I were born in Jamaica, my grandparents were born near Canton, China. In October 2010, I took both of my parents with me back to Canton, China to visit our family there. My father spoke with our family in a Cantonese dialect.

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