Top 50 Women in Technology
“While it was great watching the last mighty Space Shuttle launch, it was even better feeling the ground shake, feeling the heat, hearing the sonic boom, and feeling the power that lifted brave souls to low Earth orbit.” guidance counsellor caught this and decided that I must have computer classes since I was a Mathematics major. Reluctantly, I complied – only maliciously so.” “I waited until the last minute until all the classes were full. After failing to get in a computer class I returned to the counsellor who just happened to know of one class that had only one student. It was IBM Assembler Language. To us old programmers, this language is what real programmers use. As it turned out, I liked it and took another course in FORTRAN,” she adds. Cureton first started working for NASA after attending a university jobs fair, at which NASA happened to be recruiting. NASA was looking for outstanding scholars, who were Mathematicians and knowledgeable in IBM Assembler and FORTRAN to program on what was then considered a supercomputer. She stayed for two years working as an Aerospace Technology Mathematician. As NASA CIO, Cureton was responsible for being an active member of the NASA Administrator’s executive leadership team, providing him and others advice about all IT matters in NASA, as well as holding responsibility for providing centralized IT services, for example desktop, network, web hosting, and agency-wide application support. 112 | Silicon Valley Global
IT has been transformed at NASA, she believes, having moved from an extremely decentralized IT service orientation to one enterprise approach that is able to provide consistent and efficient services to the entire agency. “This was and continues to be an extremely daunting change management task. Decentralized services are often optimized to specific program needs. Centralized services are optimized to a base requirement that leverages economy of scale and managed configurations,” she admits, on being asked about the main challenges of the role. An acquisition and sourcing strategy in NASA’s Information Technology Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P) implemented used key contracts, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards and an integrated in-sourced call centre delivered critical solutions.
Managing Change “Challenges existed in managing change – to include customer expectations; transitioning service providers; and defining an actionable architecture in a heterogeneous environment. In essence, NASA’s diverse environment does not lend itself to a one-size-fits all solution,” she says. As the NASA CIO, providing IT solutions
to the best engineers and scientists on the planet is humbling, she says. “Often, these thoughtleaders, who are very technically knowledgeable, don’t necessarily appreciate the discipline of IT. Being a humble servant to these technical giants requires resilience, talent, and patience.” While the numbers often say yes, in regards to women being fairly represented in senior management positions at leading companies in the technology sector, “I must say that it doesn’t always feel that way,” she says, referring to Rebecca Shambaugh’s book It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, which “challenges us to examine our beliefs checking them to determine if they are limiting us in any way. She goes on to say that ‘…in order to reach your potential, it’s essential to acknowledge the beliefs that you hold about yourself, as well as your beliefs about other people and the world around you.’” Shambaugh reminds readers to examine these self-beliefs periodically, she says. And so in answering this question, Cureton says she had to examine herself and “wonder if it feels this way because it is – or if it feels this way because of my own limiting reaction to intentional or unintentional workplace biases. For myself, I must say it’s a little of both. The numbers suggest women are still underrepresented as CEOs of top companies.”
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