Where are you from?
Originally, Brooklyn, New York. I moved to California in January of 1982.
Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
The Moon landing in 1969. Neil Armstrong’s first steps. I was 9 years old.
What is a Project Manager?
The Project Manager is the person whom everybody comes to and tells the bad news. [laughing] While the primary responsibility is making sure that we can deliver the promised mission—including the science on the schedule and budget we commit too — this entails, in my opinion, more than just tracking the programmatic aspects. Success of the mission relies on the quality of our development and operations. To ensure that, the most important responsibility I have is having a quality project team. They in turn assure that the delivery staff are the same.
Bottom line in my opinion: The Project Manager's major responsibility is the quality of the team.
Tell us about a favorite moment in your career.
The landing of Phoenix on Mars.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Pepto Bismol [laughs]. I truly believe you need to have implementation and product delivery experience, followed by line management experience, and office experience—in my case it was flight system, group supervisor and division manager. But I think the real issue is to be well-rounded. From the point of view of delivery, this being an implementation product—I think you garner a lot of empathy for the team that will be working extraordinarily hard over the course of the project. I think that when I talk to people, they recognize that I understand what they’re going through. I think empathy is the key. To me that’s the big thing.
What do you do for fun?
Outside of work? [Laughs] Well, I wouldn’t call it fun, but I think the best thing I do to decompress is spin.
What’s your favorite space book?
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. Unbelievably good. Written in the mid 1950s, which makes it all the more incredible.