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Masters with Masters: Innovating at NASA

Two seasoned NASA practitioners discussed new ways of doing business at the agency with cutting-edge technology and innovative practices.

On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, NASA Chief Knowledge Officer Ed Hoffman moderated a Masters with Masters discussion between Stephen Gaddis, director of the Game Changing Development Program at Langley Research Center, and Bruce Yost, program manager for the Small Spacecraft Technology Program at Ames Research Center. The event was broadcast live during the latest Virtual Project Management Challenge and serves to bring together two master practitioners to reflect on their experiences, lessons learned, and thoughts about upcoming challenges.

With decades of combined experience at multiple centers and with various programs including Space Shuttle, Robonaut-2, and PhoneSat, Gaddis and Yost shared their insight into keeping NASA on the cutting edge of space exploration, the importance of failure, and developing new technology for NASA missions.

“The ability to iterate quickly,” said Yost, is a key component to successfully advance new ideas. “Fly early, fly often,” is a common refrain in his office. Implicit in this, he added, is the ability to fail, learn from mistakes, and try again. Having organizational support when things go awry is also critical, said Gaddis, citing the agency’s response to the crash landing of the Morpheus lander in 2012. Ultimately, individual and team resiliency is what drives innovative ideas forward.

Yost and Gaddis emphasized the importance of partnerships in the innovative process, remarking on how their offices often collaborate to test new technology on a small scale. Academic partnerships also play an important role by infusing new ways of thinking and identifying new talent, explained Yost.

The two guests also reflected on their professional development at the agency. “At NASA, if you don’t manage your own career, no one else is going to manage it for you,” said Gaddis. Finding a mentor and being a mentor, he explained, is critical to developing yourself and others.

Video of this Masters with Masters event will be made available online in the near future. To watch previous Masters with Masters events, please visit the APPEL YouTube channel.

Learn more about attending future Virtual PM Challenge events.


PhoneSat 1.0 during high-altitude balloon test.

Featured Photo Credit: NASA / Ames Research Center

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