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Academy Brief: 2014 SELDP Class Graduates

The critical roles of attitude and change were stressed throughout the graduation ceremony for the Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program (SELDP) class of 2014. 

“Attitude is everything,” said keynote speaker Orlando Figueroa. “When we speak about culture, we speak about attitude and mindset.” Figueroa, a former NASA senior executive, is currently the owner of Orlando Leadership Enterprise, an aerospace consulting company that offers expert advice for space missions and technology, program management, strategic planning, and leadership development. He added, “People may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

This sentiment was echoed by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “Attitude and mindset in what we’re doing today are of critical importance,” he told the graduates. “It’s really incumbent upon you, in the leadership roles that you’re assuming, that you help your charges, your mentees, understand that life is good. And that we are doing good stuff for the nation and for the world. And, most importantly, that we can do anything that people ask us to do.”

Each member of the SELDP class of 2014 spoke with passion about their experiences in the program over the past year. Many also focused on positive attitude as an integral part of the work they will do in the future. Kennedy Space Center’s Jennifer Petelle elaborated on the importance of attitude, explaining that she’s at NASA “to create an environment that’s cohesive so people can do their best.”

But another recurring theme in speeches and discussion during the ceremony was the inevitability of change as a factor all members of the class will face throughout their careers at NASA. Graduate Paul Banicevic, from Langley Research Center, stated that their developmental assignments took them out of their comfort zones—and that was a positive thing. “That’s exactly what this program was designed to do. It was designed to put us in uncomfortable situations to make us adapt and think on our feet. Because the only certain thing you can say about leadership is that it’s full of uncertainty.”

Hal Bell, NASA Deputy Chief Engineer, concurred. “The only stability you’re going to find in your lives is instability,” he warned, and went on to add, “Time wears you down. And I ask you guys not to let time wear you down… Keep your teams motivated. It’s extremely important that you do that.  And understand that the young folks on your teams don’t know a lot but they’re motivated to do the right thing. You’re there to help them.”

In their own speeches, the graduates stressed a belief in what NASA is doing and a commitment to making a difference through the strong leadership skills they learned in the SELDP. Banicevic explained that they went through the program “to learn how to lead amazing people to do amazing things,” while Ousmane Diallo, from Ames Research Center, said, “My call to this class: to learn and to share it.” Johnson Space Center’s David Hall expressed a sentiment that many of the graduates and featured speakers shared. “Make what you do in your life matter. Think about the legacies you’re leaving behind for your children,” he advised. “I’m here at NASA to do things that will end up in history books.”

SELDP offers participants an agency-wide perspective, unique hands-on systems engineering developmental assignments, and advanced leadership skills development through extended rotational assignments to a new center, a series of interactive workshops and special training initiatives, and benchmarking visits to diverse organizations. The goal of the program is to develop and improve leadership skills and technical capabilities among participants.

Learn more about the Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program.
See the Flickr set of the 2014 graduating class.


2014 class member Vanessa Stroh from Kennedy Space Center speaks at the graduation ceremony about the importance of partnerships in making the dream of space exploration come true.

Featured Photo Credit: NASA / Joel Kowsky

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