Meet: Cecilia Wigley
System Safety, Reliability & Quality Assurance Lead
NASA Ames Research Center
Who am I?
I am the System Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance Lead. What
that means is that our group has a responsibility to make sure that everything
that we send up is safe, and that the equipment will not cause any injury
or illness to any of the crew members, or possibly damage the shuttle
or hardware experiments. That's the safety part of it.
The quality part of it is making sure that all of our designs and hardware
meet the stacks and stacks of documents of requirements on anything that
When engineering has questions about safety issues, hardware, design
considerations, and questions about what types of materials to use, I
help them interpret the requirements.
My Career Journey
I decided on this career in a very roundabout way. This is not my first
career. I started out wanting to be a teacher and from there I went into
library sciences. I also did some human factors engineering and research
work at SRI International before coming to NASA. But it was mostly through
networking that I ended up here.
Likes/Dislikes About Career
The best part of my job is the variety-- no two days are ever the same
and the work is very fast paced. There are a lot of different people that
work in this environment.
When something doesn't work correctly it is very frustrating. Everyone
invests much of their personal selves in any experiment so there is personal
disappointment if things go wrong. We try to think about what we could
have done better but that's always a hindsight issue. We just try to fix
the problems and move on and make the next project work better.
Most people in the space program believe in what they are doing. They
are dedicated, true professionals, who do the work because they like it.
There is some level of excitement about having some small role of helping
the astronauts go into space. There is a personal payback with a successful
Obtaining a technical degree or degrees in math, science or engineering
would be easier, but they are not absolute requirements for my job. I
don't have to design equipment and I'm not involved in development. I
must be able to interpret requirements and I can rely on others in my
group for technical help.
But a person must have a solid educational background and abilities to
organize, complete tasks and meet deadlines in order to do the type of
work that I do.
I have a 16-year-old daughter who will be a junior in high school and
our family also has a puppy. I am the troop leader for my daughter's Girl
Scout troop. I like to go camping and do other outdoor activities, and
I enjoy embroidering, cross-stitching, reading and cooking. But leaving
the office is often very hard to do and many times I take work home with
me. I carry a pager and am often on call, but I make time for my family.
I'd like to see my daughter do what she wants and to be the best that
she can at whatever she does. She is still searching for what she wants
to do, but I am trying to offer her a wide variety of choices. I've taken
her to events like Take Your Daughters to Work Day and Space Camp. If
she chooses my career path, I will support her, but if she chooses something
different, I will still support her.
As a woman, working in my position was difficult for me at first. I felt
like I had to work extra hard in order to establish credentials. But I
knew I could do the work and was just as capable as anyone else. Now that
I've worked as a civil servant for five and a half years, and previously
as a contractor, I believe I have established credentials.
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May 20, 1998