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Meet: Cecilia Wigley

System Safety, Reliability & Quality Assurance Lead
NASA Ames Research Center

photo of cecilia wigley

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 flies.

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 mission.


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.

Personal Information

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


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