Rodriguez is director of NASA's Center Operations Directorate
at Stennis Space Center.|
Stennis Space Center, Miss.
focused leads Miguel Rodriguez to a successful NASA career.
- Growing up in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Miguel Rodriguez knew at
age 17 that he wanted to work in America's space program. Little
could he have known then that staying focused on that goal would
lead him to become director of NASA's Propulsion Test Directorate
at Stennis Space Center, where he is responsible for overseeing
the safe operation of one-of-a-kind national test facilities valued
at over $2 billion.
being inspired during the Apollo days: "I remember watching,
on a black-and-white TV with a snowy picture, the first footstep
being made on the Moon. I saw that and said to myself, 'Wouldn't
it be nice to work for NASA?'"
course to achieve his goal, Rodriguez studied to become a mechanical
engineer, graduating in 1976 from the University of Puerto Rico
Engineering College in Mayaguez Puerto Rico. A year before Rodriguez
graduated, NASA representatives visited the university to recruit
With one more
year ahead of him at the university, Rodriguez took a chance and
spoke with the recruiters, only to find that all the interview slots
were filled. "I said, 'This is not good.'"
he placed his name on the overflow list and was eventually called
for an interview. He recalls speaking with representatives from
all 10 NASA centers and feeling uneasy about his chances of being
selected. "There were three of us interviewed at the same time.
I looked at the two others; one was president of the American Society
for Mechanical Engineers, student chapter; I was the vice president.
I figured if they picked one, it would be him, not me." He
and the president of the student chapter , however, were offered
positions at NASA.
in 1976, Rodriguez moved to Huntsville, Ala., and went to work at
Marshall Space Flight Center as a mechanical design engineer designing
parts for the Space Shuttle. In November 1978, he transferred to
Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., where he held several key positions
working with facilities, providing the capabilities for processing
shuttle payloads, and testing experiments as well as communication
career in the payload community, Rodriguez worked as the integration
engineer for the STS-31 Hubble Space Telescope payload and worked
on several special projects for NASA, including leading the organizational
efforts for Strategic Planning and Performance-Based Contracting.
He led a KSC team to develop a tool for capturing employee competencies
and skills in support of the Agency Core Capabilities Assessment.
He also worked for the chief engineer at NASA Headquarters, Washington,
D.C., where he helped implement the Systems Management Office. He
co-chaired the Kennedy Space Center 2000 Organizational Team responsible
for restructuring the human resources organization.
management in the late 1980s, most recently serving as chief of
the Integration Office of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Management
Office at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. He moved to Stennis
in December 2002.
career Rodriguez dreamed of as a teen has been rewarding for him.
His parents, both deceased, lived to see their son achieve lofty
aspirations. "It's not very often that we have an opportunity
to pay back our parents and see them experience the joy of the effort
they spent bringing you up and sending you to college," he
said. "I felt that I was able to give them something they could
To honor his
heritage, Rodriguez is active in the Hispanic community, serving
as a mentor and frequent speaker. He hopes to see more Hispanics
join NASA's ranks. He tells young people of all backgrounds to follow
their dreams. "If you have an interest in working for NASA,
stay on track with your schoolwork and be persistent. You can work
for NASA. You just have to make it your priority."
He said the
work is worth the effort: "There is no better agency you can
work for. NASA is very proactive. It moves along with changes and
trends in management. What entices me the most is having an opportunity
to help choose my own career path."
in Mandeville, La., with his wife, Zulma. The couple's daughter,
Sonia, 25; and son, Jorel, 21; live in Florida.
and photos for this story were provided by Stennis Space Center.