When I feel that I am contributing in some way, I feel greater purpose in my life. When I feel greater purpose in my life, I contribute more. It’s the virtuous cycle that I’m glad to be in. I am the youngest child in a family of doctors, where being a contributing member of society is mandatory. My parents and siblings have shown me how they give their best in everything they do. I’ve witnessed how they’ve achieved their career goals by having strong work ethic, and they have expected no less from me. I was born when my parents were working on their PhDs in the United States, giving me the great gift of being an American citizen by birth and a Filipino by ethnicity. I grew up in the Philippines, a country that I dearly love as much as I’ve come to love the United States which I now call my home.
My decision to become an engineer stems from qualifying for a rare opportunity to be a scholar of Philippine Science High School (PSHS). I left my childhood home to attend and live at PSHS when I was 12 years old, was immersed in a highly enriched math and science curriculum, and was required to take a science or engineering course in college as part of the scholarship agreement. While my family members’ careers influenced me to go into the sciences, I felt that my skills and interests were better suited in engineering. At 17, I went to the University of the Philippines to pursue the still male-dominated field of engineering. It could not have better prepared me for the real world.
A series of family-related decisions brought me to South Dakota after college, where I landed my first engineering job designing scoreboards for Daktronics. While I had earlier plans of attending graduate school elsewhere, I could not resist the convenience of attending South Dakota State University (SDSU) which was only a couple of miles from my workplace and my new home. To reduce my tuition fees, I took on a second job as a teaching assistant, and later as a research assistant for a project funded by NASA’s Space Grant Consortium. I am very grateful for my serendipitous choice of university since the research assitantship opened a door for me to work at NASA. My research required me to spend one summer at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to perform some experiments that SDSU facilities could not support.
I fell in love with the surroundings at KSC. The weather, the palm trees and the beach were reminiscent of my younger years in the Philippines. I fell in love with the passion of the people that I briefly worked with, and the exciting mission of the agency. This encouraged me to apply for the cooperative internship program, got accepted and upon graduation I was offered a job as an electronics engineer at KSC. Since then, I’ve contributed to the design of new technologies, space shuttle ground system operations, and Constellation subsystems design.
Some years ago, I participated in the Foundations of Influence, Relationships, Success and Teamwork (FIRST) Leadership Development Program where I gained better awareness of my capabilities at an early point in my career. I aligned my capabilities with the needs of the agency by evolving from an electronics engineer into a systems engineer. As a systems engineer, my duties involve constant communication with various discipline engineers, and integration of ground system development activities. I recently graduated from the Systems Engineering Leadership Development Program, which enabled me to close some gaps in my NASA systems engineering experience by providing me with a year-long developmental assignment at Ames Research Center working on LADEE, a lunar mission. I am now back at KSC, working on another lunar mission called RESOLVE.
I have experienced first-hand how an impressionable child can grow to love science and engineering by simply being exposed to it. I believe that encouragement to pursue these careers from family and other institutions go a long way, and so does awareness of one’s capabilities and potential. NASA has given me plenty of opportunities to grow as an engineer and as a leader. It is my honor to be working where my values align with the agency’s values. I believe in giving back to the society that helped shape me, and the ways that I’ve been able to give back by doing my assigned tasks the best way I can, and by participating in education and outreach activities, both locally and internationally, in behalf of NASA.
Josephine Santiago-Bond didn’t grow up wanting to work for NASA. Having grown up in the Philippines, NASA was half a world away, and was something she had only read about in old history books, or occasionally heard about on television. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering from the University of the Philippines in 2001, she decided to forgo acceptance to her telecommunications dream job in order to take some much needed time off and explore the job market in the United States. She had planned to apply for an engineering job in the semiconductor industry, which suffered a decline that year. She landed her first engineering job in 2002 at Daktronics, Inc. designing sport products and was accepted into the master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at South Dakota State University. In 2003, her academic adviser recommended that she should spend a summer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to test some electronics they had jointly designed. The excitement and encouragement of her family and friends fueled her interest in a more permanent career at NASA, which started in 2004. One summer at Kennedy was enough for her to realize that NASA is relevant to everyone, whether they live in the United States or on the opposite side of the planet. In her spare time she volunteers for outreach activities to educate kids about the relevance of NASA to their lives. Practicing a sustainable work-life balance is one of her top priorities. With the help of mentors and coaches, she currently serves as a systems engineer for the RESOLVE payload project and is able to enjoy ample time with her family and friends. She and her husband, Chris, are expecting a baby boy in July 2013.