Wanda Peters

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Very early in my NASA career, I went on my first trip as an aerospace engineer. NASA had just completed the first servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble returned flight hardware needed characterization. I traveled to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to take measurements on the returned Wide Field Camera-I radiator. I could not believe it. I was actually touching and characterizing hardware that had just been in space. I was so excited. This experience was special because it brought home to me what we do at Goddard Space Flight Center and my personal contribution to the mission.

Working at NASA is awesome. We get to work on so many fascinating projects and missions. I never dreamed that one day I would be responsible for something that would be flown in space. That is why one of my most memorable work experiences was walking around the shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It reminded me of when I was a child watching cartoons and having my show interrupted because NASA had landed on the moon. Initially I was upset, but that quickly turned to amazement because the news people were talking about something that I could actually see at night, the moon. I thought, “Wow, somebody’s actually up there.” Even though as a child I did not understand the significance this event, it had a big impact on my desire to understand things that I could not fully comprehend.

I am most proud of always striving to be a positive role model. Throughout my NASA journey, I have tried to give back. I have been very fortunate to achieve positions of influence throughout my career. Having positions of influence and authority comes with big responsibilities. I believe one of the greatest gifts you can bestow on someone is being a positive influence, motivation, or support system for them. That is why I participate in numerous outreach activities and share my story with elementary, middle school, and high school students. I mentor summer interns, college students, administrative professional, junior engineers, and mid-level engineers. Additionally, I am an advocate for diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace. I truly believe children are our future, and if we don’t invest in our children we can’t expect to have much of a future.

In our fast-paced technology-focused environment, leadership and communication skills are a necessity. We influence and lead people in many ways. Seeing the impact of my influence and leadership in my various roles motivates me to become a better and more effective leader. At a Goddard Space Flight Center EO Retreat, facilitator Steve Robbins asked us the question, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?” This question resonated with me. I strive to be right in all aspects of my life, but what I want most of all is to be effective. Until last May, one of my many roles consisted of teaching ballet and tap to children from 5 to 18 years old. As one of three site managers, I was responsible for overseeing the instruction of six dance classes, interfacing with parents and instructors, but most of all interacting with the dance students. When you interact with children, you truly see your effectiveness in influencing and leading people. Children mimic your actions, respond to your body language, and mimic your mannerisms. They decide at a very basic level if they will follow you or not. It is good to be right, but it can be more productive to be effective. Regardless if it is a 5-year-old child or an accomplished aerospace engineer, the members of your team or organization look to you for guidance, fairness, encouragement, and respect. It is my personal goal to make a positive difference in all the lives I have the privilege to touch.

Biography

Wanda Peters remembers, as a child, having her cartoons interrupted by the Apollo 11 lunar landing. While it was an unwelcomed interruption at the time, those feelings only lasted a moment; however, the impression that the landing made on her young mind would last a lifetime. That single event sparked a desire in her to learn more and would ultimately lead her to the very place that made it happen: NASA. Ms. Peters now uses her passion and knowledge for managerial and technical oversight, contract technical evaluation, workforce planning, recruitment, safety, facility management, and education outreach. Throughout her career, she supported more than 25 NASA missions and is recognized as an authority in the area of thermal control coatings for space applications. As an adult, Ms. Peters strives to spark that same enthusiasm in young people by participating in numerous outreach activities. She serves as an advocate for diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace to help assure that everyone has the same opportunities she was afforded. Ms. Peters received a BS in biology from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, a BE from the Catholic University of America, and an MEM from George Washington University.