Cindy Leitell

As a native of New Orleans and always close to family and friends, leaving the area was not something that I really considered. I always loved the culture and diversity of New Orleans and never had a desire to move far from home. With my grandparents as local musicians performing in the French Quarter, I remember spending my weekends in the heart of the city. My mother worked and retired as a civil servant for the Port of New Orleans after 32 years, and my father served on the police force in a neighboring community in close proximity to New Orleans for over 30 years. With my family throughout the metro area, New Orleans has always been home.

In school, I had a love for Science and Math and elected advanced studies in both. With an interest and aptitude in these subjects, I aspired to become an engineer. I was elected by my teachers to be a part of the Society of Women Engineers program offered to students. It was a great experience, offering me hands-on projects and working side-by-side with ‘real life’ engineers and scientists. It was enriching and satisfying and I was on my way to becoming an engineer.

Engineering was my goal, but I was not afraid to take on a little responsibility and was eager to be part of the workforce. I sought out opportunities for students to work while attending school. I learned of an opportunity for students to work at the NASA, Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) from my high school typing teacher, of all people. Initially, I thought it was working for NASA, but learned it was for the Department of Defense, DCASMA-New Orleans, one of several tenants at the facility. “Close enough”, I thought. Being eager to step into the workforce, I applied and was accepted for a Stay-In-School position. From that opportunity, at age 16, little did I know that my government career was born.

I enjoyed where I was working and what I was learning, and decided I wanted to grow as a civil servant. Over the next 18 years I worked my way up from a student helper, to an administrative assistant, to an accounting technician, to my current position as a program analyst. I worked for the Department of Defense for a few years in the beginning of my career, but the majority was spent growing and gaining experience at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center (NFC). These were both located at NASA’s MAF.

Although not employed by NASA, when working at a NASA facility, NASA is all around you and it was an awesome experience working in that environment all those years. I remember so vividly the hallways lined with huge wooden Apollo mission patch plaques with astronauts’ names encircling their mission insignia. I never got tired of admiring them. Facility streets would close so that the external tanks could be moved to the river for transport. It was all around you and it was very exciting, particularly for me as a young adult. It made me feel like we all are working together, working for something meaningful, and it made me proud of my country. And regardless of who you worked for at MAF, as shuttles launched time and time again, everyone took time out to watch in awe at the amazing NASA feats on overhead television monitors throughout the facility. My thoughts were “Well, this is as close as I’ll ever get to working for NASA.”

But, as life has a way of paving a road, one of my colleagues who had recently accepted a position at the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) on the Stennis Space Center site in Mississippi contacted me. He opened my eyes to the new business NASA was conducting at the NSSC, which was very similar to USDA’s NFC. It sounded exciting and I knew this could be a unique opportunity for me. And, and it was close to home and family! I decided to apply for the position at NASA’s NSSC. Since my resume was updated, I also applied for several promotions at my current place of employment. After interviews and such, I received ‘the call’ notifying me of my selection at NSSC. It took a few minutes to digest that I could actually be working for NASA. Needless to say, I was very excited to start my NASA career. Ironically, the next day, I was also offered a promotion at my current place of employment. I actually had a choice. Although I did love my current position, I felt that I could not pass an opportunity to be a part of what I worked around all those years, NASA. Having waked for NASA six years now, I know I could not have made a better choice.

photo of Cindy Leitell

Biography

Joining the workforce at the early age of 16, Cindy Leitell didn’t realize at that time that she’d entered into what would be her career. Working her way from a student position to a Management & Program Analyst position took dedication and perseverance. Her ability to work hard, embrace new challenges, and maintain a positive outlook were strengths that allowed her to continue on her path to advance and be successful. Cindy has worked for the federal government for over 25 years. She has been employed at the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) located in Mississippi at Stennis Space Center as a Management and Program Analyst since March of 2008. In the Business and Administration Office, Operations and Budget Management Branch, she works in a team environment. Among other responsibilities, she works formulating and executing yearly budget plans and setting service rates for a multitude of services the NSSC provides to NASA. She has been happily married to her husband, Charlie, for over 20 years. They have a beautiful daughter, Renee (11 years old), and a Boston Terrier full of personality named Buster. Outside of work, she is just as dedicated, spending time with family and friends and never misses a ‘real’ summer vacation. She plans visits to the beach, the mountains, and everywhere in between. An adventurous family, they have enjoyed zip lining the beautiful canopy of Cost Rica and white water rafting on many rivers from Arizona to Tennessee. Life experiences that she, her husband, and her daughter will always treasure. What advice would she pass on to the next generation? Actually, there are two things. First, stay in school. It may not seem so when you are young, but furthering your education is the number one thing you can do to create a foundation for yourself. Second, be happy! Life is what you make it. Work through it, decision after decision, accepting both failure and success as life experiences, but make sure to also focus on being happy and enjoying life, at work, at home, with family, and with friends.