Linda McCain

My earliest memory of space was hearing about the Russians and Sputnik and monkeys flying in space. The world was much different then. There was no Internet or Google. Television offerings were limited, but this was big news at the time. I remember President Kennedy talking about putting a man on the moon. Fast forward to July 11, 1969 – there it was on TV in black and white -Neil Armstrong walking on the moon! I remember being quite awed at the time but not very knowledgeable about NASA. Little did I know that one day NASA would be in my future.

I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mother was a secretary, and I followed in her footsteps. I took all the requisite business courses in high school to prepare for a secretarial career with the government. At that time, we were able to take the civil service exam in school and be on the register. Young women wore white gloves to interviews. A secretary was considered competent if she could type 40 words a minute and transcribe shorthand at 60 words a minute. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and man could I throw that return and pound the keys. Now I just shake my head when I look at how far office technology has advanced from the days of carbon paper, typewriter erasers, white-out and mimeograph machines. With technology constantly evolving, employees must evolve with the changes in order to function in their personal lives as well as in the day to day business world.

My life with NASA began in 1980 when I went to work for a contractor at the NASA Slidell Computer Complex in Slidell, Louisiana. The shuttle program was in its infancy. The computer complex processed shuttle data, and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans built the external tanks. So it came to be that I began my life with NASA just as the space shuttle program was beginning its life. I celebrated with NASA as the first shuttle launched in April 1981 and with each new launch. In 1994, NASA closed the computer facility. After a brief period of unemployment, I decided I wanted to work at NASA and pursued employment opportunities at John C. Stennis Space Center, which was located 20 miles across the Louisiana state line in Mississippi. I like to say, I cross the border every day.

In 1996 I became a full-fledged NASA secretary. It was one of the best career moves I’ve ever made, and I’ve never looked back. I never once dreamt back in 1969 that I would be working with the people who put the first man on the moon! Just as NASA has evolved throughout the years, so have secretaries who are now called administrative assistants or management support assistants. Duties, too, have evolved from merely typing letters and answering the phone to administering office matters, managing budgets, to using discretion while independently handling issues leaving managers free to concentrate on high-level matters.

I’m very proud to say that for the last 17 years, I worked for NASA and “it’s the best place I’ve ever worked.” This was proved in 2012 when NASA Stennis was voted the No. 1 place to work. It’s the people who make NASA what it is.

I find the role of management support assistant to be fulfilling and rewarding. I like being a “gal Friday” managing the ebb and flow of the daily activities swirling about the office. Nothing is more constant than change, and change is good. Change develops character and corporate knowledge which is a valuable tool in the ever-changing NASA office environment.

My greatest accomplishment is overcoming breast cancer. I couldn’t have done it without the support and comfort of my NASA family and friends. My special heroes are my “sisters of the pink ribbon club” – breast cancer survivors.

The better part of one’s life is spent working, and your fellow workers become your surrogate family. My NASA family has become one of the best things about my job and I’ve developed life-long friendships.

My advice for the next generation, “never give up”, take one day at a time and, “failure is not an

photo of Linda McCain

Biography

Linda McCain’s story begins in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she was born and raised. Upon high school graduation, her dad retired and moved the family to California. There, she met her future husband, who was serving in the Marine Corps. In 1975, upon his return from Japan, they moved to Slidell, Louisiana. Linda began her NASA career in 1996 as a secretary to the procurement officer and eventually transferred to the Propulsion Test Directorate. She now works as a management support assistant in the Center Operations Directorate. Center Operations is the “command center” and the “heart and soul” for everything that happens in the Stennis “Federal City” on a daily basis. She has received several awards throughout her NASA career such as being selected as an honoree to attend the last shuttle landing in 2011. In 2012, she applied for and was selected for the position of SSC NASA Exchange Board secretary to support the clerical functions of the Board. The Exchange schedules social activities relative to the morale of NASA employees in addition to regular duties. Linda has been married for forty years to and has two sons and two granddaughters. Her youngest son is in the Army and recently returned from a one-year tour in Afghanistan.