Rena Perwien

Growing up in Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities, we lived in a post-WWII starter home development. We didn’t have much money and often my mom worked outside the home, which was not common during those times. I could walk out my back door and be in the country but had the fun of living in a neighborhood. I loved both the outdoors and school. My mom told me from the time I was a little girl to “finish college before you get married”; education was important! I started working as a babysitter at eleven years old, and then as a teenager, my first job was a waitress. It was hard work, and I made good money. However, I knew that I didn’t want to do that for my career.

We moved from Minnesota to Miami Beach, Florida when I was sixteen. It was very traumatic but I learned to meet new friends and experience people from different backgrounds. When I graduated high school, I left home to return to Minnesota. There, I worked for six months adding to my savings and travelled to Israel where I was a volunteer on a kibbutz (collective farm). I was in Israel for a year, meeting people from around the world.

Since my parents could not afford to pay for any of my college, I worked my way through school as a waitress. When I started at the University of Minnesota, I wanted to be a Forest Ranger because I loved the outdoors. However, the counselor told me that most graduates in Forestry Resources went to work for paper companies. I wasn’t really interested in that, so I transferred to the liberal arts college. Although I do remember the moon landing, working at NASA never entered my mind. As I started taking various courses I realized I had a knack for business, so started taking more of those classes. I needed an internship in order to graduate, so I went to the Cooperative Education Office in search of internship opportunities. Since I was working my way through school, I needed a paid internship, and found one at Johnson Space Center (JSC). I thought, “Wow – that will look great on my resume”! The application seemed to go on forever, but I was accepted into the program and journeyed to JSC. This was the beginning of what is now my 36-year NASA resume.

I have always been in the resources and financial management field. My first Team Leader gave me responsibility from the beginning and told me “you can do this”. As a permanent employee I started as a GS-7 analyst; I worked hard, always giving 110% and striving to improve things. I learned that in order to accomplish the technical objectives, resources and procurement are integral. I became a valued member of the technical and procurement team. JSC provided me with numerous opportunities and I progressed to positions of more responsibility. Through the years, my budget responsibility grew from $15 million per year for a Space and Life Sciences R&D Program to almost $300 million per year for the Shuttle Orbiter Prime contract with Rockwell; then from the Lead Analyst for the total R&D budget at JSC of over $2 billion to the integration of the total Agency International Space Station program of over $20 billion. Those experiences became the extensive foundation that I brought to Stennis Space Center (SSC) as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Resources and eventually the Deputy Chief Financial Officer.

At Stennis, I continued to make a difference by sharing my knowledge with the employees and also learning about the Center from them. Together we improved our support to the technical community by providing reporting and in-depth analysis to enable decision-making to utilize scarce resources. During my tenure at Stennis, I’ve led the development of numerous budget cycles, gaining adequate funds. I’ve also led and supported the development and implementation of the new Agency financial system, led Full Cost implementation, supported obtaining the NASA Shared Service Center (NSSC), transition of activities to the NSSC, transition of the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage to SSC, incorporation of the Mississippi Army Ammunitions Plant into SSC, regaining the loss of FTE allocations post-Katrina, and achieving a clean audit.

More importantly, I mentored employees and have watched so many grow and blossom. As a member of leadership it is imperative that we prepare our employees for the future by incorporating employee development into our organizations. Looking back on the opportunities I was given to make a difference and to grow in so many ways, I know that this must continue for our future success.

I tell people on the outside that “I’ve been good to NASA and NASA has been good to me”. I feel I have made a difference in every organization, always leaving things better than I found them. I encourage all young people to stay in school and participate in an internship program as it may open doors in unexpected ways!

Photo of Rena Perwien

Biography

Rena Perwien is the Deputy Chief Financial Officer at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. Prior to this position, she served as the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Resources, where she managed the budget activities. During her tenure, she supported deployment of the new agency financial systems. Other accomplishments include successful implementation of Full Cost, participation on the Agency Center Management and Operations budget process improvement team, and the Agency Baseline Service Level review team. Before transferring to Stennis, Perwien was hired by NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in 1981. There she held numerous budget analyst positions eventually advancing to the International Space Station Program, Budget Integration Team Lead. Perwien began her career as a Division analyst for the Space & Life Sciences. In 1985, she transferred to the Space Shuttle Orbiter Resources Office, where she was Lead Analyst for the Orbiter Production and Operations budget. She supported the final vehicle delivery and subsequent modifications including those required for Return to Flight after the Challenger accident. In 1989, Perwien transferred to the JSC Central Budget Office where she became the Lead Analyst for Shuttle and Space Station. In 1993, she accepted a position in the HQ Space Station Program Office located at JSC as Team Lead for Budget Integration. She led the integration in support of budget formulation, execution, and review for the $2B per year program, including financial resources and budget operations until transferring to SSC. Perwien has received numerous awards including Space Flight Awareness Honoree (2007), NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (2005), Acquisition Improvement Award (2002) and other Special Service and performance awards. Perwien served as a cooperative education student trainee in the Space and Life Sciences Resources Management Office at John Space Center. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Urban Studies with a concentration in Business Administration in December 1980. She was selected to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Perwien has one daughter.