Roberta Sherrard

As a child, one of my favorite memories was when my whole family gathered around the TV to watch the Apollo missions to the moon. I vividly remember when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong said those magic words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I dreamed about what it would be like to work for NASA, but always thought that would be unattainable. My parents told me I could do anything I set my mind to if I worked hard. They were right; however, I didn’t take a direct route to work for NASA. Even though it was a windy road, it was well worth it.
I married an Air Force officer and that meant we would be moving around often. During one of our early assignments, I decided to finish my degree but couldn’t decide on a major, debating between information technology and computer science.

I was a bit apprehensive about majoring in computer science because of all the advanced calculus and physics. My counselor convinced me to try a few classes. This sparked a passion that hasn’t changed throughout my career — being challenged to step out of my comfort zone. This has become a theme that I live by.

Armed with a fresh college degree and when my husband being transferred to the flight test center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, I entered a world that was totally new to me. I applied for several government jobs in computer science without really understanding the aeronautics career field I was about to enter.

My first job was at the Air Force Flight Test Center’s Ridley Mission Control Center as a data production analyst. In this position, I worked on several flight test projects including the YA7F, AC-130 Gunship, F-16, C17 and F-22. I had to learn airplane instrumentation along with range data and understand how they relate. While enjoying my career in flight test, I faced the challenge of starting a family. I decided to stop working and be a stay-at-home mom while my two children were young. My hiatus lasted for five years.

As my children transitioned into school, I decided to reenter the workforce. With encouragement from my husband and several friends I applied to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards. With my flight test experience as an engineer for the Department of Defense, I began by working part time so that I could still balance work and family. It was a perfect way to start back and continue my career.
During my time working for NASA, I have had opportunities to work on some amazing projects. From the F-18 AAW (Active Aeroelastic Wing) to the X-43A hypersonic research efforts, the range of programs at Dryden is diverse. But as time passed, my supervisors began encouraging me to broaden my expertise to move forward. An assignment in the business management office doing full cost accounting widened my appreciation for financial and workforce challenges for the center.

In April 2003, I was appointed to serve on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) to provide an information technology transition of the Board from Texas to Washington, DC. I was responsible to develop and execute a transition plan that resulted with virtually no impact to board operations.
All my diverse experiences laid a solid foundation for my current position as the deputy director of the Mission Information and Test Systems directorate. This position brings me the great pleasure to direct the efforts of over 250 personnel, responsible for the mission control rooms, simulation labs, and information technology at the Center.

I continue to enjoy the work that supports all the aeronautics research projects at Armstrong. During my NASA career, I have received unbelievable mentoring from several supervisors. They encouraged my need for learning new things and supported me with balancing family and work.

I was able to have a rewarding career not missing any of those special family moments. The leadership mentoring and encouragement that I experienced has made me “pay it forward” now that I am in management and a mentor.

I encourage you to try new assignments, continue learning, take on challenges, and not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Be sure to take advantage of your senior leadership to develop a mentorship.

Working for NASA has been an unbelievably rewarding opportunity.

photo of Roberta Sherrard


Roberta Sherrard is deputy director of Mission, Information and Test Systems at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. She is responsible for development, acquisition and use of the center’s information technology systems. These include desktop computer use, security, flight test range operations, research aircraft telemetry, mission control rooms, air-to-ground communications, ground-to-ground communications, flight data processing and advanced flight simulations. Sherrard started her career at NASA Armstrong as a test information engineer supporting the X-34, X-43A and F/A-18 Active Aeroelastic Wing projects. She worked in the center’s Chief Information Office where she supported the Integrated Financial Management Program as the technical team lead. Sherrard was appointed to serve on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board responsible for developing and executing an information technology transition plan for the board’s move from Texas to Washington, DC. In 2004, she became the deputy of NASA Dryden’s Business Operations Office where she was involved in the full cost accounting effort and led a pilot development for a center-wide project portfolio for strategic planning. Sherrard began her federal career in 1981 at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. During her time at the AFFTC, she worked as a program analyst on several flight test projects, including those involving the YA-7F, AC-130, F-16, C-17 and F-22 aircraft, at Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards. Sherrard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Arkansas State University. From 2010 to 2012, she chaired the Armstrong Employee Exchange Council, which promotes activities that contribute to the efficiency, welfare, and morale of Dryden personnel. She is the recipient of a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal Honor Award, a NASA Group Achievement Award for her work with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Support Team and numerous individual performance awards.