Vickie Gutierrez

One of my earliest memories growing up in San Antonio, Texas, is being in a kindergarten class and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. My teacher chose to include her class in what would become a defining moment in history.

My parents understood my excitement and were ready to explore with me how it was possible to go to the moon. My father was a high school chemistry teacher and had a gift for teaching. We began building model rockets together, each rocket able to soar higher than the last. By fifth grade I was confident enough to launch a rocket of my own in front of the entire class, and my teacher gave the permission. The countdown was amazing! 10, 9, 8…My hands shook as I held the remote that would trigger ignition. Everyone gasped and cheered as the rocket raced towards the sky. Then all became silent as we waited together for the parachute to open. I had time to worry, ‘did I pack the parachute too tight, would it open?’ When we all saw it open, I think I cheered the loudest! This moment in fifth grade stands out in stark contrast to all other days spent at school, from elementary through high school.

I battled daily with high anxiety and self-doubt. My family was supportive and loving. I also enjoyed a strong church community and valued my time at church. I poured myself into studying and endured. I began to discover that I enjoyed Math. Never good at memorizing, I was good at solving problems and enjoyed math classes most when teachers emphasized the theory and derivation of equations. It was in the moment of receiving the results of a career assessment test that I felt the excitement of space exploration return! I saw ‘Aerospace Engineering’ in the list of top career choices for me.

I was energized by the grand idea that I could study for a career that could lead me to work for NASA. My family was convinced that anything was possible. Others in my community laughed at the idea that I might someday work at NASA. The high anxiety and self-doubt would return at times; but the more I persevered, the greater my trust and patience became. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering.

After eleven amazing years working for the Naval Air Systems Command, I arrived at NASA in 2002 to fulfill my lifelong dream of being part of the Space Program. I have had the honor of traveling to KSC several times to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle and even got to view Space Shuttle Discovery from the launch platform at the 195foot level as it was preparing to launch in February 2011.

When I recently met a community leader from my past, he asked where I worked, remembering laughingly that I had dreamed of working at NASA. I was stunned because I realized I had come full circle with those who laughed. I was given the opportunity to stand as a witness to what faith and perseverance brought about: ‘I work at NASA and am living my dream!’

There are many defining moments that have led to my career at NASA. My message to everyone is to dare to dream big: anything is possible. Have faith and persevere: you will become strong and courageous.

photo of Vickie Gutierrez


Vickie Gutierrez began working at NASA in 2002, but her first step toward her career began as she watched Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon. Gutierrez interest continued to grow as she experienced her own thrill of a count down and a launch of a rocket she built for a fifth grade class demonstration. After taking a career assessment test in middle school, Gutierrez found that Aerospace Engineering was among her top choices. It was then that she began to put a name to her future; she wanted to work at NASA. Having graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, the Naval Air Systems Command offered her a job where she developed as a leader and learned the value of a team. While working for NAVAIR, she received the DoD Exceptional Civilian Service Award for ‘exceptional civilian service as a member of the Joint Strike Fighter Source Selection Team’. Eleven years after graduating from Texas A&M, Gutierrez began working for NASA. In 2007, Gutierrez received the Acquisition Improvement Award and the NASA Superior Accomplishment Award in recognition of the support provided to the development and successful execution of the competition for the Commercial Orbital and Transportation Service (COTS) demonstrations. Gutierrez served NASA as the Team Lead for Strategic Analysis within the Constellation Systems Engineering & Integration Office and the Cost Team Lead for the Altair Project Office from 2007 to 2009. She was responsible for leading two estimating teams that consisted of senior level analysts across multiple NASA centers to support project office design trades. During this time, her team received the NASA Cost Estimating Team of the Year Award and she received the 2009 NASA Cost Estimating Leadership Award. Today, Vickie Gutierrez is a manager in the Performance Management and Integration Office within the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate at JSC.