HUNTSVILLE, Ala..- 21 December 11
Chermonica Johnson: Intern Finds Where Business Meets Technology
Heather L. Ogletree
NASA is a business. Although this may not be the first thing NASA is associated with, it is a fact that scientists and engineers find as they move up the ranks into managerial and director positions. The STEM base is still there, but it is used in a way that allows for the efficient marriage of business and STEM in a successfully completed project.
Chermonica Johnson, a Spellman College junior, learned the importance of this marriage when she accepted a summer position at Marshall Space Flight Center working alongside her Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) Mentor Roy Malone, the director of the Shuttle-Ares Transition Office.
As a director, Malone has transitioned into a more business heavy regimen, which was reflected in Johnson’s project. At first, it was a challenge for Johnson to set her initial meeting with Malone, but once she met with him her mission was clear. She noted, “Upon my arrival at Marshall, I was expecting to do a lot of hands-on work that would assist me with my project; however...I was introduced to the business side.” Through her work with Malone, Johnson was able to find the connection between business and technical work, citing, “NASA wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for the business aspects of NASA,” a side of NASA that most technical interns do not get to see until later in their careers.
For her project, Johnson took part in the transition and retirement process (T&R) for the Shuttle-Ares project. “I was able to go on a new organizational journey with my mentor and gain knowledge of what goes in T&R after a program has ended,” she explained. “For example, what property either personal or real gets retained or destroyed? Are their extra documents that should be destroyed and the original archived? These questions are only two of the many...that are asked during T&R. I was very pleased to be of help when it came to determining if we, as a team, were on track with T&R or if there were things that were missing.”
Malone added, “It was wonderful having Chermonica on our team for the summer. Since I was new to the T&R world, you might say that we were learning together. Her efforts in putting together a snap shot of where we stood in the T&R process helped me to get up to speed in my new role much faster.”
The other part of her project involved the new heavy lift vehicle. However, at that point in time, the direction of the design was still unclear. She conjectured that shuttle engines might be recycled to become part of the design.
This was the second internship for Johnson; her first experience was through WISE in 2010. She remarked, “It was a life-changing experience and from that summer forward, I knew that I would love to have the opportunity to work for NASA.”
In retrospect, Johnson felt that although she did not produce a technical product, she still gained excellent experience in NASA’s work culture and in organizational or management skills. When asked for her advice to other interns, she focused on communication, stating, “As an intern it is very important that you communicate with your mentor and other interns. Great communication will make your summer even better than it will already be. Ask questions. No matter if you thing they are not worth asking, as anyways. Mentors love when interns are engaged and ask questions. These questions can help broaden your knowledge on any given topic.” Good advice.