ENGINEER COMPARES WORKING FOR PRIVATE INDUSTRY TO BEING A PA

by John C. Stennis Space Center

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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. — NASA's Carmen Ramirez-Pagan, who works in the Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis Space Center as an AST-Technical Resources Management engineer, greets visitors in a quiet, almost distant, demeanor. In a soft, Spanish-tinted drawl, she talks about her work and education. She talks easily of her early experiences in corporate life in Puerto Rico and how she made the transition in October 1990 from being in the business of making profits for Digital Equipment Corp. to the business of space.

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"In my prior job as a project manager, my driving forces were cost, budget and deadlines," said Ramirez-Pagan. "What I did individually and what my people did affected the corporation's profit line. Here at NASA, they are still a challenge, but I am responsible to my colleagues, and the success of a project depends on how well we work together. In my previous job, corporate profits were the goal; here, I work to show American taxpayers a return on their investment in the space program. I don't look at any job as being too small or too big."

It takes only a question or two about Carmen's current project, the construction of a 42,000- square-foot Propulsion Test Directorate office facility, for the professional persona to be replaced by unabashed enthusiasm and excitement. "It has become my pet project," she said with an expanding smile. "It is a challenge to get people's input and to somehow sort out the differences so that there is a good compromise. I consider co-workers my customers. They depend on me to do a good job for them."

The new facility is housed in two buildings and will provide office space for more than 200 propulsion engineers and technicians. The project is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2003.

"The progress of the construction reflects Carmen's outstanding organizational skills and her focused attention to detail," said NASA's Mike Dawson, manager of the Propulsion Test Program Office at Stennis. "She has been able to work closely with the people who will occupy the building and has been tenacious in resolving conflicts between our budget and those requirements." Ramirez-Pagan was Stennis' nominee for the 2002 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award that honors Hispanic excellence in science, engineering and technology nationwide. "Carmen's professionalism and career achievements have contributed to opening the doors for other Hispanics at the center," said NASA's Fernando Figueroa, manager of the Hispanic Employment Program at Stennis.