A Decade on the Job

December 12th, 2005

Today I marked my tenth anniversary with United Space Alliance. When I joined the company, it was known as RSOC, the Rockwell Space Operations Company. About six months after I hired on, Rockwell and Lockheed Martin combined their NASA contracts and spun off USA as the prime contractor for Space Shuttle operations. Everyone changed badges and continued on doing the same work, but for a new company. So I have ten years of service working for a company that has only existed for nine and a half years; after all this time, I’ve come to think of it all as USA.

When I hired on with RSOC, my job was in the private sector, working with Rockwell Software in Milwaukee to develop a new generation of programmable controllers for use in factory automation. Our group was called the Rockwell Advanced Technology lab or, RATlab. Great name, huh? When USA was formed, we had to stop all work outside the new contract, and so I found myself looking for something to do. That’s about the time Dr. Matt Barry returned to the company from his service in Washington and started the Advanced Technology Department (ATD) where I still work.

In the ten years I’ve been with USA, I’ve worked a wide variety of challenging projects. I’ve written articles for NASA Tech Briefs and other technical publications. I’ve shared credit on several patents. I’ve won both USA awards and NASA awards for technical innovation. But the most rewarding part of my experience with USA is that I’ve written software and designed systems that are still in use today. Why does that make a difference? Because many people in the software industry work very hard for years on software that never gets used, or that gets used very little before getting put on the shelf. It happens to good and bad programmers alike; it’s just the nature of the business.

One of my first projects, a Java implementation of a NASA telemetry protocol is still in use at Johnson Space Center. The most significant project I worked, consuming five years of my tenure at USA, and producing more than its share of sleepless nights, is now in use at JSC training flight controllers in the Shuttle program. I was the software architect of that project, and although it will be retired in four years when we wind down the Shuttle program, it will have been used to train dozens if not hundreds of flght controllers. I get enormous satisfaction from having made even a small contribution to the Shuttle program. I’m now working on code that may fly on the International Space Station, and I expect to get involved in some way on the new Constellation program.

Everybody else from the early days has left ATD and moved on to bigger and better things. I sometimes wonder whether I should be looking for something else to do, wondering whether I’ve become stagnant in my job. On the other hand, the job continues to produce opportunities to learn, it still lets me exercise my creativity, it still brings me together with the best and brightest people in our company, and it continues to produce new challenges, both technical and personal. I don’t guess you can ask for much more than that in a job.

I’m guessing I’ll still be at USA this time next year, and probably the year after. Beyond that… who knows? But I’ll let you know. Stay tuned.

3 Responses to “A Decade on the Job”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    Congratulations! Quite an achievement in today’s world.

  2. Gordon Says:

    You go dude! You never cease to amaze me. I often wonder how you have the time and energy to do all that you do. If there is anything that you don’t know, are not aware of, or can’t do, I would like to know what it is. I have often said to Joy, “Jim is just an all around Renasiance man”. May you live long and continue to achieve and prosper!

  3. Jim Says:

    Thank you for the glowing comment, Brother G. Your check will be in the mail shortly.