A day in the life of Linda Cureton's mobile device

NASA's CIO shares her secrets for staying connected while on the move

It's probably fitting that I'm writing this article about the connected chief information officer while on vacation, cruising the Caribbean with very sporadic communication via my personal mobile device. New technologies such as handheld mobile devices make it possible for me to check in with NASA headquarters in Washington no matter where I might be, getting reminders about due dates, actions from the White House and Capitol Hill, and news of NASA space shuttle launches even while enjoying warm tropical breezes.

We hear so much about how connected we are as a society. Information technology leaders know firsthand that the manner, methods and speed of those connections make our environment more and more complex. That said, technology is not so bad, if you know how to use it.

I'm often described as a creature of habit and sometimes as an absent-minded professor. That's because if it's not a habit, I often forget things. Making something a habit pushes it into the cheap storage area of my brain.

For example, I have no clue what the phone number is to my direct line at NASA. Why should I know it? I never call myself, so my phone number doesn't need to have a habitat in the expensive storage in my mind.

A Day in the Life

Here's a typical workday and the habits I have developed to make the most of mobile connectivity.

Early Morning

When I wake up, I check my mobile device for anything important that happened the night before and scan my schedule for the day.

Commute Time

Fortunately, I get a ride in to work from my husband, so during my commute, I can send text messages to people whose phone calls I missed overnight. I also reply to pending text messages. Replying to text messages via Short Message Service is easiest because you are limited to 160 characters. Funny how that limitation makes you more efficient.

I read as many e-mail messages as I can during my commute from the Washington suburbs to NASA headquarters.

Workday

Once at the office, I continue to read as many e-mail messages as I can, whenever I have a spare few minutes. Whether waiting for a meeting to start, riding in a cab, hiding my mobile device under a conference room table during a meeting or even using the bathroom — hey, everyone does that! — I read and respond to e-mail.

Evening

When I get home, I put my laptop on the kitchen table while I return a few calls before dinner. After dinner, I return calls to my West Coast team members, then make a cup of tea, plug in my mobile device to charge overnight in the kitchen and head to bed. I make sure the device is laying on something so I don't hear it vibrate from upstairs.

On the Road

I repeat the pattern the next day. I also follow this pattern when on the road, right up to when the airplane's cabin doors shut and within a nanosecond of wheels down. My favorite airports have free wireless access. My favorite airlines have in-flight wireless. Nothing makes a nonstop, coast-to-coast flight better than in-flight wireless and noise-reduction headsets.

Being connected can be used to your advantage — to manage time, be more efficient and keep track of things that need to be remembered. So, as I said, technology isn't so bad if you know how to use it. The connected chief information officer understands that for herself and also for the people she serves.

About the Author

Linda Y. Cureton was appointed as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for NASA in September 2009 and has overseen the transformation of information technology (IT) capabilities and services supporting NASA's mission for the past two years. Previously, Ms. Cureton served as CIO of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Deputy Chief Information Officer of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and led the Office of Science and Technology as Deputy Assistant Director.

She also served in executive positions at the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice and has been involved with organizations such as the Government Information Technology Investment Council, the American Council for Technology, and Women in Technology. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Federal CIO Council Committee on Architecture and Infrastructure.

Ms. Cureton earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Howard University graduating magna cum laude and a Master of Science Degree in Applied Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University. She also has a Post-Master's Advanced Certificate in Applied Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University and has performed numerical analysis research published in the "Journal of Sound and Vibration."


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