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Who would guess a NASA CIO would be a science fiction fan

I had the pleasure to hear Linda Cureton, the CIO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, speak at a breakfast for a mostly industry crowd yesterday. A pretty packed crowd for the last full week of July. (Technically, Cureton is the Director of the Information Technology and Communications Directorate and CIO for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, but you get the point.)

Having never worked for her or with her, Cureton seems to be one of the more under-appreciated CIOs out there these days. And, in terms of speaking, she has improved dramatically over the years. I remember several years ago, she was heading up IPIC and she seemed nervous and out of sorts on stage. In recent months, I have seen her speak twice. She has become one of the better CIO speakers out there. She is frank and honest yet clearly loves her work and is a strong believer in the role of the CIO.

My guess is she gets along well at NASA become... well, she's geek sheik. She is clearly a science fiction fan. In yesterday's presentation, she quoted Yoda from Star Wars. She even made mention of the mid-1960s era television program The Outer Limits, which was apparently similar in style to the earlier The Twilight Zone, though tending more to science fiction than fantasy. In fact, she went so far as to talk about a specific episode of The Twilight Zone: To Serve Man. (You can read about the episode yourself and make the connection between the plot and the CIO.)

And she makes mention of Star Trek's Kobayashi Maru. For those of us who are Star Trek geeks, the Kobayashi Maru is the name of a Star Trek training exercise. In it, trainees are faced with a no-win scenario. Of course, the only person to avoid the lose-lose conflict is our hero, Capt. James T. Kirk. He reprogrammed the simulator.

If you want more detail, visit the Star Trek wiki...

Anyway, her point is that she is always looking for ways out of no-win situations by changing the rules.

Cureton made some interesting points about the role of the CIO, essentially arguing that the CIO is detached from the mission, at least at NASA. The CIO is thought of as being the one who makes the tools work, but not as a strategic player in how the agency accomplishes its mission.

She is trying to change that.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 25, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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