Adriana Ocampo

Lead Program Executive, New Frontiers Mission

NASA - Washington, D.C.

Find me online:

“I oversee three missions under the New Frontiers program: to Pluto, Jupiter, and Bennu.”

MY ROUTE:

The Straight Road

MY WORK LIFE:

Lead Program Executive, New Frontiers Mission

foundation interest 1 interest 2

My work allows me to combine the foundation of BEING CREATIVE and the interests of SCIENCE and ENGINEERING.


DAY IN AND DAY OUT

As a leader on the New Frontiers program, I'm overseeing three missions (to Pluto, Jupiter, and to an asteroid named 101955 Bennu), so it's a long day. At around 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. I'm already checking my emails and identifying critical items that need to be done. A big part of my job involves ensuring proper communication between people and teams, and making sure we're on budget. Almost everything NASA does is something no one's ever done before, so we have to be very creative every single day.

SKILLS, TRAINING, OR EXPERIENCE NEEDED

You need to know how to optimize your workload: this means making sure that the right people are filling the right jobs, and developing teams that are going to have good dialogue and chemistry. In addition, I feel that in my collegiate studies, classes were mostly focused on building scientific knowledge. You need those skills, of course, but I also would've liked to focus more on developing my skills in public speaking and writing.

EDUCATION TO GET HERE:

Lead Program Executive, New Frontiers Mission

I RECOMMEND COMPLETING:

  • High School
  • Undergraduate - Geology/Earth Science, General
  • Graduate - Planetary Geology
  • Associate's Degree / Some College
  • Doctorate - Planetary Geology

What I studied VERY STRONGLY RELATES to my work...

MY EDUCATION

  • High School -
  • Undergraduate - California State University-Los Angeles, Geology/Earth Science, General
  • Graduate - California State University-Northridge, Planetary Geology
  • Associate's Degree / Some College - Pasadena City College
  • Doctorate - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Planetary Geology

SOME HELPFUL FIRST STEPS FOR SOMEONE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL

When you're young, you're not going to know which path you want to follow. So first, you need to get to know yourself. How can you do that? Go volunteer somewhere! See if you can help out or shadow people in a variety of careers and fields, and see what really catches your eye. You have that inner guide that will tell you which way to go, and will tell you, "You can do this"—that's the voice that you need to follow. I once heard Carl Sagan say, "dreams are maps." Follow those maps.

HURDLES I OVERCAME

THE “NOISE” FROM PEOPLE

“A woman from South America isn't going make it at NASA.”

HOW I OVERCAME THE “NOISE”

Whether it was because I was an immigrant or a woman, it always felt like I was in the minority in my field. For me, it's important for me to succeed and become a mentor so that I can show girls, "Look, you CAN do this!" Something in the sciences needs to change, because even today, women are getting discouraged from entering these fields. Yet, NASA is always looking for diverse talent...and even for female astronauts! So truly, there is a space for you in the sciences, and anything is possible.

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