F + 4 Days Furlough Report

Another note of explanation for the non-NASA folks: The time stamp in the title stands for Furlough (F) plus ‘x’ days.  At NASA, we put a clock on every important event.  Proximity to launch dates for spacecraft is tracked as L (for Launch) minus ‘x’ months/weeks/days.  If there’s something significant happening counting down toward an event, we put up a clock in mission control to track it.  We track mission elapsed time, time to morning and evening crew conferences, elapsed time on spacewalks, and dozens of other things.  If something can be counted up to or down from, we’re your agency to do that.  So, these reports come out after 24 more hours elapses on the furlough clock.

Yes, I know I’m a dork, but it’s been ingrained in me for 14 years.

furlough beard 4

Furlough beard – now with 100% less neck beard!

UPDATE: We’ll get back pay!  Congress, I dislike you all just a little less right now!

Duration of Furlough: 4 days

Work not done: Friday, October 4th was going to be a day off for me regardless of the shutdown.  With the local school district having an in-service day, our kids were home, my wife had to work, and I was on Dad duty.  Fridays are usually my most lightly scheduled day of the week and I try to turn my attention to what I can do to make improvements to our organization.  Over the past few months, I’ve used this quiet time to revamp our branch meetings to align with the concepts outlined in Death by Meetings, drafted a career progression white paper to follow our directorate “Top Gun” philosophy – the best flight controllers train the next generation of flight controllers – to help our young engineers understand their potential career paths, and pushed to modernize our knowledge capture practices by using blogs and wikis to share project status information and better store all the information our flight controller and instructor teams need to do their jobs.  I try to use Friday time to make us more efficient so that we can spend our time on what we really want to do – flying spaceships and exploring space.  But as I said, I was planning to take the day off anyway, so in the end, I didn’t miss out on much yesterday.

Outlook for Continuing Resolution passage by Congress: Still poor.

I make more forward progress on the stair climber at the gym than Congress is making towards finding a solution.   That this could be over if Boehner allowed a vote on a clean CR is incredibly aggravating.

Have I showered today? Yes!  Date night with the wife.  I’ll even have to clean up the scruff a little.  Don’t panic though!  I’ll just be getting rid of some neck beard so I don’t look like this. Although I have to say my wife is a far greater threat to the existence of furlough beard than my job (or lack thereof).

Chores done/Wife-Requested Tasks: I get a belated birthday pass!

Video games played: Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Exciting news – Kirby’s Return to Dreamland is on its way from Gamefly!  I try to get some games that the girls might enjoy.

Mood: Brief moments of relief surrounded by extended periods of head-shaking.

My status was officially changed on Friday at 5 pm from non-excepted to on-call!  The agency has decided it needs to press ahead with the Increment 38 Flight Readiness Review, so I have to come into work for a couple hours next week to make sure we’ve got our piece of that puzzle pulled together.  I’m not going to get paid for those few hours until the shutdown is over, but still.

Furlough Fun Fact: Federal workers  on furlough cannot take leave (vacation time) to compensate for the furlough.

Once the shutdown is over, even if I wanted to take this past week (or two or three for whenever this ends) to cover the time off, I would not be allowed to.  I have a top employee who went on maternity leave in the beginning of September.  She’s not scheduled to return to work until December.  Federal leave laws say she can take 12 weeks of leave.  With the shutdown, her leave stopped on the day of the shutdown and will pick up after the shutdown ends.  She can’t apply any of her leave to the furlough.  Her husband is also a federal worker and they have another toddler.  This whole situation is terrible for many people.

Song of the day: Never Go Hungry –  Hole

If you asked me in college which bands I would still be buying albums from 20 years later, Hole would not have been on the list.  I recognize Courtney Love essentially has new band mates for every album so it’s not exactly the original group, but it’s a wonder that she’s still alive.

Questions?  I’m  happy to answer furlough or NASA questions. If you’re so inclined, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them in posts as this drags on.

Next update will be Monday.  I may tweak my approach slightly in order to provide updates Monday through Friday.

If you missed it:

F + 1 Day Furlough Report

F + 2 Days Furlough Report

F + 3 Days Furlough Report


Advice on Interviewing for an Internal Promotion

Over the past two weeks, I’ve interviewed 9 candidates who’ve applied to become the lead of the Station Training Lead Group. This group is responsible for overseeing the completion of training for all of NASA’s human spaceflight missions related to ISS.  The group lead will be counted on to keep a team of high performing employees acting in concert with the overall goals of the Mission Operations Directorate while fostering the leadership and integration abilities of each one of those employees.   It is critical that I select someone who is going to lead this team in the right direction.

Each applicant I interviewed had more than 15 years of experience with NASA or its subcontractors.  Each applicant had strong backgrounds working  in human spaceflight and had major accomplishments on their resume.  I had first-hand experience working with some of the candidates; some, I didn’t know at all.  How do you separate those candidates?  Here’s what I looked for:

  • Did you do your homework?
Did you take the time to learn something about the organization?  Did you talk to anyone in the organization to find out what the perspective of the employees is?  Did you talk to any of our customers to find out anything about their perspective?  Show that you’ve taken the time to get a grasp on what our priorities are, what challenges the organization faces, what the outlook of the group is, and what we’ve been doing lately.  This is particularly imperative for someone coming from outside the organization.  I’m going to need someone who can step in right away and be a leader.  Doing this shows me that you’re proactive, that you’re truly interested in this organization, and that your putting effort into this.
  • Do you really want this position?
There comes a time for many employees when they feel like they’ve done their time and they are ready to be a leader in an organization.  There also comes a time when you grow tired of facing the same challenges day-in and day-out and you’re ready for something different.  I understand those feelings and have had them at different points in my career.  Just wanting to do something different or just wanting a chance at leadership doesn’t show me that you really want the position that I’m interviewing people to fill.  I have 9 candidates who want that promotion.  The reason you want the promotion is an important factor.  Do you care about our mission?  Do you care about the direction of the organization?  Our work is challenging, draining, frustrating, and constantly changing.  If you’re only in this for the title or the money or to do something different, then I’m going to look for someone who wants it more.
  • Have Vision
If you’re going to be a leader in this organization, then I want to know that you’ve thought about the direction the organization needs to go.  How can we be more effective?  How can we improve?  Is there something we should stop doing?  Is there something we should start doing?  Do you have some idea of where you’re going to lead this group?  What’s important to you?  What’s important to my boss?  Put some thought into it.  Be specific.  Give me two or three concrete things that show you’re going to come into this position and work with me to maintain or improve a world-class organization.  Your vision doesn’t need to match mine.  In fact, your vision may be better than mine.  If that happens, you will force me to consider you for this position.
  • Know Thyself

Even if you do all of the above, you need to be completely and brutally honest with me about what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.  Know your strengths and weaknesses, tell me how you play up to your strengths, and tell me how you overcome your weaknesses.  Be honest about them.  If you’re not, I will find out about them when I talk to the people you’ve worked with for the last 15 years.  Sure, I will talk to your references, but I expect those people to be generally positive about you.  I’m also going to talk to people I know you’ve worked with.  I’ll talk to Flight Directors, other managers, co-workers, and anyone else I can find with an opinion.  If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, you’re co-workers and former and current bosses will or at least they’ll have their opinion.  If that opinion is different than what you told me, then it becomes a case of your word against theirs and I have to wonder if you don’t see your shortcomings.  Having shortcomings is not a bad thing; not knowing how to deal with those shortcomings is.  Not being honest about them is a dealbreaker.

Doing these things won’t guarantee you a promotion, but it will put you in contention. If you don’t do these things, then I will find someone who will.