NASA PM Challenge 2010

Every year NASA has a Project Management conference.  It's a way for NASA to share experiences, lessons learned, and basically all sorts of knowledge with everyone else in NASA, including contractors.  This year the two-day event took place in Galveston, TX right near Johnson Space Center.

I was lucky in multiple ways.  Our company contracts to NASA HQ and allowed about 24 of us to go to the conference.  Unfortunately it took place RIGHT during the snowpolcalypse in february.  Almost all flights out of DC, MD, VA were cancelled so only 3 of us were able to make it to the conference from our company.

The conference was pretty darn cool.  There are multiple seminars going on at once, with various "tracks" or focuses.  Some of them included: Ares 1-X, Case Studies, Lessons Learned, International Forum, Systems Engineering, and on and on.

I started the first day out with "The Space Exploration Mission", an overview the space exploration past, present, and future.  Very well-presented, high-level, and informative with a really good speaker.  The next seminar was "Stop doing Stupid Stuff" which I really enjoyed.  A lot of these items are either common sense, or things you learn as a PM or manager but it's always good to have it reiterated.  The speaker was very good and the material was engaging.  This was the one seminar where I took lots of notes.  Went on to learn about the first stage of Ares 1-X program, how to balance work/life as a manager/project manager/program manager, and leadership panel discussion.  The first day had a lot of really great programs and speakers and I loved every minute of it.  We had scientists, analysts, program managers, and previous flight director speak.

The second day had some hits and misses with the seminars I attended.  "Observations of Crew Dynamics during Mars Analog Simulations" was fascinating and I knew Sue would love to have listened since it involved a lot of behavioral observations and social interactions.  "Lessons Learned: STS-107 Columbia Accident" was a tough seminar to listen to.  One of the scientists who had to evaluate the impact of the foam hitting the wing gave the seminar and talked about what happened during those three days while NASA had to decide what could be done before landing the shuttle.

The really good thing is that NASA puts the presentations and podcasts on their webpage for public availability.  Unfortunately they are still working on 2010 so it might be a while but if you are interested in the presentations, just bookmark the page and check back in a few weeks.

I lucked out on the way home too.  During the week more snow fell in DC so the other two people had their flights cancelled out of Houston and had to reschedule for saturday.  My flight was on time so I left on friday and made it home with no issues.  THEN on friday a snowstorm hit the south (Dallas over to Atlanta) which caused even more delays for the other two still in TX so they ended up getting even more delayed before they got home.

So not only did I get to go to this very fantastic conference, my flights were not cancelled or delayed at all.  Kudos to Airtrans in getting me out and back on time!