G2011-019 Meet Maria Nowak

Narration: Maria Nowak


My first day of work was really exciting. I was a little intimidated I was meeting a lot of people and seeing a lot of different things. But, it was also really, really exciting because I knew that I was finally gonna actually be a part of this. The building that I work in is where a lot of really exciting things happen, so I was seeing a lot of different facilities, and I remember being sore as I was walking around on that first day, because my furniture hadn’t arrived and I was sleeping on the floor of my apartment, but it was great! I can’t even describe it.

Well, I actually have a bachelor’s degree in theater and a lot of people are really surprised when they hear that, because they always want to know how I went from that transition of, you know, of studying something that’s very creative to something that’s more technical, but I think having that kind of creativity is very, very important.

I mean, when you are working at some place like Goddard and you’re constantly developing new ways of doing things, new ways of exploring things, you do have to be creative and that’s something that I think can serve you well. And so, if you are interested in things, you know like the arts, use it to your advantage.

When I was in school, I really wanted to build up a resume before I actually graduated and I went online and I came across an internship at Goddard and received it and came out here and I absolutely loved it. It’s an absolutely wonderful place to work. It’s so exciting to be around people that are so passionate about what they do. The environment is just absolutely beautiful and I knew I wanted to work here, and I went online around the time that I was graduating and they happened to be hiring in the optics and my emphasis was in optics.

And, we helped to actually build the hardware, align it. Do that kind of work. Test it at the subsystem component level. And my job is really interesting because do different things each day. Sometimes I am in the lab taking data or looking at data. It’s really exciting and to me, you know, trying a new metrology technique and analyzing data, having it show that it works, is just the most exciting thing in the world to me.

And it’s so amazing to be able to be able to go ion and show it to the rest of the people and say, “Look, you know what we were going to do? It worked. And we have this data to show it. There’s no comparison to that. I just absolutely love it.

One of the things I find the most challenging about my job is no matter how hard I plan or how hard I try there are always things that are outside of my control. We’ll be in the middle of building an instrument and a piece of equipment will break, and we need to fix it and kind of arrange our schedule to accommodate it, explain to people what went wrong, how we’re planning on fixing it, and so it’s really caused me to kind of not be so rigid and have to be able to go with that flexibility, because I’m the kind of person who needs to know at every moment exactly what I’m doing. And when I’m thrown for a loop like that, you know you just have to be able to recover from it immediately to keep things going.

I’m proud of the fact that in my job I won’t compromise what I believe is the right thing. At the end of the day I don’t really feel that I answer to any project manager or center director. I answer to my conscience and I answer to the taxpayers of this country, because they are the ones who allow us to do what we do and it’s important to me that we give them something that’s meaningful to them.