Director of Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center discusses journey to where she is today

We learned more about Jody Singer and her journey to where she is today as the first woman director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Posted: Sep 18, 2019 5:39 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2019 8:35 PM

WAAY 31 is a proud sponsor of the Women Honoring Women event. We learned more about one of the five honorees, Jody Singer, and her journey to where she is today as the first woman director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Jody Singer is a native of north Alabama. She graduated from Hartselle High School and received a degree from the University of Alabama in industrial engineering. She said at an early age, she developed a love for science. It was her mother who encouraged her to continue on that path.

"When I told her I was interested in engineering, she encouraged me to shadow a manager at her work. He told me about engineering and management, asked me some of my interests and he encouraged me to go into industrial engineering. I went to UA and that's what I studied, and it was great advice," Singer said.

After college, Singer worked at General Motors for a year.

"At that time, NASA was not hiring. I put in an application for NASA, and when I got the call from NASA, they asked me if I would like to work for NASA. I chose to come work for NASA and to be back in North Alabama. It's been the best decision I've ever made," she said.

Singer is now in her 25th year at NASA and is currently the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. As Marshall’s director, Singer leads one of NASA's largest field installations, with almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.

"I also played a part in the fly out of the shuttle, the successful fly out. I've worked on International Space Station and the development of the space launch system, which would be the next heavy lift vehicle taking humans and their systems to deep space by 2024. Today, I am the 14th director at Marshall Space Flight Center and very proud to say, the first woman," Singer said.

Singer says throughout her career, she has faced many obstacles. She had to learn to believe in herself.

"I had to accept that I was going to be different and that my leadership style was going to be different. As a result of having great mentors, they also helped me understand myself. As a result of it, I grew my own leadership style and developed my own recipe. As a result of it, I was able to be more confident as a leader and to be a better leader and to also be able to empower more people. Based on that feedback I've gotten, it helped me to develop some of those skills that I needed. One of them being communication and presentation skills," Singer said.

She says throughout her career, mentors played a huge role in her development and success.

"The women made a huge difference in my life. They looked at it a little different. They learned how to balance life and work, being a mom and being a leader, and helping me see that there's many ways in which you could be a leader and how you can have it all," Singer said. "But, you have to be willing to balance it and take care of yourself. If you can't take care of yourself, it's hard to take care of your people and it is very hard to take care of your family."

She offers this advice to other women with big dreams.

"I would say, number one, believe in yourself. Number two, make sure that you surround yourself with the right people and that you have the support you need. Don't do jobs all by yourself. It's all a team. Take the chances. There are opportunities out there. You just have to be willing to take the chances. The biggest thing, too, is hang in there. I've learned a lot more from my mistakes than my successes. When I'm having the most challenging day, I learn from it, not only as a person, but as a leader," Singer said.

Singer has been recognized with numerous awards during her NASA career, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and two Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive Awards, the highest honor for career federal employees.

"I would say working for NASA has really been a blessing for me. Everyday, I get up and go, what are we going to launch today? What stars are we going to reach for? I will tell you, having passion for your job means a lot, and the people that I work with are just fantastic and they are so talented. It makes me want to invest in NASA and in our community, the workforce that we have that's bigger than myself," she said.

We thank Jody singer for her contributions to our community and for her commitment to give back. WAAY 31 is a proud sponsor of the WEDC Foundation and the Women Honoring Women event. It's Thursday, September 19th at the Von Braun Center at 5:30 p.m. WAAY 31 anchor Najahe Sherman is the emcee of the event. Money raised from the event will go to scholarships and educational workshops for college women. For more information about the organization, click here.

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