The following interview occurred May 5, 1999 between Genesis Project Secretary Nancy Cuevas, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Senior Associate Alice Krueger, Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory:
A.K. What is your role in the Genesis mission?
N.C. As project secretary, I provide administrative assistance to the project manager [Chet Sasaki] and team. I arrange travel for the project, schedule meetings, manage project manager's calendar, implement/coordinate consulting agreements, contracts, presentations, coordinate meetings/reviews, serve as system administrator for relocation, and general secretarial duties.
A.K. What kind of education and career path led you to your present job?
N.C. I am certified as a legal secretary and as a travel agent. JPL was not in my career path. I had been a legal secretary for 3 years and was in the medical field for 8 years. I took an astronomy class and loved it. It was not an easy course, but I enjoyed the subject. My grades showed my interest. But this career move was not planned. I later decided to work through a temporary agency and see what career would come to interest and the opportunity to work at JPL came about. Without hesitation I accepted a position. It first started as a two-week assignment, and now I am a JPL employee. While working temporarily as a group secretary, I decided to apply for the position and got it. I was a group secretary for one and a half years. I mentioned to my boss then that I would love to work for a project and he was very encouraging. I later heard that the Genesis Project was looking for a project secretary. I applied and here I am. I never thought that I would be working at JPL. I love it. My family is always asking me questions about the project. They find it to be an amazing and interesting place to work at. Indeed it is. It is definitely fascinating.
A.K. What do you like best about your work?
N.C. I have been blessed with great bosses at JPL. They are very team-oriented, [and are] therefore pleasant to work with. They are patient, caring as well as understanding. I love the group of people I work for. I believe that with any career/job it is important that you have good communication and mutual understanding. I get along with all [of my co-workers] and it makes work a "piece of cake" considering the loads of work at times. We are like a family and getting along is an important factor in a project setting. I also like the challenge. I am a "people person" and it is the perfect setting for me. I like variety and there is always something new.
A.K. What is your everyday work life like?
N.C. When I first get to the office I go through the calendars. Chet Sasaki, the project manager and my boss, has a very busy schedule. Then I check phone messages, returning phone calls, set up meetings for Chet and everyone else in the project. I also take care of travel. Travel at JPL is very common and my group travels quite a bit. Every day work varies which makes it challenging and interesting. Chet is very dedicated and enthusiastic about his work and it becomes contagious. He's an early bird and I like to be at work before he arrives. A ten/twelve-hour day at JPL is a regular eight-hour day.
A.K. Are there any barriers to your work at the present time?
N.C. The workload can be overwhelming at times. I am not going to deny it. But you learn to deal with it. There are so many little things that a project secretary needs to keep track of in order to keep up. Presently [spring, 1999] we are going through our critical design reviews and it can be quite overwhelming and stressful but I really do not consider it a barrierÑindeed, it is a challengeÑand I know that at the end it will be worthwhile.
A.K. What is your family life like?
N.C. I live on my own with my dog, Pancho. He is a Maltese terrier, my baby, and he definitely acts like one. He's an indoor dog but hates the fact that I have to be at work for so many hours a day. When I leave he barks and knows that he is not supposed to bark but he is upset and knows how to get to me. On the weekends, I spend time with my family and friends and sometimes I work. My sister lives in Colorado and when I am out there on business travel, I spend time with her, her husband, and kids.
A.K. What are your leisure time activities?
N.C. I usually get together with my family on Sundays. I play volleyball, work out, and go to the beach with friends. I also enjoy going to the movies and dancing. I am in the process of going back to school to complete my education. Courses are offered at JPL, which makes it very convenient. I am very close to getting my liberal arts degree, then I will get my bachelors in Business Administration which I can also accomplish at work. Chet, as well as the rest of my group, is very supportive and willing to work with me to achieve this goal.
A.K. What kind of advice would you give to young students who are interested in a career in space science?
N.C. Go for it. It is a very challenging, fascinating, and rewarding career.