How Twitter has made my job better

Okay, I know my job is envied by many, but at the end of the day it is a job like everyone else’s. It has its difficulties, frustrations, and other drawbacks. It is easy to become defeated when trying to make positive changes at work, because of the near impossible odds you are up against. Also there is a certain atmosphere of dread around the place due to the looming “END OF THE SHUTTLE PROGRAM” hanging over our heads which will mean the loss of the majority of our jobs.

When I joined Twitter last September, I thought it would be an interesting diversion, but never realized how much it could affect me and my feelings about my work. I eventually found myself in a circle of NASA employees and space enthusiasts who were tweeting excitedly about launches. At the first launch after I started tweeting, I got up to the minute updates from a space center contact, @herrea straight from the Launch Control Complex. It was so cool to know exactly what was happening and any potential delays that posed a threat. It was after this launch that Andy started to see the value of Twitter and decided to join as well. He’s @apacheman, by the way.

After that, I became even more entrenched in the space community on Twitter. I started following Wayne Hale (former NASA flight director), Miles O’Brien (aviation and space journalist), and Leroy Chiao (former astronaut). I saw that I was days ahead of my co-workers and even my upper management when it came to finding out what was happening with the US space program. I started to realize that Twitter  had the potential to help me in my career. What I didn’t anticipate is the effects that it would have on the way I felt about my job.

With this last launch, I had gained some more followers that are what I would call “space enthusiasts.” This was a really good thing because it forced me to look at my job from the perspective of other people who would give anything to be in my position. It made me more excited about the cool opportunities I had and more inclined to seek out new ones. I started posting photos I took during the day of things that seemed mundane, but was amazed to find that there were some followers that really enjoyed seeing these behind-the-scenes shots. I am happy to share these little tidbits with those that find them interesting.

I became Twitter friends with other contractor employees (some even within my own company) from Johnson Space Center in Houston that are facing the same “end of program blues” and uncertainty due to change that we are. It is somehow comforting to know that these people are dealing with many of the same challenges we are facing at Kennedy Space Center. We also can share our pride in each launch or milestone, knowing that we each had a little part in it. I also found an inspirational leader in @rikerjoe, who is trying to make positive changes within NASA and is very supportive of my efforts. 

While I have always tried to attend every launch that I possibly could because I didn’t want to waste the amazing opportunity I have been given, now launches are even more exciting. This is because I get to share the play-by-play with and from other Twitterers: some watching it in person like me and some on the other side of the world.

Last week, I was able to meet a Twitter friend that came from JSC for the launch and just happens to work for the same company as I do. Andy had given her a tour of the launch pad a couple of days earlier, and then, on her last day at KSC, she was able to come down to my work area and visit. It was a pleasure to give a tour of the Hypergolic Maintenance Facility to @absolutspacegrl because she was truly excited to be there. She did not think the hardware was mundane, but saw it with the fresh eyes of a space enthusiast. Even though she has a great deal of knowledge of the systems as a flight controller, she said that they rarely see hardware, and mostly deal with data. It was energizing to see someone that appreciates what they are seeing the way she did. She even blogged about her experience at KSC.

And finally, there is one more group of people on Twitter that help me through a challenging workday. That group is my blog friends that are now on Twitter; many of you I have now known for over four years, some of you I have met in real life, and all of you are people I feel honored to be friends with.  To @susank, @tropicalwonder, @poppycede, @nycwatchdog, @strangeafoot, @patrice108, @beth4158, @MaryKC, @Grynet, @kimsnotebook, @halo969, @felicia4774, @absentcanadian, @yoshi, @fyrchk, @sweetanne, :  I am glad to be able to keep up with you on a daily (or weekly, for some) basis and would be far worse off if not for your support. And Mel, one day you’ll make me truly happy and start tweeting again!

  1. #1 by Nuno Cristelo on May 18, 2009 - 8:57 pm

    Just to say Hello, once again. I think NASA’s budget should be increased. I admire NASA for a long time. And I admire what you have done so far. Working, using Twitter, using a Blog, etc.. If you ever come to Portugal feel free to call me. I will show you nice sightseeig and will even pay you a wine called “Vinho do Porto” or Oporto Wine as it is known. Kind regards, Nuno Cristelo (Porto, Portugal)

  2. #2 by Nuno Cristelo on May 18, 2009 - 8:59 pm

    By the way my previous post was written as a sort of “message” not as a reply to the influnce of Twitter in my own life. It help me to write 140 char. long 😉

  3. #3 by herrea on May 18, 2009 - 9:41 pm

    Great post! I’ve also been using Twitter for a while and it definitely has changed my life too. Not only has it got me in trouble a few times but I’ve met some great and interesting people. I feel more connected with people I admire and it’s showed me more about KSC and the Space Program than I could have read in a newsletter or website. It entertains me, educates me and gives me an outlet for my frustration when the alternative could be harmful to others. I don’t know how I lived without it! Keep on Twittering!

  4. #4 by Joe Williams on May 18, 2009 - 9:57 pm

    Wonderful post, Jen. Isn’t it fabulous to look at what we do with the fresh eyes supplied by our twitter friends? We’re so close to what we do each day, and we all face some uncertainty in the near future. Yet today we’re living the dream that so many wish they could live, making a difference in helping humankind establish a permanent presence in space. Isn’t it grand? Tomorrow will come and we’ll deal with that when the time is right. Until then, let’s keep exploring together, and tweeting about it!

  5. #5 by Michael Friedman on May 18, 2009 - 11:35 pm

    Greetings… I’ve been following you in lurk mode for a while, but wish I’d spoken sooner – I was at KSC for the STS-125 launch with my wife and would love to have taken a chance to say hi in person. Nevertheless, I have to agree with Twitter being useful – when I was wandering around KSC or waiting in line or sweating on the causeway before I found some clear speakers, I used Twitter on my phone to keep up with all the different @STS-125 and NASA updates. I was in line with some friends of the commander and was able to tell them I knew the astronauts were going in the van to the pad. I also kept up with updates on the brief frozen condensation issue, and seeing you meet someone there and watching your unique commentary. I’ve been following the play-by-play of the spacewalks since the launch. It’s really cool to read through your blog and experiences to see the side I’m curious about, being I guess an armchair engineer. I missed my calling! Thanks for sharing your world, and know that I (and of course others) support you, in what ways we can.

  6. #6 by Mary on May 19, 2009 - 6:53 am

    Aw, thanks, Jen! I am glad we are friends too!

  7. #7 by Susan on May 19, 2009 - 8:59 am

    Jen, this is truly awesome. I see the value in Twitter for all sorts of purposes – staying in touch with friends as well as using it for work. So many people think it’s a time waste but there is value if you use it correctly!

  8. #8 by Jen on May 19, 2009 - 5:09 pm

    Thanks, Nuno. If I am ever in Portugal I will be sure to give you a call 🙂

  9. #9 by Jen on May 19, 2009 - 5:13 pm

    Herrea, that is very cool that you are feeling the same types of benefits from Twitter that I am. You were the first space-related person that found me on there and I am glad you did 🙂

  10. #10 by Jen on May 19, 2009 - 5:16 pm

    Joe, you’re right- it IS wonderful to look at things with fresh eyes. Maybe this is a lesson that many of our leaders need to learn?

  11. #11 by Jen on May 19, 2009 - 5:26 pm

    Michael, that is great that you were able to be here for the launch and follow along. I’m glad you de-lurked to say “Hi” and that my blog/tweets are of interest to you. It is nice to find others that are interested in space exploration, whether they work for NASA or not.

    Next time you’re in the area, let me know-

  12. #12 by russ on June 1, 2009 - 9:50 am

    I turned up my nose at Twitter from the very beginning. I was a Facebook snob. But then the recent mission to Hubble, I started following all sorts of people in Florida as they prepared and were involved with the whole mission and I watched in real time all this cool stuff and interacted and learned so much more than I normally do by just watching NASA TV. I have watched every launch of shuttle for at least 10 years. Now I am not on Facebook anymore and love reading Tweets from people. It is a great service to the world. I have never seen a launch but doubt I will be able to before the program is finished. It is so hard to plan a “vacation” around a launch because of scrubs and problems etc. Anyways – I LOVE THIS BLOG and will visit regularly.

  13. #13 by yoshi on June 2, 2009 - 5:04 am

    well you’ve convinced me to stick around in twitter just a little longer. There are a lot of folks on twitter that are cool. Not to mention all the celebrities that are on there too.

    Although I have to admit that it gets a bit tiring sometimes. I’ll have to keep up with it though.

    Thanks for including me in your list, i’m so totally flattered!

  14. #14 by Jen on June 4, 2009 - 7:38 pm

    Oh, hang around and stick it out for a while. You never know, it might grow on you after a while.

    You belong on that list- even though we don’t communicate often, I consider you a kindred spirit 🙂

  15. #15 by Joey on July 11, 2009 - 5:58 pm

    I am one of your “space enthusiast” followers and love to keep up with your updates! Im a ‘behind-the-scenes’ type of person anyway so I really enjoy your posts. Keep up the great work!

  16. #16 by Alex on July 15, 2009 - 11:21 pm

    That is awesome, Jen! I haven’t taken the Twitter plunge, yet…I don’t think many Kwaj people have…although, when and IF we ever move back to the States, I TOTALLY will! 🙂 I always thought it was kind of intimidating, but now that I know your friendly face is on there…miss you!

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