Day 22 as a NASA JPL intern on the Psyche Mission

Joan Marie
4 min readJun 28, 2021

I love my job but I appreciate Fridays a lot. It’s nice to take a break and not focus on work after a week of info overload. Even though I can’t help it but think about work anyway. Today was going over the tool that Josh explained to me the day before. I thought it would be a good day to reconnect with my incredible mentor to ask her for some advice on the art of leading and the art of leading a meeting. She’s your definition of a boss woman. She gave me some awesome tips on how to be a leader and how to effectively host a meeting. Here’s just a quick summary of what we discussed:

  • During weekly meetings, you need to keep in mind:
  1. Who’s there?
  2. What do they need to know?

Some awesome things to do:

  1. send a quick email before the meeting to describe the agenda
  • * Since it’s a weekly meeting. It’s probably best to keep things standardized.

2. At the end of the meeting, you should list out the action items followed by any questions or feedback

3. Summarize verbally what was discussed

  • ** Important to keep in mind the purpose of the meeting****

4. Some people have a tendency to talk a lot during meetings. I as a lead have the ability to control the meetings and sometimes that means I have to interrupt people.

This means that whenever someone is going on about something that the group is barely keeping up with, you need to interrupt and talk about it with them another time .

5. Say you have an hour meeting scheduled from 10–11.
Schedule the meeting to be from 10:05 to 10:55. This way we’re mindful that some people may be coming from a previous meeting and need some time to prep and we’re also mindful that they have a meeting right after.

It also cuts down the downtime that usually happens in a meeting which I absolutely despise.

At the end of the day, we want to give people their time to do the work that they have to do. And that’s exactly what my goal is. To be as clear and efficient with meetings.

Question to ask yourself: What is a good use of my time?

Michelle had a super funny but meaningful story she shared with me which had to do with one of her first tasks to do at JPL. She couldn’t get two pieces of technology to work and it took her all day to figure out something that seemed so simple. Her boss then went up to her and she told him about the little pickle she’s in and it had something to do with the byte differences? And He proceeded to ask her “Michelle what would have made this easier for you” and she thought of some technology that cost about $200. And then he mentioned that her as a JPL employee cost a certain amount to work at JPL. Costs include :

  • the janitors that have to clean the floors and take out the garbage at your desk
  • IT that needs to be available every day at your beckon call
  • HR that needs to be available so you can get your timecards configured
  • the electricity that has to be on at all times whenever you work late


If it only takes $200 to buy something that will make your life easier and allow you to produce more work in your day, it’s worth it. Ask for help. Ask for the things that you actually need.

She continued to emphasize of making meetings worth it. Whenever she has to host a critical design review, it takes a lot for 3 heads to meet up together for hours just to get through this review.

So when leading a team, you need to be as effective and as efficient as possible.

That absolutely blew my mind and it put into perspective what I need to do moving forward. Yeah I could try to figure things by myself but it would save so much time for me to schedule a 15 minute call so they could explain something that they know about that I need to learn which will give me more time to do the work.

6) It’s so important to humanize meetings. SO SO Important. We’re not robots. Most of the meetings I’ve been to goes straight to the point which makes a lot of sense because the show must go on. But it’s crucial to humanize interactions w/ your team.

I then proceeded to ask her for some advice on how to know when you should spend your time learning something for a task and when to say that I just don’t have the time or skillset for something. As a toolsmith, engineers will be requesting tasks that may have to do with something I am still not truly comfortable with. Do I spend the time to really learn it ? How much time do I tell them it will actually take?

She mentioned that this is a really hard skill. But here’s the advice that she gave:

  1. add magin
  2. add time for yourself to figure out the scope
  3. Know what the FTE’s times are

She described it as kind of being a puppet master.

It’s important to know personal constraints which include how much time they’re actually able to spend on a project.

The best way to do this is to have 1 on 1 personal relationships with the team. She was saying that there will be leaders out there who will have a disconnected and disillusioned team who meets all their requirements. But once something goes wrong, everyone’s blaming each other because there was no proper communication. She recommended doing one on one talks but overall just chosing the best communication method for the person.

One thing that I want to end with is: SCOPE. THE. TASK.

Don’t just go in there and start coding right away. Break it down and figure out the feasibility. I have a bad habit of not doing this. ;___; But it’s ok! Still learning! Here’s to a short holiday week. I’ll be going into the lab on Tuesday which is super exciting. Cheers!!



Joan Marie

Help. I’m trying to become a better coder/engineer