tanks to science:
How Katy Schmoll came to UCAR
When Richard Nixon was vice president back in the 1950s,
he made an appearance in Katy Schmolls hometown of Fort Wayne,
the same day she had to stay home from school with a case of hives. Katys
mother took her to see him, and six-year-old Katy decided right then
that she wanted to work for the government someday. The only other serious
option she saw for herself at the time was becoming a Broadway musical
So one of my first mentors was Richard Nixon, jokes Katy,
who is now a vice president herself of finance and administration in UCAR.
Not many people know about that.
On 8 May, Katy gave a summary of her career and some of her thoughts
on management, mentoring, and different work environments in a presentation
titled Im From the Government and Im Here to Help You.
Her talk, held at the Center Green auditorium, was part of the mentoring
and coaching series organized by the Coaching Peers group. About 100 staffers
Katys government career started in Sterling Heights, Michigan, where
she got a job shortly after college graduation with the U.S. Army Tank
Automotive Command. Not only did she think the town was awful, but she
had to read defense acquisitions regulations all day and found she had
little in common with many of her colleagues.
I went home after the first night and thought seriously about McDonalds
being not that bad of a career, she told the audience.
But Katy stuck it out and found a good mentor who could teach her about
contracting. She took this knowledge to her next job at NASAs Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where she worked on the Hubbell
Space Telescope and other projects.
I got to do some very exciting things at NASA, but mostly, just
working there was really exciting, she said. She credited this to
NASAs fascinating projects, interesting people, and the sense of
contributing to cutting-edge science that employees there have.
At NASA Katy learned the importance of asking her colleagues questions
about their work and giving them recognition. She encountered large egos
but decided to take her jobnot herselfseriously.
After 16 years at NASA, she decided it was time to move on and went to
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she worked as a comptroller
overseeing 350 employees.
It was the most challenging job Ive ever had, she recalled.
It was extremely stressful.
Unlike NASA, which at the time enjoyed broad public support for its mission,
the politics surrounding the EPA could be nasty, she explained.
The neighborhood surrounding the EPAs Washington, D.C., office was
even rougher than the politics. And then there were the routine 14-hour
So after four years at the EPA, Katy made the decision to leave Washington
and head west to join UCAR in 1997. Her first impression was Boy,
this is pretty country! as she watched deer outside her window in
the Fleischmann Building. Her second impression was that people actually
have lives hereshe would find herself home from work at 5:30 p.m.
and wonder how to spend all her newfound free time.
At her finance and administration post, Katy considers herself a mentor
as well as an administrator. She gave the audience a list of traits that
she thinks are most important for mentors: openness, honesty, trust, and
integrity; a positive approach; a sense of humor; and good role-modeling
You cant expect someone to act a certain way if you dont
act that way yourself, she said.
Katy recommended that UCAR/
NCAR staffers take advantage of the educational opportunities offered
by the organization to keep themselves motivated, and that they make a
point of asking questions and learning about their colleagues work.
If she could change anything about the organization, she concluded,
it would be to increase recognition of the contributions of administrative
staff. This organization exists because of scientists, she
said, but its the administrative people in this room who make
it possible for them to do what they do. Nicole Gordon
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