Tiera Fletcher is building a rocket to take humans to Mars. A rocket structural engineer, she is working on NASA’s Space Launch System in New Orleans.
Our first mission is set for early 2020. It’s meant to take us around the moon and test the rocket capabilities before we even put humans on. Then, by the 2030s, our goal is to get to Mars with humans. It’s super exciting, and it can become overwhelming, of course, when you have deadlines and so many things that people have never done before. We’re learning each and every day, but it’s thrilling to be able to look at and touch the rocket—that’s my favorite part of my daily tasks. One thing about engineering is that it’s team-based. Everyone has a role, so when something falls back, it affects the next part of that. The main thing is just to work with the team to make it happen. That might mean taking on responsibilities that aren’t usually mine because someone needs help or there’s a lag in a certain area.
I didn’t always believe in myself. I didn’t think that I could get into MIT or get a job at Boeing, but those were hurdles I had created for myself that weren’t necessarily there. I had the skill set; I just didn’t believe in my abilities. My parents, my family, my friends, and my husband [who also works on the rocket] helped mold me into a more confident person.
When beginning, focus, focus, focus, focus. Stay focused to the point that naysayers can’t affect your path. Always make a short-term goal that contributes to your long-term goal. Writing things down is my way of visualizing things—just a simple list or a timeline of where I want to be. Even in college, I would write out my entire schedule for the week, starting on Sunday, hour by hour, so I could lay out my goals and how I was going to complete them.