Leslie Ambrose Credit: NASA
Leadership Highlight, TDRS, hubble space telescope, Profile 

Leadership Highlight, Leslie Ambrose

October 4, 2016

The ESC community has been behind the scenes for the Hubble Space Telescope’s entire lifespan, providing communications and navigation services. Leslie Ambrose, the networks integration manager for space science, stands as a liaison between NASA’s space science missions and both the Near Earth and Space Networks. It is her job to define the communications services that the networks provide for space science missions. Ambrose is a role model to women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Hubble’s initial portfolio of communications services was defined before Ambrose came on board. She started her work with Hubble‘s servicing mission 3A in 1999. A favorite memory is coordinating the communications services for the critical space shuttle docking stage of the mission. Since the servicing missions, there are occasional requirements changes for Hubble requiring a re-definition of its communications and navigations needs.

Ambrose’s story of how she became an engineer is quite serendipitous. Uninterested in school, she graduated high school early at the age of 16. She went on to work for two years in a print shop, when it hit her she needed a more substantial career. Initially attracted to becoming a flight attendant, she felt there were too many barriers to that career. Rather, she felt getting a college degree would be more instantly gratifying. She enrolled at University of Maryland as a math major, because she always enjoyed the subject in school.

One night, over a friend’s home for dinner, the father, who was an engineer, said to Ambrose, “You want to come out of college making more money than you did going in. Major in engineering; it’s just applied math anyway.” The next day, without even knowing what she was getting into, Ambrose switched her major to engineering, eventually settling on electrical engineering, where she saw infinite possibilities.

Being a woman in STEM brought positive experiences and challenges. In college, there were some professors who would ignore the only 10% of women enrolled in the engineering program. On the other hand, there were professors who would go out of their way to help her. Sometimes the only woman in a class, Ambrose felt supported by her Dean, who was also a woman. Giving praise to the women who had paved the way for her, twenty years prior, Ambrose is grateful for the doors that were opened for her in her career. Ambrose’s 30+ year career at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD started as an intern for NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) project.

Ambrose believes Goddard is the best place to work. Goddard provides diversity, challenge, and innovation. She has never felt limited in her career here and believes that Goddard is an incubator for dreams and visions coming true. Her path in life, her career, and at Goddard has helped her understand, live, and define innovation. Innovation is, “thinking outside of the box; dreaming things. Maybe not today, but tomorrow, dreaming is the first step, figuring out how to make it possible,” and that continues to inspire Ambrose everyday.