About Joe Williams (@rikerjoe)

Thanks for clicking on the URL in my Twitter profile.  Here’s a little background on who I am, what I do, and more importantly, why I do it.

My Foundation

First of all, I’ve been married to my wife JoAnn for 13 years, and we have two daughters.  We live in Friendswood, Texas, just south of Houston.  My wife and daughters are the prime focus in my life and give me the foundation that inspires me to do the things I do.  My passions are rooted with them.

Leading Space

Speaking of passions, you know those “rocket scientists” that people sometimes like to make fun of?  Well, I happen to be one – I’m a real-life rocket scientist employed by NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.  My technical background is in orbital rendezvous for human spaceflight, honed first in developing software for a shuttle simulation in the late 1980’s before progressing to the ranks of a Shuttle flight controller in Mission Control during the 1990’s.

Throughout my NASA career, I’ve been self-driven to improve the performance and lower the cost of human spaceflight.  It’s a different kind of rocket equation – one that realizes that affordability is key for the future of human spaceflight.  As for my current role at NASA, I like to say that I’m a “rocket scientist that dabbles in business.”  What that means is that I lead teams that plan strategically how NASA’s mission operations in Houston should acquire the goods and services it needs to fulfill its role in human spaceflight – whether it is for Mission Control, the training facilities where we train astronauts, or the people who work in them – in ways that improves performance and reduces cost.  My desire to connect with others who could help me succeed in leadership and business is what first brought me to Twitter.  Through Twitter, I’ve built a community of fellow leaders, coaches, executives, innovators, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts – a fascinating mash-up that has helped me tremendously on my quest to make human spaceflight more affordable.  On my blog, Leading Space, I share my experiences on this journey – both the things I do well, and the things I don’t do as well – as well as my perspectives on the happenings at NASA in matters pertaining to human spaceflight policy.  Occasionally I’ll write a retrospective on my days as a Shuttle flight controller.   It’s my way of giving back.  In a way, I’m like a kid in a candy store, exploring different areas from hard-core rocket science to leadership.  I love what I do!

My Other Interests

I’m into general fitness.  In my past I trained for and ran several half marathons.  In recent years I transitioned from running to cycling to save wear and tear on my knees, and have added strength training to my repertoire.  I’ve connected with a community of fitness experts and fellow enthusiasts on Twitter for motivation and inspiration, and you can find me on dailymile, too.

My creative pursuit is photography, where I’m drawn to landscapes (and my daughters, of course).  As an amateur, I’m constantly experimenting with different techniques and learning what works by trial and error.  A number of years ago I stepped up to the big leagues and bought my first digital SLR, a Nikon D60, which I absolutely love and still use today.  Yet another community I built on Twitter is one of advanced amateur and professional photographers, from whom I’ve learned a lot in improving my technique and artistic expression.

More Reading

I’ve just scratched the surface here.  One of my earliest blog entries is a story about my journey from childhood to leading teams at NASA, which hopefully will fill in some details in the career story above.  Some selected other entries that share a bit more about me are Reflections on GettysburgThe QuestionReflections on Hubble, and Uncertainty.  Finally, here are some interviews for additional insights:

Connect with Me

Thanks for visiting my about page.  If you haven’t already, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and introduce yourself with an @ reply.  Or head over to my home page on Leading Space and interact with me there.  I look forward to it!