In this video, we follow the journey of a resource analyst at NASA who leverages her education from the Technical Management Graduate Program at UMBC to bring value to her work. Marissa Jagarnath, M.P.S. ’22 Technical Management, explains how her education has helped her to better understand the technical and managerial aspects of her role, and how she is able to apply this knowledge to improve processes and decision-making at NASA. This podcast episode offers valuable insights into the ways in which education can make a difference in the workplace.
0:00 Intro and welcome
1:09 Path to graduate school
3:33 Working at NASA
6:52 Figuring out what you don’t want to do
8:16 Expectations of graduate school
10:47 Graduate school interactions
13:41 Biggest takeaway
15:10 Pacing oneself is key
17:54 Favorite quote
About the Technical Management Program at UMBC
The program prepares students to be effective leaders and problem-solvers in a range of industries, including aerospace and technology. Whether you're a student looking to pursue a career in technical management or a professional seeking to enhance your skills, the M.P.S. Technical Management program at UMBC can help you get there.
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Hi, and thank you for joining us for this episode of UMBC Mic'd Up up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs at UMBC. Today, I am joined by Marissa Jagarnath from our technical management graduate program. We hope that you enjoy this discussion. Marissa, it's so wonderful to have you here on UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
Dennise Cardona 0:28
So it's really great to have you here. And I'm really excited before I hit the publish button on this record button, I should say, I just told you that I'm really excited to speak with you because you graduated from the technical management graduate program here at UMBC. And I have been looking forward to speaking with somebody in that program. So I'm so happy that you decided to participate in this interview with us. So thank you for that. I'm really grateful. That being said, can you tell us a little bit about your journey to get to UMBC and the technical management graduate program?
Yeah. So I got my undergrad in management, cyber information technology. And so once I had graduated in 2019, I was like, you know, I work at NASA, and I'm with all these engineers and the scientists all day, I think it would be really great if I could have a better understanding or be able to relate to them a bit more in my job was like, Okay, I don't want an MBA, but I want something a little bit more technical. And so as I was looking, technical management popped up for UMBC. And so I was like, Oh, why not? So I applied, and my brother goes to UMBC. So he's got a completely different, but his experience at the school has been great. So I was like, why not? So I applied?
Dennise Cardona 1:46
Ah, that's great. And I, hey, I can attest as well. I've been at UMBC for 16 years now as a staff member, but I'm also a graduate student. And I've been doing that for about three years. And I'm almost ready to graduate in May. So you must be here, because you just graduated in December.
Dennise Cardona 2:04
Thank you. Congratulations to you. So it's a really great community. I love being part of UMBC. Right off the top, what would you say? What did you like most about being a student at UMBC in the graduate program?
So I consider myself a fresh out, right, I went immediately from my undergrad to my graduate degree. And so when I started with technical management, there was so many people from different like, they've been in like this stuff, the private sector, the public sector, they've been government, they've done like Northrop Grumman. And they've been there for like years and years on end, right. So I have this fresh, like school knowledge and a little bit of like, professional experience, and the people are coming with all of this professional experience. So I really, really enjoyed having like the conversations in the classroom with them with even like the with material even outside of the classroom. So I thought that that was really invaluable.
Dennise Cardona 2:51
Oh, yeah, being able to speak to people doing things are different from what you're doing in your real life, yet somehow related with the technical end. I really think that's how people learn best is being around other people, and picking up picking each other's brains, right and figuring out like, Okay, we may work for different companies, we may have different roles, but some of the things are very similar and being able to hear and see and witness how other people kind of I don't want to say, you know, attack of problem but yes, attack a problem and figure out solutions, and how do they do that? That's a really good learning opportunity. So you work at NASA, that's awesome. Can you talk a little bit about what your role is there at NASA?
So, I am what you call a resources analysts. So I work directly with the engineers and the scientists to come up with like estimates for how much something will cost and if they receive funding, how they're going to spend that money to get these things launched into space or into testing. And you get to be a part of these things that you may not be able to see launch now other than in 20 years, something like JWST launches, and you're like, wow, I was a part of something like that. So even you know, it's really interesting.
Dennise Cardona 4:06
Yeah, what, what would you say is the most fascinating part about being part of a NASA team?
It has to be the interactions you have, because there's to have so many minds from all over the place, right? They have all of these backgrounds, and to see, like you said earlier to tackle a problem, and to see them take something and just to completely deconstruct it and put it back together in like 15 different ways. And at the same time, they're trying to figure out how to be cost effective and like, how can this work not only now but like 10 years from now, what that looks like, I love that just so that the intricacies of like the teams and everything at NASA. I love it.
Dennise Cardona 4:43
Yeah, I would imagine if you are just out and about at a social gathering, and somebody hears that you work at NASA, they probably want to pick your brain and talk to you all night long about the latest and greatest things going on there.
Everyone's wants to talk about Mars. Going to the moon. Yeah.
Dennise Cardona 5:02
Oh my god, the Webber telescope. Right. Yeah. That must have been something fascinating.
James Webb was phenomenal. Yeah. Yeah. Wow.
Dennise Cardona 5:09
That's so cool. So in terms of the technical management program, how did that prepare you for some of the things that you are doing now in your role at NASA?
It reinforced a lot of what I was doing at NASA. So a lot of the team building a lot of the, like, the statistics from one of the classes that we had, it definitely reinforced what I was already doing, because I was, I was just doing them because I had to do them. And so through the program, I understood, like the implications of like, if you're doing it, this is kind of what it'll do for you 10-15 years out, or like, this is how you're doing. And this is why we do it in the industry. And I really enjoyed that. Because a lot of it is just kind of like, Here you go. You kind of figure it out, and you get it done. And then you know, you had a class, you're like, that is why I do that. That makes sense. So I really Yeah, that was like,
Dennise Cardona 6:01
Yeah, I'm curious. So you graduated with an undergraduate? And then you got a job at NASA? Or was it
I went to the Pathways Program. So I got it during my undergrad. So I started at NASA in 2017 as a pathway student. And then so I've been a research analyst the whole way through. And then so I graduated 2019, I didn't convert to a civil servant, I was like, Oh, maybe I want to be a contractor, I want to be a little bit more technical. Because during my undergrad, I launched sounding rockets on the RockSat program. So I was like, Oh, this is kind of cool. I think I want to continue to do this. So I was like, Okay, let's try being a contractor for a year. And being like a task lead. And I wasn't really a fan of it, I missed the resource analyst work, I miss dealing with the money side of things. And so I applied for UMBC, again, and I got into the pathway program again. And now I'm a permanent Civil Service Resource analyst.
Dennise Cardona 6:49
Yay! That's really awesome that you figured out what you didn't want to do, and what you did want to do. And I think a lot of times we forget that it's, it's in those times that we realize we pin what we don't want to do. I mean, I know I've been there to where I'm like, I really don't like this aspect of my job. I really want to figure out a way to not have to do that so much and maybe do this instead, I think that's a real gift when you can figure that out. And when an organization allows you the opportunity to sort of be flexible enough to figure that out, too. Yeah, that to me, is such a gift to be able to kind of experiment in your own mind. What's working what's not, and realizing like, yeah, maybe this education will help me figure, Figure out this end.
With the technical management program, it helped me see how much more value it is to be a resource analyst. And I gave more value to my job. So I just that's why I really liked the program at UMBC.
Dennise Cardona 7:54
Absolutely. Yeah, I'm really, I'm happy to hear that. Did you have any sort of expectations before going into the program? Things that you expected you'd get out of it? And did you?
I didn't really know what to expect, right? Because when I am a first generation student, so a lot for a lot of my family. I'm the only one with my master's among a couple of my cousins. So going in, I was like, I don't really know what to expect, like, I know some programs are really intense with like reading and writing and others are really intense with like math, depending what you're doing. I was like, I don't really know what I want. So when I got in there, and I, when I started and it was basically it's like very much discussion based. And like the reading, I enjoy all those things. The little nitty gritty, little tiny details, I love stuff like that. So yeah,
Dennise Cardona 8:38
Its the analyst in you.
Yeah its the analyst in me. Yeah, it's like I love things like that. So when we started using the class, I was like, This is great. Like I this, this feels like, I don't want to say it feels like nothing but like it just, it was like a breeze like it's, I could take it in stride and keep going.
Dennise Cardona 8:51
I think that has something to do with who you are as a person to write. So you enjoy that kind of, you probably enjoy writing, you probably enjoy, enjoy discussing, you probably enjoy all of that interaction and learning that way and being able to apply things that way. Whereas some people, they're like, I just, lock me in a room with a computer. And let me figure this stuff out. So I really I think, I think that speaks, that speaks highly to what the program is about and how it sort of, you know, how its laid out for students? Was there? Could you talk a little bit about what the peer to peer engagement was like in a classroom setting there at UMBC.
We had groups, like little in groups within the class, and then you would have, like, you know, just generalize, like group discussion. But when we had those little groups, like I've made friends in those classes that I still talk to, and so it's great, because we'll we'll, we'll still joke about like what we've learned in the class, we're still referenced the material, and the books will be solid still have the books, and we're like, oh, that's what that person said. And so yeah.
Dennise Cardona 9:54
Yeah, it's nice when you can have a community of learners that way. I found that with my program at UMBC, as well, with both the faculty and the peers, like being able to, I'm very close with some of my peers that I'm, I'm in school with, and some have already graduated. I've connected with them on LinkedIn. And we have really great lively discussions and such. And some of the folks who is just, they're just amazing. Well, what did you think of like, what were your takeaways from the faculty? What? What would they like?
Everyone is very approachable. So I know, I'm always very apprehensive to be like, Hey, I don't really understand this. But the professor's were very good at being like, you're not supposed to understand everything like you need someone to rely on. That's what you have your peers for, that's what in groups are for. And that's what I'm here for as like a supplement. It's not like this, I like my word, is my word is the end all be all. It's take my opinion, right? Take the opinions of your others come up with your own and then come back, and we'll talk about it. So I really enjoy that. Because I'm from like, a, like a, like a, like a sciency kind of background or like, and I feel like there's sometimes there's always an answer, there's always a right answer. And with this program, it gives you the opportunity to have multiple answers and still kind of be right at the end of the day. So I really like that,
Dennise Cardona 11:14
Oh, that's even better. To be right at the end of the day. Yeah, and it's not like a black and white, it's a there's a little gray area there where you can prove yourself and you can have discussions and be able to maybe win debates on that. Yeah, I think that's really, that's really cool. That, that sounds like a really fun way to learn. So one of my instructors in my program, you know, I was the same way I was like, Oh, my gosh, I didn't want to be wrong with things. And I felt like, Okay, I'm gonna hand this assignment in, and I have no idea if I'm in the right direction or not. And, you know, I'm a, maybe I would call myself a more seasoned student, like, you know, I've been around the block a few, a few decades. And so I, you know, I want I don't want to be like that student that doesn't get it or is holding the rest of the class back or whatnot. But I remember, last semester, I handed in an assignment, kind of at the beginning of the semester and felt a little apprehensive about it, and self conscious. And, lo and behold, yes, I kind of like messed up part of the assignment, I didn't get it. And my instructor was so awesome. She, she said to me, this sticks with my, sticks in me even with what I do at UMBC as a, as a staff member, that the point of any, any situation that you put yourself in is not to be perfect. It is to progress. And, you know, she mentioned she said, Look, you're in graduate school, because you want to learn something. So obviously, you're not going to have all the answers. And that's what we're here for is to help guide you on that learning journey. So it's great when you don't have all the answers because it gives you that opportunity to gather more answers. And I thought, Ah, I love that approach. And I that, that I can I can get behind that. And I feel better about things. So after I did, after that conversation, I was able to hand things into her with more confidence knowing it's okay, if I'm like, not perfect on it. She's here to guide me. So anybody listening to this, who is a graduate student right now, or somebody who is considering graduate school, you do not have to worry about being perfect. You just have to show up and want to learn and progress, right?
Dennise Cardona 13:34
What was your biggest takeaway from studying in the technical management graduate program here at UMBC?
So my biggest takeaway from the technical management program is you don't have to be scared to get the assignments done or to work with others. I was very timid during my undergrad, I didn't really ask my questions. I didn't really socialize too much. I didn't really put my all into my work in groups. But through the technical management program, I was able to become more comfortable with someone from a different sector or a different agency. And just understand that, like my thoughts and opinions, and my answers, were also just as important as the next person's. And I think that that's something that is completely invaluable. When you're looking into a graduate program, because you've done all the studying you need to do for your four years, and now you're in grad school, you're just taking what you've learned there and applying it and sharing it with others and I cannot be more grateful for that.
Dennise Cardona 14:26
Oh, I love it, like learning and sharing. Like, to me, is there any greater way to put what education really means in this world is learning something and going out there in the world and sharing it with other people? Hmm, yeah, that was a powerful statement that you just made there. It resonates. And I think it's going to resonate with a lot of people who are listening to this. So can you think of anything else that I have not asked you? That you think other people who may be watching this or on YouTube or listening on a podcast player If they're on the fence, and they're not really sure if technical management is something they should even consider, what would you say to them?
It's a lot of work. It is a lot of work. But you can take it one class at a time, right? And then even within your one class at a time, the professors and the students are there to help you and work with you. So there was nothing that you can't do to get your graduate degree. At the end of the day. I took three ish years to get it done versus when my head and my expectation, I was like, Well, I can get it done in one. But it took me three. So I, there's nothing you can't do. I recommend that you can take your time. At the end of the day when you're done. You're done. You have a degree. So
Dennise Cardona 15:41
Absolutely. There's no regret there at all. It's yeah. And it goes by so fast, doesn't it? Marissa? Yeah. It's been three years or more almost three years for me. And when I first started, I thought, oh, my gosh, what am I doing, but it was during the pandemic, and I had nothing else to do. So I said, I really need to challenge my brain because I'm, you know, freaking out about the world. And this is a good way to use my brain. And but I remember thinking, this is a long seems like a long road, like three years, maybe even four years. That's like a long time. But gosh, it went by so fast. And I'm like, I'm in my last semester. I like I can't believe that and you get I just graduated, it must be just an amazing feeling.
Yeah, yeah. And I know, myself, I very much value like person to person, like in person classes and stuff of that. So I had the one semester on campus, and then we launched into the pandemic, right, and then I got, and then I never went back to the, to the, to the campus. So I remember when the pandemic hit, and we switched to everything online, I was worried I was like, I don't, I don't always do too well in this online environment. But I was very surprised at myself at how well I did and how accommodating UMBC was when we when we had to go through into the the online environment. So I yeah, I was surprised.
Dennise Cardona 16:57
Excellent. Yes. And I know UMBC for the most part now. It generally speaking, it's in person hybrid and online as well. So they've got options for everybody. Yes, I personally, I personally love online learning. And I love, I love developing that online learning as well. So I'm a fan of that. But I see a lot of value. And I can understand the value in having that in person interaction for, for learning, because, you know, it's it's something that there are certain discussions that are just so much better when it's like right there in a timely fashion. Yeah, definitely. I always love to ask these, this question in a podcast episode. Because we like to, we like to focus sometimes on this professional essentials development type of audience. And I know that our listeners enjoy that professional development stuff. So Marissa, my question for you is, what is your favorite quote, and why?
Okay, so my favorite quote isn't like anything official and published and out there. But it's, it's known in like, I heard it from another resource analyst when I first started, and they were like, every issue was a solvable problem. So there was always a solution. There's nothing just, why are you freaking out? There's always an answer. If you make a mistake, we can fix it. So I that's, that's my favorite, like quotes or quotes.
Dennise Cardona 18:27
That is an awesome quote, I, my director at UMBC taught me that lesson. Many, many years ago, I would go into her office and be like, I have this problem. And without a solution. And she's like, Denise, you gotta bring solutions. Next time, I want you to bring a solution. That was the biggest lesson professional lesson I have learned is Yeah. Okay. So now, like I love coming in with solutions, that might not be the right one. But it gets the ball rolling. It's so important to have that solutions oriented seeker type of mentality with anything, even like trying to find your pocketbook. If you forgot where you put your wallet problem solve, find the solution. Everything does have a solution. We might not like the solution all the time, but there is a solution to most everything in this world. And my last question is, What is the greatest lesson that you've ever learned in your life so far?
My greatest lesson it's okay not to live to your own expectations. You I, know I set myself because I guess would be in my head, the highest level that I could be and sometimes I can't even meet my own expectations. So it's okay. You don't always have to have to hit it. You can. It's always changing. It's ever-evolving. It's okay. We can talk about it for a day and we'll move on.
Dennise Cardona 19:47
Good advice because I think a lot of people if you're if you have that sort of overachiever personality or they call it the Type A personality. It can be really hard not to like meet your expectations and, you know, like you can have a to do list that's 50 million items long. And if you don't catch if you don't check every single thing off at the end of the day, you feel like you've failed. And it's like, you know, forget that 499 that you that you did. I didn't. I didn't do the 500th, the last one there. So, yeah, that's a really good piece of advice. And I hope that listeners, let it marinate and take that on, because it's really important to set your expectations, expect things but know that you're, we're all working progress. Yeah. On that note, I just want to say this has been a really great conversation. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. I'm so grateful that you were willing to come on and speak with us and you know, share some insights with the listeners on your experience with UMBC. And what you're doing now with NASA, which I think is just so cool. Thank you for listening to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, do a search for technical management at UMBC or click the link in the show notes.