Women’s History Month: Highlighting Women at JSC - Part 2

Irene Kaye - assistant to the director, Safety and Mission Assurance (SM&A) Directorate

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Irene Kaye - assistant to the director, Safety and Mission Assurance (SM&A) Directorate. Photo credit: Irene Kaye.
Kaye’s main role is to manage the procurement aspects of SM&A. She recently served as the acting manager for the Management Integration Office. Kaye also works as the outreach liaison for the non-aerospace commercial community.

“My job tends to be varied and unpredictable,” Kaye said. “I like that part of it because there is always something new to learn and an opportunity to work with people I have not met before.”

Kaye expressed that in today’s environment, the biggest challenge is “trying to predict what our work will be over the next five years.” She feels the only way to do that is to try to stay in tune with what is going on around the agency and keep up with the changes. Kaye said it also helps to “understand the vision of what our organization would like to be as this helps guide future predictions.”

Kaye said the path to her NASA career was a very “meandering” one, and if someone had told her during the amazing Apollo missions that she would be working for NASA at the Johnson Space Center, she would have told them “they were nuts.”

“I grew up a Manitoba prairie farm girl and during the ‘50s and ‘60s, a female was expected to aspire to being a mother and a housewife,” Kaye said. “Of course, there were some career options like teaching, nursing and secretarial but those required an advance education, which was out of reach for me – I thought.”

As it turned out, Kaye has had “an amazing and very eventful life.” She has lived in four countries including several states and provinces, gone to many different colleges, tried more than one degree plan (criminology being the first) and worked in several different industries. By the time Kaye landed in Houston, she was the mother of two sons and made a decision to switch to mechanical engineering.

“My first engineering job was with the chemical plants in Texas City,” Kaye said. “The oil bust in the ‘80s helped me make the decision to move to the aerospace industry, and I became a NASA contractor. NASA hired me in 1988 and I have had the time of my life working with some of the most amazing people on the planet. It almost seems unfair.”

Hobbies outside of work

Kaye said her main hobby is her granddaughter who is graduating from high school this year, and the family is very busy planning her future.

“We have two very energetic dogs who have somehow become the masters of the house,” Kaye said. “It is inexcusable to miss feeding and walking time. The good part about them is they do provide schedule structure and they keep me entertained with their antics.”

Kaye also tries to find time to do volunteer work. She serves on the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol board and is a mentor for women who are trying to regain their independence.

“I enjoy my volunteer activities a great deal, in particular since it is a good reminder of how fortunate I am,” Kaye said. “My relaxation activity is gardening. I suspect my desire to dig in the dirt comes from my roots. This is my favorite time of year when everything starts growing and the color starts to show in the yard.”

Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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Updated: 03/29/2011