Jason Detko’s roots run deep in serving his country. His father, Tom, served in the Air Force for 20 years, and Detko upheld the tradition with nine years of active duty. Afterward, he lent his talents to the Air Force and Army as a civilian before landing at Marshall Space Flight Center in November 2018.
“It’s nearly impossible to find any other organization that provides such an impact on the world that we live in,” Detko said of the space agency. He has been an active part of that impact for the last two years as director of Marshall’s Office of Procurement, where he manages approximately 130 team members focused on the contract execution efforts that keep the center running smoothly. The team accomplishes all pre- and post-award functions for Marshall procurement portfolios, and agency-wide or regional product service lines – ranging from institutional contracts supporting day-to-day center operations to large procurements supporting NASA’s Space Launch System and Human Landing System programs.
Detko met virtually with Marshall media specialist Taylor Goodwin to discuss the business solutions behind NASA missions, a team connection that a pandemic could not breach, and advice for aspiring agency contributors.
Question: What is the team environment like in the Office of Procurement? How are team members collaborating and supporting one another to maximize success and innovation?
Detko: We are very fortunate to have a close-knit, family-like environment in the office. Through this relationship, we are able to leverage the skills and abilities of each team member to enable mission success. We enjoy ourselves and have a little levity from time to time, but the team always has their sights on maintaining our commitments. We’re focused on executing our tasks to best support the customer.
Question: What kind of partnerships is your team pursuing to help the agency and the nation put the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024?
Detko: One of the largest partnerships we have is with the other procurement offices across the agency. There used to be 10 independent offices, but now we are beginning to operate as one unified office. We’re able to leverage some of the expertise and resources from the other centers to help support Marshall’s mission. We’re supporting missions and teams at other NASA centers with our personnel and their respective talents as well. I think that has really helped us connect, not just to the programs here at Marshall but to all agency programs.
Question: How does your team define and achieve mission success?
Detko: We always say that the contract is a means to an end. It’s important for us to get these contracts in place. Though these contracts don’t perform the mission tasks, they do often serve as a critical first step in enabling a mission’s success. So we define our success as the success of our supported organizations. Success for them means success for us.
Question: Can you describe the most rewarding moment for you in this role so far?
Detko: We’ve had a lot of stellar moments, but the most rewarding experience is seeing how my team has pulled together during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have continued supporting each other and connecting as a team as we’re all struggling and adapting to this challenging environment. We’re leveraging the technology we have access to and the team’s creativity to make new connections and maintain the collaboration that we built before we left our on-site offices. We’re assigning trainers to each new teammate to ensure that they are well integrated into the organization and that they feel connected to the resources needed to be successful. We’re having virtual scavenger hunts, office trivia, and finding other innovative ways to maintain connection, outside of just doing work. To watch my teammates support the Marshall and agency priorities and to keep all of our commitments through all of this has just been fabulous.
Question: What advice would you give to students and young professionals who want to be part of NASA’s mission?
Detko: NASA is an incredible, inspiring place to be. My advice to those who want to join the team would be not to wait. You have to be proactive and take advantage of the opportunities to connect with the people at NASA. Seek out and participate in internship and mentor programs, get involved with some of the professional groups that NASA is part of, and engage with the agency’s social media platforms. Whatever avenue you choose, don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. Opportunity will rarely come knocking on your door, but you have every right to seek it out.
Editor’s note: Taylor Goodwin, a Media Fusion employee, supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.