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PORTRAIT: LOUCIOUS HIRES

Loucious Hires has a long history in government service. After leaving his small hometown of Roberta, Georgia, at age 17, he lent his skills to the Army, Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, and Veterans Affairs Office before joining NASA in 2014.

Since becoming the director of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Marshall Space Flight Center, Hires has helped create a more inclusive and equitable center environment through his work in the establishment of various programs, partnerships, symposiums and events.

Hires met virtually with Marshall media specialist Taylor Goodwin to discuss his role in integrating people of all backgrounds at Marshall.

Question: What is the team environment like in ODEO? How are your team members collaborating and supporting each other to maximize success and innovation?

Hires: Our team environment is close-knit and very communicative. We have different generations and different cultures represented in our team, and a lot of the innovation comes from pooling these varied backgrounds and experiences to achieve a common goal. Our events are always tied to a strategic goal or objective to bring workforce unity and inclusion to our center.

Question: What kind of partnerships is your team pursuing to help put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024?

Hires: This is what our Unity campaign is all about. We’re making sure we have a workforce unified around a clear vision, diverse and talented teams, the best candidates going through our employee development and leadership programs, and making the steps necessary to achieve the mission. We work with HR, legal, and management and encourage them to have processes in place to help ensure that all people – specifically people that may have been marginalized in the past – have the opportunity to grow, contribute and develop. This is for all regardless of their identity. We encourage organizations to have diverse, inclusive panels to ensure equal representation for everyone. When we say diverse, we not only mean diversity of skill and organizations, but race, age and gender diversity to help us overcome those unintentional biases.

Question: How does your team define and achieve mission success?

Hires: We’re in the people business, and if we aren’t helping other people, then we aren’t succeeding. We base our solutions on moral, ethical and legal factors. It is great that the agency added inclusion as a core value. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. I think that it is important to note that while an inclusive group by definition differs, a diverse group isn’t always inclusive. We encourage organizations and people to recognize the impact of unconscious or implicit bias, and this will help organizations to be deliberate about addressing issues of inclusivity. We also review data with the BRIDGE – Blueprint to Reinforce Inclusivity and Diversity to Gain Equity – champions and cross-reference it with information from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. With these, we monitor and track positive trends in areas where we may have had some concerns or where inclusion appears to be lacking. When people feel that we have inclusion and equity in line with the three base factors mentioned previously, then they will be more inclined to succeed.

Question: How has your team addressed recent events of civil unrest? How well do you think the Marshall community has responded?

Hires: We’ve been involved with a cross-center team to include the Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications, Human Resources, Legal, Human Exploration Development & Operations, Engineering, center leadership and so on. We’ve spoken with close to a thousand people now. I have been so pleased with the openness and the willingness of people to share their experiences and listen to the experiences of their colleagues. As a center, I’m very proud of our response, but I am even more proud of the fact that no one is settling. No one is saying, “OK, we’ve done enough.” Instead of being defensive, everyone is just trying to determine what we can do next to make Marshall a better and more inclusive environment for all team members.

Question: What advice do you have for students and young professionals who want to be involved in NASA’s mission?

Hires: I would say that if this is your dream, chase it. When you pursue what you want to do, you will never work a day in your life. Find your “you.” Search for what defines you and makes you happy, and stick to it. Next I would tell them that nothing happens by circumstance. Lay out a plan for how you will achieve your goals. Personally, I didn’t have a clear charted path, but I knew what I wanted to do. I had to travel different roads to get there, but I kept that vision of making a difference in mind. So chase what you want to do and not what other people want you do. Don’t let anyone deter you from being part of something great.

Editor’s note: Taylor Goodwin, who conducted this interview, is an ASRC Federal/Analytical Services employee that supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.

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