Outside of a few side projects, I have spent most of the last 14 years as an engineer on a single enterprise, or set of contracts, for the same overall system. I have had great opportunities to work many different aspects of the system, but what’s funny is that I’ve basically gained my experience backwards.
When I was a junior engineer, I walked into the midpoint of the program. I supported a senior engineer plan and prepare for on-orbit testing, trained the incoming contractor support, and earned my stripes working different shifts during on-orbit testing and analysis. Later, I led the charge to optimize the test program and was commended by the customer when the units were certified for use by the end user. I was there when we kicked off the sustainment phase on some units as we prepared for on-orbit testing on new units.
Then I moved forward in the program. I started working on selling off the units to the customer after we tested them on Earth, before they were launched.
After awhile, I moved forward again. This time, starting near the beginning, just after a contract is awarded, planning out the schedule and deliverables, preparing the changes and reports for the initial Critical Design Review. Then, we were reviewing and delivering the reports on the components and subsystems, and planning for ground testing.
Through all of it, I could see how our choices, decisions, and creative solutions today could make on-orbit testing or user certification easier or more difficult down the road. My path has given me a contract life cycle perspective I didn’t plan on, and it has helped me drive for change and efficiency based on that experience.
My youngest child turned 8 years old this week. Mormons believe that 8 years old is the age of accountability. We encourage our children to gain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be baptized because they are now responsible for their own choices. Before the age of 8, they are innocent and not accountable. There is no purgatory for little children who die, they are innocent and “get a free pass” to Heaven [my words].
We also believe that families can be joined together for time and throughout all of eternity; that there doesn’t have to be an “until death do you part.” We call this ordinance a sealing.
Since the day my husband and I have been sealed together as a married couple in the temple, our kids have been sealed to us to make us an eternal family, our oldest child has been baptized, and our youngest wants to and will be baptized. My husband looked at me this week, and said jokingly, “Well, our job is done.” I laughed, knowing I had been thinking the same thing: that we’ve met the minimum requirement.
It’s a fun, overwhelming moment to congratulate ourselves on all the challenges we’ve overcome, and to still acknowledge the vast cavern of challenges and decisions from here to eternity. We know we aren’t done. After a decade and a half of marriage, we’ve only satisfied the MINIMUM requirement on this program, and it was HARD.
It isn’t easy to act like an eternal family some days – most days. Being an eternal family means to treat each other with patience and care; to continue to work on our relationships like they might actually matter. It means knowing the end from the beginning, knowing what the goal is and remembering it when you are tired, frustrated, and exhausted. It means pushing for change in your family because you are the end-user who gets stuck with the final product.
When I’m on my lunch break from whatever angelic assignment I get in Heaven, I want to open up the video feed to my great-great-great grandchildren on Earth and see something I’m proud of. As I watch the decisions they make, I want to shout out in happiness so loudly that other angels turn and stare.
I want to keep working for more than the “Minimum Requirement,” even if it takes an eternity.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.