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Job role: Aerospace engineer and program lead
Work location: San Antonio, Texas
Years at Booz Allen: 31
It takes vision and determination to help clients like NASA and the U.S. Air Force succeed with programs from the International Space Station to training simulations. We asked Steve Wright about his career journey at Booz Allen through time and space.
How did you get involved in aerospace engineering?
I’m passionate about racing and rebuilding motorcycles, so I always thought I’d be an engineer. Then one day when I was at the University of Texas student union, I saw the first space shuttle launch and I thought, “That’s pretty cool. I might look into that.”
What has kept you at Booz Allen all these years?
Our focus on clients’ missions, the pursuit of excellence, and the work. I led the team that did the assembly sequence planning for Space Station Freedom, NASA’s first space station program, in the Washington, DC, area. When it transformed into the International Space Station program, I moved to Houston and became stage manager for the launch of Unity, the first U.S. module. In December 1998, I flew to Florida to watch the launch and then to Houston to help manage the mission. That was thrilling. Later, I became head of the Booz Allen’s Houston space practice, and last year I wanted a change, so I moved to San Antonio to lead complex Air Force training simulation work. It’s a new challenge and still highly technical work in a location I really enjoy.
When you reflect back on the International Space station, what stands out?
I’m always amazed that it works so well. It’s one of the most complex engineering efforts ever attempted with complex components and systems developed by multiple nations at different times that first come together on orbit. My daughter and I were in my back yard watching it the other night—there’s a website that shows when you can see it—and there it was in the sky, more than 20 years after that first Unity launch. It shows what people can do, collaborating across different languages and cultures, if everyone is focused on making it work.
What would you say to the next generation interested in aerospace?
We’re on a new journey right now, going back to the Moon and on to Mars. There’s still a lot to figure out: How are we going to do this? What’s the architecture going to look like? What are the components we’ll need? And of course, all the detailed engineering that goes with it. What I like is that Booz Allen gets to do a lot of the strategic work. There’s a lot of creativity in that. We’re looking right now for engineers to tackle challenges that apply to space exploration and defense.