Professional Spotlight: Stephanie L. Schierholz (NASA)

Stephanie Schierholz is the Social Media Manager for NASA, buts that’s not all. This talented professional like many others also participates as a active member of other organizations. At the time of this article she is president-elect for Women in Aerospace, an inaugural member of the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020, and a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

Stephanie earned her MBA at Georgetown University and also holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and English.

Stephanie’s most recent work is in a new frontier at the Space Agency, as the Social Media Manager. It was during the Social Media World Forum in New York City that dbmei staff learned how NASA had a thriving social media presence and how it had been built by the brave souls who volunteered their time to generate a new communication tool for NASA. Unlike many other agencies and organizations NASA cannot advertise, which until recently left the agency at the hands of reporters. Now social media provides NASA with the opportunity to communicate and reach out to millions of followers. In addition to the recent TweetUps, they had the opportunity to do some location based services checking in on Foursquare, from SPACE?

Stephanie is passionate about change and everything space, but what you might miss is the underlying message about how she does that, it’s through communication.

While most can get lost in causes and ideas, Stephanie has stayed true to the core value that it’s all about communication. Stephanie sees social media as a “tool” that has done wonderful things allowing people and organizations to communicate. This was relayed intensely when she talked about both her experiences at NASA and with the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020. Stephanie shows great interest in communications being the tool to understand one another, in fact when faced with the question “What advice would you have for young people who face struggles and failure?” Stephanie immediately went back to her core explaining that critical evaluation has to be done to understand the “why” and ask questions to both yourself and the people around you.

Stephanie’s advice seems to consistently be about communication and exploration, she urges young professionals to reach out to experts but not be afraid to try something new, and again understand the “why” if someone is critical or when you face failure. Stephanie also warns to be careful, if you do something make sure you enjoy doing it because once you become the expert, it’s only natural that you’ll be expected to do that from now on.

As the President Elect for Women in Aerospace, Stephanie is passionate about opening the doors and setting up support systems by both men and women to help generate more resources for women to seek out careers in “everything from aviation to space and all that in-between”.

Stephanie was raised in Colorado, and has done quite a bit of moving around, but says she is enjoying the east coast for now, and in talking to her you can’t help but wonder if this star eyed professional has something more grander in mind for her future.

Stephanie Schierholz seems to be paving her way to something great, based on the roles she is in now and her passion for exploring new ones, you cann’t help but expect we will be hearing a lot more about her as time goes on.

As of today, Stephanie Schierholz is a passionate and professional contributor to society, social media and a role model for communicators everywhere.

Video: Interview done via Skype has been edited for sections to share on the post and via YouTube, the video is edited from the 45 minute original video to 15 minutes and includes sections thought important by the author.

dbmei.com previous article on NASA from Stephanie L. Schierholz Presentation at Social Media World Forum North America:

#SMWF: NASA’s ‘Out-Of-This-World’ Social Media Engagement Success

Sources:

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Comments

  1. Kim @ QwikR.me says:

    I’m curious about Stephanie’s thoughts about our school system and the lack of emphasis that is placed on math and science. Does she have any suggestions as to how we can reverse this trend?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Kim, that’s a huge question. My twin sister is a fifth grade school teacher, and I talk to her students as much as I can. NASA has hundreds of education programs (http://www.nasa.gov/education) to enable students and teachers to use the inspiration of space exploration in their math and science programs. I’m not an expert on the school system, nor do I have kids, so I don’t want to comment on that. But I think it comes down to each of us doing what we can where we are.

  2. How will social media, communication and exploration develop over the next several decades?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      The best way to prepare for the changes and develops that will come is to be adaptable, willing to learn and change. The tools we use today may be obsolete decades from now. The willingness to adopt new tools and ways of engaging instead of being steadfastly loyal to what’s popular today will be key. Also, a good understanding of how communications has changed and remained the same also will prepare you to be adaptable.

  3. Stephanie: how moving around when you grow up help you strengthen your career?

    As a kid, I moved from city to city with my parents. At time, it’s difficult for me to fit. However, after graduating from college, I do feel that my experience helped me a lot live interdependently.

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Moving around has made me more willing to try new things and take more risks. But it also has made me more aware of cultural differences and the ways they influence our actions. I’m more conscious of trying to step back and understand what is motivating someone or some action instead of just judging it based on my background and experiences. We all have different experiences that subtly influence our actions and way of thinking.

  4. In the sixties and seventies, every young kid wanted to be an astronaut. These days they’re either so mediocre they just want to finish high school and work flipping burgers or so materialistic they want to finish college and get rich in Wall Street. How would you encourage the study of science, physics, math in our schools and make kids interested in space exploration and other scientific disciplines again?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      It’s up to each of us who believes space exploration and science are important and valuable to spread the word. NASA is hugely involved in education programs for teachers and students at all levels as well as informal educators. See http://www.nasa.gov/education. What we’re doing with social media is trying to meet people where they are to give them information about space exploration in their social streams.

  5. Grace Alexander says:

    Stephanie, there is a huge controversy over the differences between how men and women use social media. Many seem to feel that social media is used by men more professionally, as a purely business endeavor, while women use it more emotionally, to connect on a personal level. How have you seen women who are high level professionals leveraging social media, and do you see differences in how men and women in your field use social media?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Grace, in my experience, the women I know who are engaged on social media are primarily motivated by the utility it has professionally. A report out today says 65% of community managers are women (http://socialfresh.com/community-manager-report-2012/), and at NASA, the vast majority of our social media leads are women. The deputy administrator of NASA uses Twitter and Facebook.

  6. I have plenty of questions that are probably really useful, but the one thing I really want to know – okay 2 things are:

    Around NASA – is it Pro -Android or iPhone?
    What appears to be the favorite piece of technology (iPad, smartphone, etc..) of members of the space program?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Mandy, at NASA, we use the technologies provided by our IT department. That means my work-issued phone is a Blackberry (although some departments are now offering iPhones and the word is we’ll be moving to Android phones), my computer is a PC, and I don’t have a work-issued iPad. I have a personal iPhone that I use quite regularly :).

  7. I’m curious what your peers think of social media and NASA coming together?

  8. Ok, it is all about communication. Communication is love (in essence). But what is your favorite tool to express that love? Twitter?

  9. How do you think can NASA improve its communication by using social media? In particular how could NASA do more to involve pupils through social media to aspire to be scientists?

  10. Very interesting article, Basil.

  11. Are there cooperation programs between NASA and CERN?

  12. It must be so exciting job, running a social media for NASA.

  13. I was selected for a tweet up but could not attend due to travel logistics. I commend Steph for developing the program.

    Do you feel it is critical today to find innovative methods to utilize social marketing to build interest in NASA in light of the recent cancellation of the Space Shuttle program?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Sorry you weren’t able to make it to the tweetup! I hope you’ll apply for another one. NASA can’t advertise but it charged with spreading the word about what we’re doing as widely as possible, so it’s always critical for us to find new ways of telling our story. This remains true whatever our portfolio or programs. Yes, the space shuttle program ended, but human spaceflight has not (check out http://www.nasa.gov/station).

  14. Stephanie if NASA’s policy was to use only three Social Media platforms which would they be… one & two I guess are pretty easy, its your number three I would like to know about and why you would choose it. I am excluding blogging for the sake of the exercise. Ric-orglearn

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      I’d be very wary of being locked in to a choice because the social media landscape is evolving constantly, and the platforms are tools. You need to use the right tools, and that will continue to change. Right now, we put the most amount of resources into blogging, Twitter and Facebook, but that might not be the same answer six months from now.

      • What you have said is of no real additional value, I excluded blogging and Facebook and Twitter are obvious so which other of the plethora of choices would you make. We all know it changes rapidly we are all in this business. If your boss walked into your office today and said get started on a new platform tomorrow which would you choose. To make it interesting you can’t choose you tube either, Ric

  15. From what I’ve heard, the future of NASA lies in unmanned missions. How do you get people excited and engaged in the future of space exploration without the presence of astronauts on missions?

    • Stephanie Schierholz says:

      Liz, what you’re hearing isn’t accurate. NASA’s human spaceflight program is alive and well. Did you know people have inhabited the International Space Station continuously for more than 11 years? The plan calls for us to continue sending astronauts to live aboard station for 5-6 months at a time at least through 2020. But space exploration always has been a balance of human and robotic exploration. We need both. Currently, three of the six people aboard the space station are tweeting and/or blogging about their experiences living in space. Our scientific missions also are engaged on connecting. The Mars Curiosity rover en route to Mars is tweeting (@MarsCuriosity), and we’ve held four tweetups at launches of scientific spacecraft and seen significant interest in participating. We had 1,050+ registrations for 150 available spots at the Curiosity launch and tweetup, which was Thanksgiving week.

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