Launching into Management

Richa Sirohi with a NASA t-shirt standing in front of a pagoda like structure and pond.
  • Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

Richa Sirohi is an End-to-End Information System Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Psyche Mission. Richa has previously worked on the Mars Perseverance Rover, the Cold Atom Laboratory, Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA), a Lunar Mission Concept, and Europa Clipper. Richa studied Mechanical Engineering at Baylor and went on to complete a Master’s from Cornell University in Systems Engineering (2019). She is currently pursuing a part-time Master of Engineering in Engineering Management from Cornell University while also working full-time at JPL. 

Richa recently received the JPL Bruce Murray award for Educational Outreach. She said, "I am very excited and thankful to be a recipient of this year’s “JPL Bruce Murray award for impactful and far-reaching outreach in rural schools and for sharing diverse stories of those in the space exploration community to wide audiences. This award is presented annually to selected individuals who have distinguished themselves by making outstanding contributions to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

Why did you choose the Cornell Engineering Management program?
I loved attending Cornell for my Masters in Systems Engineering. I knew I wanted to continue my education part-time with another masters and know that I have good leadership skills that could make me a great project and people manager one day. Thus, I looked into Cornell's Engineering Management program. This Master's is well-suited for engineers like me who will one day lead complicated, technical projects. While I have a good technical background, I believe the management training this program offers will enable me to be prepared and successful in management roles further in my career.

Richa at work in front of a window with astronaut equipmentWhen do you find time for your coursework?
I make sure to dedicate one to three hours in the late evening for school as well as some morning or afternoon time on the weekends. This dedicated time isn't always required but allocating the time helps ensure I'm making progress every day towards my school work, that I stay on track to learn and retain the content, and that I complete all my course expectations. It also ensures that I stick to my schedule and not sacrifice my dinner time, seeing friends, working out, or even taking vacations. Occasionally, group tasks require off-nominal meeting times due to time zone differences which can be more challenging to accommodate. I also put key deadlines on my personal schedule so I don't miss anything important.

What class are you looking forward to?
I'm really looking forward to Economics and Finance as I've always found this to be an interesting field of study. I'm also excited for Managing a Culture of Innovation as I've always considered myself to excel in people leadership but would like to know more about the best practices needed to cultivate an innovative team culture.

What are you reading?
The Dune Series by Frank Herbert. I love the premise of the books and their exploration of human nature in a myth-like setting with intriguing politics, culture, religion, and environmentalism.

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
I'm extremely lucky. Not to jinx myself but I am really good at winning random giveaways, free tickets, getting asked to be on gameshows, getting airline and hotel upgrades, etc.

Can you give an example of something you learned in class that you then applied to your job?
I found the python course to be helpful. While I've utilized python before, it was beneficial to get a refresher and learn it in a more structured way. The course always encouraged me to utilize it to script little things for myself at work.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Make sure you have a clear idea of why you want to pursue this degree and how these courses will help you grow in order to achieve your goals. Also, make sure you have enough time to take on schoolwork while maintaining work-school-life balance.
Learn more about Richa on her personal website and through her NASA Profile.

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