June 28, 2023
For NASA engineer and Mississippi State alum Steve Creech, where you begin is just as important as where you end up. He believes you can start your journey before knowing your destination, especially in your career.
"I didn't know I would end up doing what I do. I don't think you have to know. Just do things you enjoy and that challenge you. Don't be afraid to learn new things," Creech said.
Creech's NASA career began with the co-op program at Mississippi State. His decision to do the co-op was simple: he thought it would give him an idea of what industry he wanted to work in upon graduation. Creech explained that he began working at NASA by happenstance after being paired with the organization for a co-op program during his junior year at Mississippi State. Initially, it was just an exciting place to work. Once Creech got acclimated, he found that he loved working for NASA and wanted to continue his career there once the co-op ended.
"What really got me started in the industry was the co-op opportunity at Mississippi State that paired me with NASA," said Creech, who graduated from Mississippi State with an industrial engineering degree. "It's hard not to enjoy your work when it's got the kind of purpose NASA does. The missions that we do, it's humbling and fun to be a part of something bigger than you are."
Creech went on to say one of the reasons he enjoys working at NASA is even though it's a big agency, it feels small. The people there help develop your career and you as an individual. He explained that when you work at NASA, you immediately feel like you are part of a team. Over the 35 years he's worked with the agency, he's held numerous positions, from hands-on engineering to more managerial ones. Currently, he's the technical deputy for the organization's Moon to Mars program. The Moon to Mars program office manages the agency's human exploration efforts for the Moon and Mars for the benefit of humanity and oversees hardware development, mission integration, and risk management functions for programs critical to NASA's exploration approach. As the technical deputy for the program, Creech is responsible for ensuring technical issues are identified and brought to resolution. When asked what his typical day at NASA was like, he laughed.
"If you ask my daughters, they would say I spend all day in meetings, and they are right, I do spend a good bit of time in meetings, but my career didn't start that way."
Creech encourages young engineers to begin their careers by doing a lot of hands-on work. He explained that's how engineers continue learning. He said that getting a degree is just the beginning of engineering. It shows that you can do the work and pass the classes, but education continues when you begin your first job.
"You have the skills you learned in college, but you have to continue learning throughout your career," Creech said.
Creech's advice comes from personal experience; he has been constantly learning throughout his career. He's had the opportunity to be in several different roles at NASA, moving from one position to another to challenge himself. When asked what moment he was most proud of in his career, Creech said it was hard to pick just one. Thinking back on all the positions he's held at NASA, he explained that it's an honor to be in the position he's currently in. He looked back fondly on his time as an element manager, where he led a team that developed the spaceflight hardware for Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of NASA's Deep Space Exploration Systems: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Reflecting more on his career and all the roles that he's had a NASA; it all began because he came across an opportunity at Mississippi State and took it.
"You can't always predict what opportunities will arise or what your path will be," Creech said. "I encourage people to be open to opportunities, learning, and development throughout their careers."
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
By Camille Carskadon