“I know how to ask the right questions, thereby enabling the people who work for me to manage much more effectively.”


Peter Hughes, MS, EMTM’04
Chief Technologist
Office of the Center Director
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD

Peter Hughes, MS, EMTM’04

Leading Across Talented Teams
and Emerging Technologies

In the complex and intensive R&D environment of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, leadership requires knowing how to integrate the strengths of in-depth technical expertise in multiple areas … and how to anticipate the potential impact of emerging technologies and trends.

Peter had been with NASA more than 15 years when he started EMTM in 2002, having joined the Agency immediately following graduation from the College of William & Mary with a degree in Computer Science. During his undergraduate work, Peter was introduced to the nascent discipline of artificial intelligence, which he was interested in applying to the space program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center as a Computer Scientist. While at NASA, he received his MS in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University. Peter's work at Goddard focused on applied research in artificial intelligence, human/computer interaction, and software engineering for numerous operational space missions and programs.

Why EMTM?

Peter was increasingly involved in agency-level programs with a broader number of emerging technologies. He realized that he would benefit from increased business acumen, with particular focus on business strategy and management, to supplement the grounding he had in technology. He applied for and was selected as NASA's representative for a full-year residential master's program at MIT's Sloan School of Business, but had to decline the opportunity for family reasons. Peter relied on the web to research comparable programs that would not require his family to re-locate. As he examined the EMTM Program at Penn, he saw a wealth of benefits — to both NASA and himself personally.

With EMTM, Peter would continue on the job, applying what he was learning as he learned it. Had he attended the residential program, he would have been away from work (although paid) for a year. The difficulty in relocating his young family and having to find appropriate replacements for all of the extended care services a dual career family require was a daunting task.

And his wife's career as an International Trade Lobbyist would have been put on hold for the year away. EMTM's alternate weekend schedule allowed his family to stay in the same location and enabled Peter to continue his work at NASA while meeting his development goals through an Ivy League master's program in technology management.

Career Impact and Benefits to NASA

Peter found the program "transformational." He gained a broader, global perspective on emerging technologies, acquired critical insights in the strategic management of technology, and developed a deeper professional network that he continues to tap into since graduating from the program. He says, "My professional Rolodex was greatly increased. The personal and professional contacts that I established while at EMTM — in a wide variety of industries and technology areas — are priceless."

Peter selected technology electives to gain insight into technologies that were outside of his previous purview, including Nanotechnology, Photonics and Data Mining, as well as management electives in Leadership, Technology Entrepreneurship and the Strategic Management of Innovation. He cites his course in R&D Management as providing a framework for investments in technology, including exposure to real options analysis.

Through EMTM, Peter also developed "a more comprehensive understanding of emerging and rapidly advancing technologies, enabling me to more strategically invest NASA Goddard's resources to increase its competitiveness in the areas of Robotics, Advanced Scientific Instrumentation, Miniaturized Technologies (Nanotechnology and MEMS), and Large Aperture and Interferometric Systems."

Finally, as a result of the EMTM, Peter states that he has the confidence to lead talented technical teams whose members include technologists with tremendous depths of expertise. "I know how to ask the right questions, thereby enabling the people who work for me to manage much more effectively."