Ep. 79: Meet Christyl Johnson, The First African-American Deputy Director At NASA

In this episode, hear how Christyl Johnson is leading the charge of shaping and designing NASA’s missions of the future. Christyl talks about forging ahead in the male-dominated world of science and offers her advice on how to move past fear and the Impostor Syndrome on the path to success.

“Fear really is an acronym, and it stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s not real. So when we’re afraid of something, especially when it comes to us bringing our talent to the table, what is it that we’re afraid of? What is the false evidence mixed in with the reality that we need to put in check and dismiss right away?”

As the former Executive Director of the White House’s National Science and Technology Council and current Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments at Goddard Space Center, ​Christyl Johnson has had a fascinating, trail-blazing journey to becoming the first African-American Deputy Director at NASA. She started her career as an engineer at NASA and kept working her way up, becoming a role model for other women and girls in the process.

Today, ​Christyl is leading the charge of shaping and designing the future missions NASA is planning to conduct in astrophysics, earth science, planetary science, and heliophysics. She also aligns an investment portfolio that will enable NASA to achieve those missions.

Listen to this episode to hear ​Christyl’s proudest moments throughout her career, the lessons she’s learned from scaling the highest levels of NASA, her mission to always look for the impossible, and the importance she puts on having a strong support system that mirrors how much you believe in yourself.

“You have to know who you are. And don’t let anyone change that. Not for a minute. Because the moment you start doubting yourself, the moment you weaken all the beauty and all the innovation and all the wonder and all the character that you bring to the table, and that’s what helps us to innovate for this country. We need difference sitting at the table.”

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