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Meet Ciara Smith

April 01, 2022 SSAI Spotlight Series, SSAI in the News

 We’re kicking off our Anniversary month with a new series we’re calling “SSAI Spotlights.” Our goal is to shine a light on the unique and wonderful people that make up SSAI and who have worked together to help SSAI grow into the successful company it’s become over the past 45 years.

Our inaugural SSAI Spotlight features Ciara Smith, the Command and Telemetry Database Lead for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) mission.

Ciara grew up in Prince George’s County, attending Friendly High School in Fort Washington, MD. In the summers throughout high school and college, she did clerical work for her family’s EEO counseling business started by her grandmother as a second career.  She also moonlighted as a hairstyle assistant when not working at her family’s business.

 As a child Ciara wanted to be a computer engineer.  She enrolled in Lincoln University – the first degree-granting HBCU – in Pennsylvania with the hopes of pursuing her dream, but soon learned the computer engineering major had been dropped! Reluctantly, she switched to computer science, a major that she didn’t particularly enjoy, but that she knew would give her a lot of job opportunities.  After graduation, she set out to find her first real job in the field and began by Googling: “Jobs you can get with a computer science degree.” She found a posting for an on-console engineer. She wasn’t sure what exactly an “on-console engineer” was but applied anyway. She ended up getting the job. Eight years later she says, “that was one of the most rewarding Google searches I have ever done. It helped me find a career that I not only like but continues to evolve and challenge me.”

About her current work, Ciara says “This is my first time working on a mission pre-launch, so it is exciting to see all the pre-launch work and detail that goes into making a mission successful.”

And the most exciting part about supporting our customers? Knowing that she is contributing to missions that will continue to operate years into the future.

If she didn’t go into her current field, Ciara believes she would have gone into event planning. She enjoys this type of task, even with the inevitable stress that comes along with it.  She finds an outlet for the creative aspect of event planning through her newest favorite hobby: creating things with her Cricut machine. This is something she began doing to create items for her daughter’s first birthday when she couldn’t buy what she wanted due to pandemic closures. The pandemic has also led her to learn other new skills – she sanded and stripped her deck, laid down sod, and learned to make baby food over this time.  

When asked what she would do if she had ample free time, Ciara said she would travel the world. Her dream vacation is a private villa on the water in the Maldives. She thinks it would be so relaxing due to the crystal-clear water and the views.  However, if she could live anywhere in the world, she said she has always wanted to experience living in Japan.

Ciara said she is most thankful for her support system, which takes the form of her family and friends. Her family inspires her, and the birth of her daughter is one of her happiest memories. Her mother’s saying – “Nothing beats a failure but a try” – has become her life’s philosophy and encourages her to live out what she feels is the most important lesson she’s learned so far: “to always believe in myself no matter what comes my way.”

Thanks for interviewing with us, Ciara – it was fun getting to know you!