Terry Jackson is no stranger to NASA. However, his retirement as their Deputy Chief Information Officer in 2018 marked a new chapter in his career when he joined COLSA a few years later as a Business Development Specialist. His primary focus is on civilian space, lending his expertise to the company’s new business development and growth initiatives. Terry has a unique ability to translate customer needs into specific requirements, identify company services, and offer solutions through communicating COLSA’s key capabilities utilizing the abundance of knowledge he has gained throughout his career working at NASA.
A former colleague from COLSA reached out to Terry, inquiring about his interest in coming back to work after retirement for a role within the company. Subsequently, Terry delved into researching both COLSA and the position. After careful contemplation and thorough evaluation, he concluded that COLSA’s values aligned with his own. He was impressed and said, “COLSA takes care of their employees…and seemed like a good match”. He ultimately decided to take the job, and for the past two years, Terry has enjoyed his work and describes his time at COLSA as “phenomenal”.
We asked Terry about his time at NASA and what were some of the highlights. He mentions that he spent 29 years working for NASA, mainly at Stennis Space Center but also serving on several “details” and assignments at NASA headquarters in Washington DC, where he eventually spent the last 10 years of his NASA career. During his tenure, he served as a Center CIO, Mission CIO, Mission Support CIO, and eventually the Agency’s Deputy Chief Information Officer. Terry mentioned that he was probably the only “CIO” in the agency that supported the Agency across this broad spectrum of CIO duties and responsibilities. These roles were all crucial in ensuring the security of data to support NASA’s mission. Terry’s various assignments within NASA provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s functioning, from NASA’s Center, Mission, and eventually at the Agency level. In addition, he oversaw several programs and projects, on an enterprise level.
In 2005, Terry played a pivotal role in the establishment of NASA’s Shared Services Center (NSSC), a public-private partnership that streamlines operations and reduces costs for the organization. NSSC carries out crucial tasks such as Enterprise Services, Financial Management, Human Resources, Procurement, and Agency Business Support. As one of 12 initial employees and the CIO for NSSC, Terry recruited staff and oversaw contractors to support all aspects of the NSSC’s operations. He now embarks on a new journey as Program Manager for COLSA on the recently awarded ‘NASA Transformational Shared Services (NTSS) contract. Although his involvement with NSSC will differ, Terry anticipates a positive experience for himself, NSSC, and the company.
When asked about his favorite COLSA project, Terry spoke of the satisfaction, knowledge, and relationships he has gained from working on multiple BD, identifications, captures, and proposals for COLSA. Each proposal is different, and it is always rewarding to “win” one as we did for the NTSS opportunity. His prior experience with NSSC from a government perspective allowed him to apply his skills in securing the contract and leading the project. Terry expressed that the project was enjoyable, and he appreciated the great team effort that was put in, thanks to COLSA’s exceptional capabilities and people.
We asked what challenges might have presented themselves thus far, Terry explains that transitioning from the government side to the contractor side can be difficult. Within NASA, Terry worked on and with many Source Evaluation Boards in selecting IT, Center, and Mission Support operations services contracts. Working from a contractor perspective, Terry realized the importance of building those customer relationships and really understanding the government’s requirements within the various solicitations. “It’s a different mindset and perspective, a challenge, but it’s a learning experience.” He says that NASA and federal agency requirements are constantly changing and adjusting to new missions and understanding how COLSA’s capabilities can support and align with those changing dynamics is critical for the government selecting one company over another. Most civilian agencies want a “partner and not just a provider”. Despite the obstacles, he remains optimistic and continues to work through them, using his previous government skills to sharpen his contractor skills.
For those embarking on a new career path, Terry offers the following advice: seek out a reliable mentor. A mentor who is established in their field can provide valuable guidance by sharing both their successes and failures. Terry also cautions that setbacks are inevitable, but persevering through challenges is key. He recalls advice from a former boss to “keep your head down and keep coloring” by avoiding distractions and maintaining focus. Additionally, Terry emphasizes the importance of treating colleagues with respect and integrity, as workplace relationships can play a pivotal role in career advancement. Terry says that career positions come and go but building relationships last through your career and even into your retirement. Lastly, he recommends having a career plan in place for where you want to aspire to and commit to ongoing building your experience and learning to get there.
Terry’s family is a vital part of his life outside work. He takes pride in their unwavering support for his career, and they have been his rock every step of the way. Together, he and his wife Kay love to explore the great outdoors, travel, and take their RV out for adventures. Terry tells us that in his spare time, he enjoys physical activities that allow him to work with his hands, such as building and renovating homes and maintaining his yard.