January 28, 2016
Jennifer Neptune’s motivation is solutions.
“I think it’s just my mindset. When presented with a problem or challenge, I really like to help find a solution for that,” the Morgantown, West Virginia said. “If there’s any opportunity to find a solution that will make someone’s life easier or somebody happier at their job or feel more rewarded with what they’re doing, I’m right there. I throw my hat in the ring and try to figure it out.”
After almost 10 years out of the classroom and in the workforce, Neptune knew she needed a career change. She unearthed the solution to the problem and put her plan into motion. In 2007, she stepped back into the role of student and began working toward her MBA at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics.
“Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – going back to school after being out for 10 years – but it was also one of the most rewarding,” the 2008 MBA class president said. “For me, the focus that being a student was basically my primary role was important, so I quit my job, got a graduate assistantship and focused on school.”
This solution – her motivation and hard work in the MBA program – landed her at NASA. Now as a Program Analyst for the Strategic Communications Office of NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, she said her mission and focus is on the internal and external communications for NASA operations in West Virginia.
“Before I came to NASA and before I did the MBA program, I was one of the people that did everything at work that you needed to do. You went in and you got your job done. You did what your boss asked you to do – that sort of thing. But I didn’t necessarily understand what happened behind the scenes, why the business decisions were being made the way they were. So the MBA program gave me a lot of insight into the way a business functions.
Building upon her communications skills and journalism undergraduate degree, Neptune said the foundation in business prepared her for her duties at NASA.
“I think when I came here as a contractor what they were looking for was knowledge management, which is to look across the program and communicate what’s happening, understand it all and do process improvement on it. With the combination of communications and business, it really gave me a unique skillset for what I started when I came here,” she said.
While Neptune enjoys the new and exciting challenges working at NASA brings each day, she said she really appreciates the opportunities the organization brings to help mankind.
“It is inspiring because NASA spends so much energy trying to provide benefit to the planet, mankind; what is out there; what is here. We look at the earth. We look at the solar system. We look at the universe. It makes you feel really small, but it also makes you feel really rewarded and amazed,” Neptune said. “The things I have learned since I’ve been here are astounding—the things we can do here. It’s amazing the impact NASA has on the general population for a half of a percent of the nation’s budget.”
After earning her MBA and prior to joining NASA, Neptune served as a program coordinator for B&E’s online MBA program and as project analyst for Allegheny Science & Technology Corporation, which she said were the results of networking while in the MBA program.
“The best thing you can do for yourself is just ask questions and meet people that you might not normally think to be good connections. One of things in the MBA program that they emphasized was the need to network, and networking was a struggle for me. So when I actually started asking around, meeting people, getting to know people, I wouldn’t have gotten the job I got without having developed those skills and networked,” she said.
In the alum’s spare time, she said she enjoys cooking, reading and traveling. Neptune’s latest venture outside of NASA though is using her business and communications to develop and serve as Vice President for Fight to the Finn ish, a local nonprofit organization with the mission of raising awareness and helping families battling childhood cancer.
“My friend’s five-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. He’s doing great. He has fought cancer like a champ. She had this vision to start this nonprofit, so she, another friend and I are the three founding members of the Fight to the Finn ish,” the Morgantown, West Virginia, resident said. “It’s one of those opportunities to bring smiles to the faces of people struggling with something that you really don’t think anybody should have to struggle with.”
Neptune also finds it important to maintain a strong relationship with her alma mater by offering internships at NASA to business students and being a member of B&E’s Young Professional Network.
“The Young Professional Network gives you the opportunity to meet people in every industry that have a common tie, and that’s B&E. There’s a commonality, which helps when you’re developing a relationship and building a bigger network. I can’t imagine anything more valuable for people as they graduate from B&E than to have an automatic network like that,” she said.