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Meet Ryan Prouty

Noah J. Michelsohn |
March 1, 2020

When NASA Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer announced a new vision statement in 2019, he envisioned the future of human space exploration and the core capabilities that would allow Johnson to maintain its leadership role well into the future.

But words alone cannot shape the future; that future belongs to the team in Houston, White Sands, New Mexico and across NASA that makes spaceflight possible. The vision and center aspirations can breathe life and purpose behind the work that we do, but what will always be most important is the human team striving to accomplish the unimaginable.

The bold vision, ‘Dare. Unite. Explore.’, and the five aspirations are not a simple decree, something that we say and then becomes truth. Rather, they are guiding principles intended to frame the decisions employees make as they approach their work, empowering each team member to take ownership of our next giant leap.

With this strategy in mind, Geyer selected Ryan Prouty as Johnson’s assistant center director for vision and strategy, a new role created to meld Geyer’s aspirations for the future into in NASA’s longtime culture of success. Talking about how we can sculpt the future into something we’ve envisioned all along is one thing, but Prouty’s job will be to integrate the best and brightest minds at Johnson to architect those lofty visions into something more tangible — with nuts, bolts and even a heat shield thrown in for good measure. Prouty has a history of leading change at Johnson, and Roundup sat down with her to learn more about her NASA story and goals for this new position. Join us below:

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Prouty started her NASA career in mission control as a communications and tracking officer flight controller, and spent the next 23 years working in the International Space Station (ISS) Program before Geyer asked her to implement the center vision and the five design aspirations as Johnson’s assistant center director for vision and strategy.

“I never intended to leave station, but when I heard Mark [Geyer] talk about ‘Dare. Unite. Explore.’ and the center aspirations, there is an urgency and an excitement behind the movement that is truly contagious,” Prouty said. “We have an opportunity to posture the center so that each of us can accomplish what we dreamed of when we came here.”

Prouty was primed for this opportunity during her time in station, when she led a massive effort to reengineer the program to better enable scientific discovery and foster commercial enterprises in space, launching an initiative called Revolutionize ISS for Science and Exploration, or RISE.

Prouty chairing the ISS Mission Integration and Operations Control Board.

The program achieved massive success changing the mindset of individuals from one of belief they were here to simply build and fly a space station to they are here to change the world by enabling the use of the most technologically advanced international endeavor of all time. It was that mindset shift of we are the customer to we serve and enable the customer.

“We realized that we needed to adapt our processes and mindsets to focus on enabling the vehicle to be of service to users, scientists and commercial companies alike,” Prouty said.

Prouty believes that the lessons in translating station’s vision she developed during RISE will carry over into her new role, helping her align the center for success in a similar way. This enormous undertaking will first require analyzing the center’s vision of Dare. Unite. Explore. and the five aspirations to assess if Johnson is meeting its full potential in each area, and then creating a roadmap that demonstrates how the center can facilitate greater success. The mission, should we all choose to accept, is leaving the status quo squarely on Earth as we rocket to new and awe-inspiring destinations.

“Ryan has the skillset and vision to chart a path forward that enables our amazing team to fulfill our aspirations,” Geyer said. “When we align with the aspirations, we are not only going to enable programmatic success, but it will drive us to become more agile, creative and perseverant individuals.”

Prouty sees this journey as a cultural shift, starting with each individual developing a personal understanding of how they fit into a grander vision, and then being willing to adapt in their work. For Johnson to thrive in this decade and beyond, everyone must get onboard.

Prouty photographed with her kids in Houston. Credit: Lifted Up Photography.

“We have some monumental goals, and whether or not we accomplish them is going to come down to someone sitting at their desk and making a decision about how they are going to do their job,” Prouty said. “At the end of the day, success is about who you are, how you show up and whether you understand how the role you play is helping to change the world.”

She believes that building a foundation in these truths begins with showing employees how their work fits into the greater vision and how the aspirations can be used to enrich their roles — and their lives. Nevertheless, Prouty understands that this relies on fostering a culture where the Johnson family is swept up in a common goal and excited to see the future take shape under the careful stewardship of each and every team member, regardless of directorate or job title.

“Humans crave change. We change all the time; we change cars, we change jobs, we change our hair … What people are afraid of is other people changing them. To really generate change, we need to make sure that the entire team is involved in defining how those changes take place. We can have a great vision of where we are headed, but deciding how we get there is a joint effort.”

Ryan encourages employees to submit feedback and input for the center be emailing

Ryan Prouty is Assistant Director for Strategy and Vision at NASA's Johnson Space Center . This story is part 17 of The Directors Series, highlighting Johnson’s mission of Dare. Unite. Explore. Find previous stories on the directors website.

Ryan Prouty, Assistant Center Director for Strategy and Vision at NASA's Johnson Space Center
Ryan Prouty, Assistant Center Director for Strategy and Vision at NASA's Johnson Space Center.