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Holly shaftel

Web editor and social media specialist for two NASA websites 

 

And - Certified relationship coach

Slay the naysaying that tries to get in your way and keep pedalling toward your goals. 

What do you do?

I'm the web editor and social media specialist for two NASA websites related to climate change (climate.nasa.gov and sealevel.nasa.gov).

In my day job, I basically do the work of about five people. I help painstakingly keep those two NASA websites current, given that they're among the last-standing US government websites dedicated to climate change information. With our efforts, students and science-curious folks of all ages are still able to learn about the causes and effects of climate change and keep up with the latest in climate science.
I also track website metrics, maintain our social media channels, sometimes write original feature articles, respond to user feedback, strategize, and the list goes on. Learn more about what I do here.

Why did you choose this field?

When I was getting my undergraduate degree and looking ahead to graduate school, I remember learning about the inhumane dolphin drive hunting practices in Japan. I watched a clip from the documentary The Cove, and that was enough to make me realize I cared deeply about the environment. I decided to get my Master's in Public Administration so I could learn how to run an environmental non-profit, and through a series of fortunate events, I wound up working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an editorial assistant for the same team of which I'm a part today.

 

Much credit goes to my community college oceanography professor, who was doubling as an education specialist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the time and got me the job that would define my 20s and possibly beyond.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"Sometimes I feel like I hit the career jackpot!"

That someone with a BS in Organizational Communications and an Master's in Public Administration could walk among some of the most brilliant scientific minds the planet has to offer. Better yet, it's possible that someone with that background could make a solid living working in science communications in expensive Los Angeles.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I actually gravitate more toward the arts, but I've had the unique opportunity to use my writing and visual communication skills to educate the public on one of the most dire situations of our time. We can't keep delaying action, which is why I wake up every day feeling a responsibility (at least within my employer's mandate to collect and communicate the latest data) to empower my generation to wake up and get sustainable. We're on the business end of climate change, after all!

Best advice for the next generation

While the tides are changing, I still see STEM as a microcosm of our larger society, where women sometimes deal with harassment and need to work harder to show they're just as capable as men doing the same kind of work. So, my best advice would be to slay the naysaying that tries to get in your way and keep pedalling toward your goals (sometimes easier said than done). Not only do we need women in STEM, but we need great women in STEM.

Fun fact

I guess a "fun" fact about me is that when I started my senior year of high school, I adopted two kittens that had fleas, and those fleas gave me typhus (not to be confused with typhoid fever). I woke up one day with the worst headache of my life and wound up in the emergency room with a 104-degree fever. I alternated between shivering and sweating profusely, and eventually my hair started falling out. Eventually, an infectious disease doctor figured out what I had, and I checked out of the hospital two weeks later and learned that I was the first typhus case in the Los Angeles County foothills in 13 years. Thank goodness for STEM (and health insurance), or I might not be here today!