Small Business Specialist Finds Joy in Her Stennis Space Center Journey

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Kay Doane loves everything about her job as the small business specialist for Stennis Space Center, not only the journey that brought her to the position but the journey alongside members of the Stennis family and the journey that lies ahead for both NASA and the south Mississippi site.


“I am proud to be the face of Stennis at small business events, telling companies how they can be part of something bigger as a NASA small business contractor,” said Doane, who has a 30-plus-year career of federal service, including the past four years in the Stennis Office of Procurement. “Small businesses keep our economy and neighborhoods strong. They play a large part in helping us succeed in our NASA missions.”

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The journey to Stennis was a circuitous one for Doane, who grew up in Terrytown, Louisiana, before moving to Carriere, Mississippi, in 2000. Like many of her era, her most vivid earliest space-related memory was of the space shuttle Challenger tragedy in 1986. However, she also recalls the plaque in her brother’s room that depicted Neil Armstrong placing the American flag on the surface of the Moon during his historic Apollo 11 mission. “I remember going in his room to look at it, thinking it was just amazing,” Doane said.


Doane eventually found her way to the front lines of the equally amazing space exploration work of the post-Apollo years. First, however, she followed in the footsteps of her civil servant father, joining the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 1989 and retiring with 20 years of service. She started her civil service career in 1993 in finance positions with the U.S. Navy and Defense Information Systems Agency before moving to a position with the NASA Shared Services Center at Stennis in 2005. In 2013, Doane worked a detail assignment in the Stennis Office of Procurement before fully joining that team in 2017 as the small business specialist.


She has excelled in the role, evidenced by the number of NASA group achievement awards already received during the short tenure. Most recently, Doane was recognized for her “tireless advocacy” by the NASA Office of Small Business Programs. The agency office highlighted Doane during Women’s History Month as one who “reminds us of all the incredible achievements of women all around the world.”


Stennis Office of Procurement Director Gerald Norris has praised Doane for leading an “innovative and sustainable” program that has had a direct impact on NASA’s human space exploration efforts by helping Stennis achieve it related missions. This includes the Green Run testing activities for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.


Last month, Stennis completed a yearlong series of integrated systems tests on the rocket, which is being built to carry the first woman and first person of color to the Moon as part of the Artemis program and to enable future missions to Mars. The Green Run series at Stennis culminated with a full-duration hot fire of the core stage’s four RS-25 engines on March 18. The 500-second test generated a combined 1.6 million pounds of thrust and represented the most powerful test conducted at the site in more than 40 years.


Like many of her colleagues, Doane has been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to fulfill her important role while working remotely. The shift to telework status precluded her ability to host on-site Small Business Showcase events that allow local vendors to display their capabilities that might contribute to the Stennis missions.


Doane has responded to the new conditions by planning and hosting virtual showcase events each quarter. She also has worked to maintain contact with small businesses and Stennis resident tenants throughout the year, ensuring the site continued to nurture the vital relationships needed to support ongoing missions. The effort is aided by a Stennis Small business video created by Doane, which won a 2019 Silver Telly Award for outstanding production.


Due to such efforts and despite COVID-19 restrictions, Stennis significantly surpassed a number of key goals in contract awards during the fiscal year 2020, including those set for contract awards to HUBZone; woman-owned; and service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses. Overall, the site surpassed its total small business goal for the year by 11.1 percent.


The credit rests with members of the Stennis family, Doane said. “Working from home the past year due to COVID-19 has really given me a greater respect for my fellow coworkers at Stennis,” she said. “Not only am I impressed everyday by the work that is accomplished but also by the general kindness each employee shows to one another to stay connected during these difficult times. I truly miss being in the office and being able to have the day-to-day interactions in person with my fellow friends.”


The awareness is no real surprise for Doane, who characterizes Stennis as the most diverse organization she has even known. “This is why I believe we perform better,” she said. “When people are respected for who they are, they want to be at work and do their best.”


For Doane, it is all part of what makes the journey so meaningful and enjoyable.


S21-015 SSC Photo – Kay Doane cutline: Kay Doane is “the face of Stennis Space Center” for small businesses, thanks to her work in the Office of Procurement. She loves everything about her job, as well as the journey that led her to the south Mississippi site.


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