This is one among a collection of videos and essays from women who contribute to NASA’s mission. They are part of the agency’s efforts to create a collaborative and supportive community of women at the agency, inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to encourage openness and accountability at NASA.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would one day work for NASA. My name is Connie Snapp. I’m a Contracting Officer for Langley Research Center in Hampton,VA.
I grew up in a small Missouri town of about 2,060, where people made fun of my name (Concepcion Guerrero), questioned my right to belong, called me derogatory names – sometimes people just didn’t know what to make of me. It was difficult, but I now understand that it helped to mold me into who I am today and made me fight harder to attain my goals.
My dad is from South Texas and my mom is from Mexico. They come from families who relied on migrant work for survival.
I didn’t realize until I was older what remarkable people my parents were. Neither graduated from high school. They missed so much school from traveling all over the country to work in the fields that every year they would fall months behind and it made school more and more difficult. My mom dreamed of becoming a nurse, and my dad dreamed of becoming a lawyer.
My dad grew frustrated with trying to go to school while helping to support his family so he dropped out, earned his GED and joined the Air Force. He has always had a strong work ethic. As a young child, he sold fruits and vegetables door to door to contribute to the family income. He overcame many personal challenges and persevered in making a better life for himself and us.
I’m amazed at the depths of my dad’s “can do” attitude. He had a successful Air Force career, which inspired my two brothers and husband to serve in the military. But Dad also taught himself how to grow crops, dig wells, and raise livestock. He built his own house and managed his finances so that when he retired he could choose the things he really wanted to do. My dad is my hero.
My mom earned her GED after my brothers and I left home. I still get emotional when I think of my mom at our kitchen table, under an old hanging light, studying to earn her GED so many years after dropping out of junior high school. I remember asking her, “Mom, why are you working so hard to get your GED? Are you going to get a job?” She said, “It’s just something I have always wanted.”
She also found time to mentor a young Mexican woman who was learning to speak English and acclimating to a new country. My mom was my inspiration on days when college seemed too difficult. She taught me to become a role model for my daughter – to show her that if you want something enough, you must work hard to get it and not allow others to discourage you.
I wanted to quit many times, but how could I tell my daughter that she had to graduate college if I allowed my doubts and frustrations to stop me? All I had to do was to picture my Mom sitting at that table night after night. My mom is my hero, too.
I married right out of high school and my daughter was born 13 months later. My dream was to be an artist and a writer. I attended night courses, worked, ran a household, and raised my daughter.
We were later stationed in Florida, and I found it difficult to get a job. My husband encouraged me to earn a business degree. It was tough, and money was tight, but with my family’s encouragement, I became a full-time student, sometimes driving three hours a day, three days a week to attend classes.
I juggled school with commuting, running a household, attending my daughter’s many school functions and applying for grants and scholarships to pay for college. There were many panicked days, like when I went to a calculus course after not having had algebra for more than 10 years and had the sickening realization that I had no idea how to use my TI-83 graphing calculator while the other “kids” were playing games on theirs!
I was initially overwhelmed. That’s when I’d remember my hard working parents and my daughter and it would push me to work harder and not give up. Later, I found that overcoming these obstacles could be an inspiration to others.
My parents grew up in an environment where kids started work at an early age. Graduating high school wasn’t the highest priority. My parents raised us with modest means, but it was always understood that they wanted us to graduate high school, and we all did. Two of us hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I have a bachelor’s in Business Management from the University of West Florida and a masters of Acquisition Management from American Graduate University.
Thanks to the Air Force, I’ve lived in some really great places, including Guam, California and Florida, and I have been fortunate enough to visit Korea, Mexico and Japan. Those places gave me a real appreciation for cultures and diversity.
I’ve worked at NASA for four years and have had some challenging experiences, from awarding contracts from NASA Research Announcements to working a $400M multiple award acquisition for research and development to administering a dynamic Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System Flight Model 6 contract.
Before NASA, I worked for the Air Force. I would cut through NASA Langley on my way to work at Langley Air Force Base and I loved driving through the center. It seemed so peaceful, with a campus-like atmosphere. It has been exciting to learn about the great research that is accomplished here and how it affects us in our everyday lives.
I appreciate hearing stories of female colleagues and what they faced on their way to equality, especially the engineers and the women in contracting. It makes me realize that everyone has conquered challenges and we all have stories to share.
I love the idea of inspiring others. I have three young nieces and a daughter that I want to be a good role model for, and I will share my story with them, too. I hope this will help to inspire other girls and young women to keep striving to reach their goals.