Systems Engineering Seminar

Three-Sigma Leadership

Steven R. Hirshorn
Science Mission Directorate
Assistant Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs (Detail)
National Aeronautics & Space Administration Headquarters

Photo of Steven R. Hirshorn

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Meeting number (access code): 199 724 2893
Meeting password: @Virtualsystems7


What makes an exceptional lead system engineer? What qualities and traits are necessary to really excel in the job? You might answer with a strong technical acumen and substantial experience with the systems engineering process, and you'd be right, but the complete answer is more complex than just that. Lead systems engineers are team leaders, motivators and influencers, and their success leading teams is as critically important as their knowledge of the systems engineering process. To be a great lead system engineer you also need to be a great leader of people.

Steven Hirshorn, author of the NASA-published book Three-Sigma Leadership (available as a free downloadable e-book at, will discuss the elements that create truly successful lead systems engineers.


In 2015 Mr. Hirshorn celebrated his 25th anniversary with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Presently he resides at NASA HQ in Washington D.C. within the Office of Chief Engineer where he is the Chief Engineer for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD).

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University in 1986, and a Masters of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at The University of Texas - Austin in 1989, Mr. Hirshorn began his NASA career at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX joining the ranks Space Shuttle flight controllers in the eponymous Mission Control. Serving as an EGIL, Mr. Hirshorn supported fifty five Space Shuttle missions on console over the next eleven years, including ten launches and landings, on some of the Space Shuttle Program's most historic missions. Working side-by-side with many of the Mission Control "fore fathers", veterans of the Apollo Moon landing missions who were approaching retirement, Mr. Hirshorn was able to gain from the experience and wisdom of these space-age greats.

From 2001-2006 Mr. Hirshorn moved on to technical management responsibilities as the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) representative to the Space Shuttle's Orbiter project, and from 2006-2011 as the MOD Lead Engineer for the Constellation Program. Both roles necessitated representing all of the Shuttle flight operations community to larger and larger elements within NASA.

At the end of both the Shuttle and Constellation Programs, Mr. Hirshorn moved to NASA HQ, first serving as the Systems Engineering & Integration Manager in one of the ARMD’s aeronautics research programs. In 2013, Mr. Hirshorn transferred to the Office of Chief Engineer, first serving as Deputy Chief Engineer for both ARMD and the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) before becoming ARMD Chief Engineer. In this capacity Mr. Hirshorn has led efforts to better align NASA's R&T governance with program and project implementation. Mr. Hirshorn is also responsible for NASA's Systems Engineering (SE) policies, and continues to investigate the role of SE in R&T.

Most recently, Mr. Hirshorn has been serving a detail in the Science Mission Directorate as the Assistant Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs.

Mr. Hirshorn resides in pastoral Mt. Airy, MD with his wife, three cats, two koi ponds and various other critters. Beyond a lifelong passion for spaceflight, Mr. Hirshorn also enjoys mountaineering and painting and creative writing.


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