I recently connected with an awesome young leader that is using his foundation in leadership and engineering to be a force that is out of this world! Mr. Benjamin's success has been nothing short of amazing and his talents "On and Off" the field have enabled him to break through barriers in his academic, athletic and professional careers. He is definitely a rising, trending leader that will be one to watch as we progress through the 21st century. I am blessed to have met him at this stage of our careers, even though our roots trace back to our alma mater, Southern University and A&M College. His story is one that should inspire us all and challenge us to not take the easy way out and cut out all complacency.
Mr. Benjamin graduated from W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton, AL in 2003 with a 4.5 GPA, All-State Honors in three different Sports and a bright future ahead. He has since been inducted into the W.S. Neal Sports Hall of Fame. From Neal, Mr. Benjamin attended Southern University and A&M College where he was a part of the Jaguar Football team from 2003-2008, a graduate of the Southern University Honors College and a recipient of an honors Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Also while at Southern University, Mr. Benjamin became a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated. After Southern University, Benjamin started his career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL as an Operations Controller for the International Space Station (ISS). During his career at NASA, Benjamin has received numerous awards for his hard work and determination in Payload Operation on-board the ISS. Also while at NASA, he has taken part in the agency NASA F.I.R.S.T Program which is an agency wide effort to mold the next group of leaders. Mr. Benjamin was recently chosen as a Management Intern for the Center Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center and also selected to perform duties as a Payload Operations Director. Benjamin also holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management/Program Management from the Florida Institute of Technology. Mr. Benjamin also has an entrepreneurial mindset and has numerous businesses outside of his daily work. He is part owner of the Huntsville Rockets Football Organization, produces and writes music, and also part owner of Mother Hemp, a wellness company based out of Memphis, Tennessee.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Nick: I was always fascinated by mechanical things and how they work. When you talk about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they are all things that i have a passion about. Math was one of the only things that made sense to me growing up because I felt like I could always make numbers work. Even though, I was a part of the Pre-Med program in high school, engineering ultimately took over because it encompasses everything about STEM. I am glad that they added the A-Arts to the equation because I have been a lover of Music since a very young age. I was a drummer in church and in the band and I continue to pursue my love for music with producing and writing. I have worked with multiple local artist as well as international artist at the moment and I hope to expand my business in the near future.
Q: How has your foundation in sports helped you to become a better leader in your industry?
Nick: Sports has been the foundation for my life for a long time. The art of competition, wanting to strive to win, and learning the lessons of a loss have made me into the person that I am today. If you really look at it, most of the world is built around what sports are. Competing, winning, teamwork, taking criticism, learning from mistakes and trying again are all things that we all face at one time or another. From elementary school all the way until now, my parents have always instilled in me to be your best. That does not always mean being the best, but be your best. Use your ability to your advantage and take advantage of the gifts that God has given you from creation.
Q: NASA is known for developing cutting edge innovations and technologies, how have you or the teams you’ve supported contributed to those developments?
Nick: Early on in my career while working as a Flight Controller for the International Space Station, I worked with numerous Principal Investigators and Scientist all over the world to conduct science operations. These types of investigations include anything from stem cell research to earth observations that help us understand our planet. I have also gotten a chance to work with an amazing group of astronauts that are the only group of people that have personally experienced an outer earth experience. As a part of the Executive Team at Marshall Space Flight Center, I am now getting the chance to not only help manage the production of some of the most powerful rockets ever manufactured, but I also get a chance to influence the future of NASA and our role in the space industry. I have gotten a chance to travel all over the world to advise, manage, and explore what there is to offer regarding space travel. Currently, NASA is on a mission to return back to the moon by putting the next man and the first woman on the lunar surface. This will ultimately give us access to pursue our mission to Mars. All of this will take hard work and dedication in areas such as Nuclear Thermal Propulsion, Space Launch Systems, Human Landing System, and the Lunar Gateway. All of these areas are part of NASA’s ARTEMIS mission to return to the Moon and land the first human on Mars.
Q: At Re.engineer we believe that personal expression is a big part of establishing an inclusive work environment. What are some of the ways that you express yourself?
Nick: With sports being a major part of my life, I keep that going in my free time. I am part owner and Head coach of the Huntsville Rockets here in Huntsville, AL. It gives me the opportunity to express myself day in and day out using the love for the game, the want to help people and give the guys another chance at football, and my business mindset. I played for this organization when I first relocated to the rocket city and now I am the leader of it. I also am a huge lover of music. I write and produce music as well. Under the stage name David BlaQue, I have produced music for artist here in the area as well as worked with a couple of international artist in Europe. Both of these are things that I love and I will always have some type of input in them both.
Q: What advice would you give to a young professional as they start their career?
Nick: There is so much that I would tell myself if I could go back to the start of my career, but If there was something that I could tell a young professional it would be to make great connections and learn as much about what you are doing as possible. Not only about the job that you are doing but all of the moving parts that go into the machine that your job is a part of. I am currently working with the Center director at Marshall Space Flight Center and being able to see the entire picture is huge. You don’t want to get to a point where your job is easy and you get complacent. You should always challenge yourself. You have to be your biggest competitor. In the connections piece, make sure that the people you have in your circle are fighting for you and telling your story as it should be told. Find a mentor and learn about different ways of doing what it is that you do. There are so many different perspectives out there and the best professional is one that can adapt and succeed in a rapidly changing environment.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Nick: I have always been the biggest critic of myself and what keeps me up at night is the thought of “Did I do something today that will make myself and the world better tomorrow?” I always want to make sure that I leave my mark on whatever it is that I am a part of whether that’s a person, event, or area of interest. There is always a way to help and a way to leave a situation better that is was before you got there. Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of life, but we should always take the time for self-development, self-improvement, and self-education. Those are the things that keep you ahead of the curve. As an athlete, I was always taught that every day that you don’t get better, that’s a day that somebody out there got better than you. I have always taken that to heart and try to make sure that I take every day as a blessing and an opportunity to get that much better.
As you can tell through his perspectives, Nick's legacy is not just bonded to his traditional engineering skill set, but it penetrates through all of his personal accomplishments - music, sports and the community. As he has stated himself, "There will always be Challenges. Within those challenges will be Opportunities. Within those opportunities, take risk to go outside the comfort zone and make a difference in your life and in the life of others!"
Nick, thank you for taking our industry to the next level and for your courage in living like there is no box. You are a certified re.engineer!