Best Places spotlight: Independence reigns at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

An agile approach to projects lets IT pros take on multiple roles and learn new skills.

Working in IT at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is great for all the reasons you'd expect.

There's the cool factor of sitting in on lunchtime seminars about astrophysics or finding new planets, the chance to develop educational mobile apps such as Spacecraft 3D, the opportunity to work with emerging technologies like Google Glass and the thrill of working side-by-side with scientists and engineers on flight projects.

All that makes for a work environment that's energetic and optimistic, says technology infusion specialist Gabriel Rangel. "Innovating with the missions and science -- that's what makes it interesting. We're changing history, and IT is part of that."

Pasadena, Calif.-based JPL also offers notable career path flexibility, says Luke Dahl, section manager for application consulting, development and engineering. If you're a business analyst and want to learn about mobile development, you can take classes -- and contribute. In addition, JPL is moving to an "agile scrum" process that allows people to change roles as teams form and disband for the organization's many concurrent projects. "You can be a business analyst on one project and a lead developer on another," Dahl says.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
IT staffers at JPL, from left to right: CIO Jim Rinaldi, Tom Soderstrom, Gerardo Orozco, Gabriel Rangel, Whitney Haggins, Anh-Hong Rucker, Jonathan Chiang and deputy CIO Mag Powell-Meeks.(Credit: Christopher Hawley)

Next: Spotlight: IT-friendly perks and challenging work at Clearlink, the No. 19 midsize organization, create a positive company culture.

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