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National Stuttering Association

John RaabSr. Manager Flight Software & Spacecraft Simulation

    John Raab

    Parker, CO
    Sr. Manager Flight Software & Spacecraft Simulation
    Lockheed Martin

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    Develop, test and maintain software for spacecraft operations.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    Verbal communications are challenging in new situations with people that you don’t know. There is a tendency to stay in your comfort zone because of this. I always tried to maintain a “if I were a winner” mentality when making decisions.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I am recently retired but during those 36 years, I was committed to advancing my career regardless of stuttering challenges.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    I’m not real proud of this. I didn’t say anything about my stuttering during the job interview. I guess I was afraid it might hurt my chances of getting the job. When I got home, I reconsidered. I sent my future manager a letter thanking him for the interview and I disclosed the fact that I stuttered.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    I was in charge of the flight rules while the spacecraft was in the Space Shuttle cargo bay before deployment. My supervisor told me that I would have a console position in Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center. I knew I would need to to talk on the “net”. I was terrified but I said, “Okay”. My supervisor’s manager said that because it was manned spaceflight that I was not going. It was clearly because of my speech. I was more relieved than upset. At that point, the Program Manager stepped in and overruled everyone. “John is going” he said. I did go. There were some anomalies during the mission and I was in the middle of it all. I stuttered some but overall had good success. Later, our team got to meet with our astronaut crew. The whole thing was an amazing experience.

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    Everyone brings their whole person to work. People deal with challenges that are not always visible. I was able to look past things that were not perfect and focus on the important things like getting the job done.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    An employee that worked in my group gave a customer presentation and stuttered significantly. It didn’t go well. His lead asked me what we should do. I told him to talk with him about it and that he was probably more resilient than you think. We gave him the job of reporting status at our weekly staff meeting. The plan was to provide opportunities to help him gain more experience over time. That worked. I’m sorry he got thrown in the fire the first time. My advice is to talk with your supervisor about your speech and keep the lines of communication open.