Making Eagles Fly, A Chat with NASA’s Bob Jacobs

By Cindy Chin, CEO CLC Advisors, LLC

This article is part of a series of articles on design thinking and thought leaders that transform into what we at CLC Advisors, LLC call “i.e.,” the “idea economy.” Where ideas become and transform into widgets for those who choose to dare mighty things and build something.



Image: NASA

I first met NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator Bob Jacobs, during the transition of Space Shuttle Atlantis from Kennedy Space Center to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, signalling the end of NASA’s 35-year space shuttle program five years ago. He’s the man at comms mission control behind NASA’s 1500 websites, social media accounts, and official communications and part of a slice of living American history. When he asked one of his mentors before taking the job at NASA, his mentor advised him and said, “You can either continue to write about history or be a part of it.” He took the job. Those are big shoes to fill and Bob Jacobs would be the type of person to tell whether a design of a shoe is big enough and whether it will work. In his case they would be moon or anti-gravity boots and emerging technologies. He’s seen them all and then some.



Where did you start out in your career? When did you find your calling?
I started in broadcasting, specifically in radio in 1979. I was a Mass Communications freshman at Middle Tennessee State University and terrific of the future. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but this seemed like a good, general major. I visited the campus radio station with a friend who was more advanced in the major and fell in love. To understand my eventual career path you would have to know a little about the history of Nashville television. Let’s just press fast-forward and acknowledge that television and multimedia were the initial driving forces to a communications career that has now spanned nearly 40 years. I still consider myself a journalist at heart.

Early in my career I discovered the importance emerging technologies can play in effective communications. Now don’t get me wrong, platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter should not be considered communications solutions. They’re tools, no more effective than the invention of radio. You have to know how to use them. You still need to know how to integrate the technology with solid communications practices. And you’ll always need good writers and creative communicators to use those tools effectively.

What was your first NASA memory?
As a child, watching television coverage of Gemini missions in my grandmother’s den. I come from the Apollo generation. I was 8-years-old when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. I remember the incredible joy I felt watching the first color images f

rom Apollo 12 and crying when Alan Bean accidentally pointed the camera at the sun, burning out the pickup tube. There was no television that entire mission. I remember the networks covering the moonwalks with bad-looking stand-ins on a set and mission audio. It has been my greatest privilege to get to know and work with my childhood heroes and be able to call them friends.

Neil Armstrong Family Memorial Service

Bob Jacobs, Annie & the late Senator John Glenn. Image courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

What is it like to witness living history firsthand?
I was struggling joining NASA communications in late 2000. I was working at Associated Press in technology development and missed the editorial side, and we just didn’t find the right fit at AP. When the news chief position at NASA opened, I jumped at the chance, but I struggled with moving from a news organization to a position many consider to be PR. I talked about this with one of my mentors and he said, “You can either continue to write about history or be a part of it.” That was the nudge I needed. I officially joined NASA in July 2000. I have been fortunate to witness and be a part of history. High school students today have never known a time when humans weren’t living and working in space, or when there were working science laboratories on Mars. That’s heady stuff. I’m honored to help tell the stories of the scientists and engineers who achieve these amazing feats. 

How much curiosity, creativity, and imagination is necessary in what you do daily? What is the percentage breakout?
What’s Edison’s old quote that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration? There’s a lot to that. Again, creative ideas can come easy. A lot of people have the answer. The trick is to know how to make that answer a reality. I love watching children at museums. Their minds aren’t cluttered with educations and bias and fear of the unknown. They ask the most outrageously creative yet simple questions. I don’t know how it works for others, but I spend a lot of time trying to plug into that kid who loved Lost in Space on TV. The kid who couldn’t wait for the teacher to pull out the television to watch a launch.

What are the key attributes that have contributed to your success? How did you define it?
Well, there’s a built-in assumption I’ve been successful. I’ll let outsiders make that determination. I’ve had many failures in my career. But if there are any keys to successful communications, it lies in thinking big, pushing boundaries, and then having a plan for making those big thoughts a reality. I don’t buy into many of today’s business buzzwords. I hate people who call themselves “ideators.” What the hell is that? Ninjas and gurus should steer clear of me. Anyone can come up with solutions. The challenge is to be able to turn that solution into action and results. People who just want to throw their grand idea for someone else to execute is lazy. If I give you an idea, there’s going to be a tangible artifact at the end of the process, be it a book, video, event, or one of the world’ss most recognized social media brands. Ideas are easy. Anyone can tell you to “do more concerts in the park.” The trick is to navigate within the available resources are structures of your organizations and still be able to execute. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break rules. However, if you’re going to implement transformation that’s lasting and get other people to buy into your idea so it becomes part of the new model, you have to spend time working within the existing framework. Here’s where I refer you back to John Kotter. Remind me to send a “thank you” note to John for my career! Finally, you have to surround yourself with smart and good people. Note the use of the word “good.” I mean that in every definable sense you can imagine. In the end, a leader is successful by the people who carry out the elements of any plan. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of talented individuals who are good people. Organizations often mistake aggression and asshole for talent. Being mean doesn’t make you good at being a leader. It just makes you mean.

This article first appeared on Medium. To read more about our chat with Bob, his advice on crisis communications, insights into what it is like to manage NASA’s over 1500 websites and social media accounts, The Jacobs Four Commandments for Crisis Communications, and what’s on his mind these days, please go to our Medium page here.

About Bob Jacobs
Bob Jacobs is a recognized leader in social media engagement, strategic and crisis communications, and innovative media development. He is currently the NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications and has directed projects and work that earned three Emmy Awards in Television, eight Webby Awards for the best Internet site, and three Shorty Awards for best social media.

Bob has earned four agency medals for exceptional achievement, exceptional service, and outstanding leadership. He is the senior career NASA spokesperson and serves as Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications, and often publicly represents the Office of Administrator and other senior agency leadership. He is responsible for directing and executing many of the agency’s outreach activities.

His creative communications approach led to the collaboration on such films as “Hidden Figures and “The Martian.” Bob led a number of public and education events related to the films, including public premieres and videos with Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Janelle Monáe, and Taraji P. Henson. He directed the collaboration on the Internet-based Third Rock Radio station and the highly-popular Angry Birds Space mobile gaming platform. Bob also developed, co-authored and edited four books, including “Hubble: A Journey through Space and Time” and “Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts,” plus a children’s book “The Astronauts Alphabet.”

A Nashville native, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a master’s degree from Seton Hall University.

About NASA
For more than 50 years, NASA has been breaking barriers to achieve the seemingly impossible — from walking on the Moon to pushing the boundaries of human spaceflight farther than ever before. We work in space and around the world in laboratories and wind tunnels, on airfields and in control rooms to explore some of life’s fundamental mysteries: What’s out there in space? How do we get there? And what can we learn that will make life better here on Earth? We are passionate professionals united by a common purpose: to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. Today, we continue NASA’s legacy of excellence and innovation through an unprecedented array of missions. We are developing the most advanced rockets and spacecraft ever designed, studying the Earth for answers to critical challenges facing our planet, improving the air transportation experience, and so much more. Join us as we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humanity.

About Cindy Chin
Ms. Chin is an entrepreneur, venture strategist, & cultural ambassador of the arts & sciences. As CEO of CLC Advisors, LLC, she is an advisor & board member to founding startup teams, opportunity scout for VC & LP partners, a global strategic thought leader, & a sought-after speaker.

Cindy is also a NASA Datanaut, an open data innovation program to promote data science, coding, and gender diversity. The NASA Datanauts program operates within the Office of the CIO at NASA Headquarters. She is also a mentor in the Google Launchpad Mentor Program, Stanford University’s Technology Entrepreneurship and undergrad programs, and a member of the faculty of the Startup Executive Academy of Silicon Castles in Salzburg, Austria.

Cindy is passionate about social impact, smART cities, public-private sector partnerships & building great companies. She achieves this by defining strategies for building multidisciplinary ecosystems, accelerators, outreach, & innovation phases of ventures, alternative revenue generation & sustainability. Gender parity & diversity are factors for consideration.

About CLC Advisors, LLC
CLC Advisors, LLC is a firm of trusted advisors and management consultants focusing on development and execution strategies to build and incubate value-based business ventures, innovations, initiatives, and forward exponential technologies to future societies and smART cities. We are dedicated to finding solutions for traditional business models or expanding into the growing arenas of impact investing, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and philanthropy venture capital.

Beyond Moonshots: Mars 🚀

img_8168-1      By Cindy Chin, CEO, CLC Advisors, LLC

This article is the first of a series of articles on design thinking and what we at CLC Advisors, LLC call “i.e.,” the “idea economy.”

This week alone, I traveled from one continent to another and down the eastern coast and back home again. All this air travel was made possible by the investment, research, and development in science and technology, some of which came from space research from NASA and the military. Some of that investment birthed technologies like satellites and GPS for air transport guidance, internet connectivity and the wide array of mobile apps on my smartphone to get me to my destinations, reminders, plane ticket bookings, wingtip technologies on the Boeing and Airbus planes, wind and jet stream resiliency for airplane stability, weather guidance for a smoother ride home, medical research on passenger comfort, and research on gravity to land safely on the ground to name a few on what tax payer dollars and investments in science, technology, and space years ago has provided for our technologies today.

This week culminated in some spending two days with IBM’s OS Earth group, a new think tank bringing together a group of designers, scientists, and coders, the more fashionable of names now for one who was a programmer mere decades ago. I was reminded again yesterday during our sessions of why we are often drawn to the impossible and tasked with finding those answers and solutions to burning questions. It is great leadership that can allow impossible to become possible and no matter who is sitting in an office in a city, territory, or country near you, that progress cannot be stifled.

“Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward — and so will space.”
– President John F. Kennedy, Jr.

As I watched a program hosted by Morgan Freeman on wormhole theories, I was also reminded that time does not always move linearly. Einstein in his theory of relativity proved that time sometimes folds and we see patterns of repetitiveness. This is one of those times, but no matter what, it is always fluid. So, take this time to move to the past for a little over 17 minutes to one of the greatest and inspirational leaders with whom we had too short of time with, but in that short time inspired a generation and the ripple effects of an incredible era of invention, innovation, new industries, humanity, and wealth creation. Believe me, it is worth those 17 minutes of time to hear those presidential words again.

The broad advancements in science in the areas of climate change, earth science, research and development, mathematics, and technology are still necessary and to echo White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, “not a charity case, but a prosperity case.” It is all hands on deck and imperative for the survival of many species on this Spaceship Earth.

If you are an entrepreneur or startups who are working on climate change, aerospace, data science your own Mars Shot, or market entry into the United States, our team at CLC Advisors, LLC can help you. Contact us to find out more information or go to our website

About CLC Advisors, LLC
CLC Advisors, LLC is a firm of trusted advisors and management consultants focusing on development and execution strategies to build and incubate value-based business ventures, innovations, initiatives, and forward technologies. We are dedicated to finding solutions for traditional business models or expanding into the growing arenas of impact investing, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and philanthropy venture capital.

#inspiration #moonshots #science #datascience #climatechange #space #aerospace #Sundaywisdom #entrepreneur #startups

Meet GES Delegate Cindy Chin, CEO CLC Advisors, LLC 

Cindy Chin, CEO CLC Advisors, LLC. Photo: © Cindy Chin

Name: Cindy Chin
Twitter handle: @cindylchin, CLC Advisors, LLC
Instagram: @cindylchin
Country of Origin: United States
Organization Name: CLC Advisors, LLC
Organization Website:

About Organization: CLC Advisors, LLC is a firm of trusted advisors and management consultants focusing on development and execution strategies to build and incubate value-based business ventures and innovation. We work with global businesses, government institutions and organizations in both the private, public, and social sectors. Whether it is through thorough analysis, streamlining or restructuring for our clients’ needs, we are dedicated to finding solutions for business models to expand into the growing arenas of impact investing, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and philanthropy venture capital.

With our network partners we connect our clients with investment funds, PE firms, hedge funds & venture capitalists who are looking for impact opportunities and alternative investments. Global leaders who have a deep understanding & compassion for social responsibility, business growth and the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economic returns for broader economic growth.

We provide advisory services in innovation, leadership and management expertise for private and public companies in addition to NGOs, think tanks and philanthropic institutions. We believe that leadership is crucial to the direction of companies and invest time in assisting with strengthening teams for strategic expansion as an incubator for growing companies, creative business sectors and new ideas or concepts. In the growing field of philanthropy venture capital, we step into new and unchartered territory by bridging the gap between the humanities and the finance world. Execution is key.

What inspired you to start this organization?

CLC Advisors, LLC was started based on the ideas of creating social impact during the downturn of philanthropy and capitalism over seven years ago during the midsts of the U.S. capital market crisis. I had a deep interest in what the future of jobs and sustainability efforts would look like. I realized that philanthropy was not enough in order to sustain non-profit institutions or social impact initiatives. A new asset class and industry was being born.

What is strategy? “In essence, choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are more difficult to match in the economic basis of competitive advantage to the level of the specific activities a company performs.” Since that time, we have grown by focusing on strategic advisory and capital investment work to bring to fruition ideas, creating solutions and products by leveraging the alliance of people and talent in science, technology, the arts and public policy/political roles in both the for profit and non-profit worlds. We have a portfolio of projects across several social impact areas in private and public sector collaborations.

Goal. My goal is to help people mobilize and deploy private resources, including money, time, social capital and expertise, to improve the world in which we live. It is one of my personal measurements for success.

What is the next big step you hope to help your organization reach?

Large-scale advisory projects and initiatives. I prefer idea and conception strategies on how to grow companies or start them and then scale. The projects I’m passionate about focus on specific companies, partners, and startups that are in the aerospace, STEM, climate change, environment, energy, and sustainability areas, but we have also taken on projects in the arts, music or film. In the past seven years, our reach has crossed borders and oceans to Western Europe, Africa, MENA, East Asia and the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and South America. We are growing our portfolio and work in the Nordic countries, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. I would love to do a project with NASA’s or CERN’s innovation hubs and leverage their research and development into a private sector business or company. Also, some thing in the area of healthcare and safety. It has been on my vision board for over five years now.

Women entrepreneurs. We also have a strong interest in investing and mentoring women entrepreneurs. Venture funds now look for women entrepreneurs and diversity. After McKinsey Global Institute study and IMF research reports showed that advancing gender equality, meaning the advancement of women, can increase the annual global GDP (growth domestic product) by $12 trillion, or 11%, by 2025. The public, private, and social sectors need to act to close the gender gaps. In a full potential scenario where women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion or 26 percent could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.

Mentorship. Mentorship is key to help young entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I would not be where I am today with the support of a wide network of people and their generosity and wisdom. Don’t only pay it forward, also pay it back.

What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur?

In the beginning, the biggest obstacle was convincing investment firms the vision, economical, and financial impact of social entrepreneurship and for-purpose companies. Most investors were only interested in alpha revenue business models and a singular bottom line, not a triple bottom line. With the expansion and growth of social entrepreneurship like Big Society Capital’s initial investment fund of £600 Million and Goldman Sachs’ social impact bond in the criminal justice system, investment firms and corporations have since realized the importance of social responsilibity in their growth and corporate strategies.

What advice would you give other emerging entrepreneurs?

I’ve learned many lessons, but the most important are patience, perseverance, and an absolute belief in your vision. Invest in yourself through knowledge acquisition, build your network by surrounding yourself with the best talented minds, and know that experience is often underrated so don’t always go for the quick return or solution. There is a quote from Mark Suster who said, “Lemons ripen early. Great companies take time.” I have more of a Warren Buffet approach to business than probably most investors. I like to build companies that will last more than 25 years that pay dividends.

This post was originally published on the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Publication here and on our Medium account here.