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Ellen Ochoa | The first Latina in Space | Dir. of NASA Johnson Space Center (2013-2018)
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Ellen Ochoa is the first Latina ever to go to space. She’s also only the second female Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center—where she led the human space flight enterprise for the nation from 2013 to 2018. Ochoa is a trailblazer like no other. As an in-demand speaker, she touches on resonant issues that have defined her historic career: What can we learn about change, innovation, and the culture of teams from her time at the upper reaches of NASA’s leadership? And what can we do—really do—to ensure that more women and minorities find a place within STEM fields? 

“What everyone in the astronaut corps shares in common is not gender or ethnic background, but motivation, perseverance, and desire—the desire to participate in a voyage of discovery.”

— Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa is a STEM speaker for our generation. She’s a history-making astronaut, a brilliant inventor, a gifted corporate leader who left her mark on the culture of NASA, a role model for women executives, a hero of the Latinx community, and a lodestar for discussions about females and minorities pursuing scientific and technical fields. On stage, she brings it all together—draws lessons from her life—in a down-to-earth style that has engaged hundreds of audiences across the country. 


In 2013, Ochoa was named the 11th Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, becoming the first Latinx and the second female director to hold this prestigious position; she retired in 2018. An active astronaut since 1991, two years later, Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discover. In total, she has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours, leading onboard scientific activities, and serving as flight engineer during the launch, rendezvous, and entry phases of the mission. Ochoa is the recipient of many honors, including NASA's highest awards, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Distinguished Rank of the Senior Executive Service. She was recently featured in True Colors, a documentary series focusing on Hispanic trailblazers and thought leaders, including Major League Baseball player Alex Rodríguez, Hollywood actor Mario Lopez, and New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


In the corporate world, Ochoa has provided executive guidance to a variety of organizations. She is on the boards of Service Corporation International,  Mutual of America, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and is Chair of the National Science Board. She previously chaired the Nomination Evaluation Committee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and has served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board and the Stanford University Board of Trustees. She is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, the Latino Corporate Directors Association, and WomenCorporateDirectors.  


Within the halls of higher education, Ellen Ochoa has received honorary doctorates from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvannia and Johns Hopkins University among others. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Academy of Inventors and the Optical Society of America. She earned a B.S. in Physics from San Diego State University, and Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. Prior to her astronaut and management career, Ochoa was a research engineer. She holds three patents for optical systems. She is also a classical flautist and has played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra. There are six schools named in her honor, and several books written about her.


“Ellen's talk at Oktane was so incredible! As a young engineer myself, it was really inspiring to see a woman who has had such an amazing career journey, and who also cares about improving the world for women in STEM. The in-session chat window was flooded with positive feedback and many even said it was their favorite session of the conference!”

Women @ Okta

“It was wonderful to have Dr. Ochoa. By far my favorite part of the conference, and my whole company was very excited. One colleague wrote: 'It is difficult to express how absolutely incredible it is to have Dr. Ochoa give a Postman Galaxy keynote chat!' Some of our attendees even brought their daughters to watch and ask questions, which warmed my heart so much. She's such a great speaker. Thank you for helping facilitate that. Honestly, virtual was difficult, but it gave us the opportunity to have speakers from all over the world and that feels worth it.”


Speech Topics

An Evening with Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa—the first Latina in space—has charted a dazzling and inspirational career path: from her early days as a researcher, to her four missions as an astronaut, to heading up NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Ochoa has seen first hand the importance of minorities in STEM, women in leadership positions, and the way innovative change management can push a team—an entire organization—forward. In customized keynotes, which can forefront any aspect of her work, Ochoa addresses a range of topics close to her heart and at the core of contemporary discussions about diversity, corporate management, science and engineering, space exploration, and so much else. An unforgettable evening with one of America’s trailblazers.