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Job Title:
Associate Director Technology and Engineering, IL-0801-00; $135,468 - $203,700 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-Federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  Open to all current SAO staff.


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is part of a joint institution known as the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA). SAO is a diverse astrophysical institution at which more than 600 scientists are engaged in a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and earth and space sciences. Within the broader Smithsonian mission, SAO scientists are dedicated to the increase of knowledge about those physical processes that shape the natural world, and to the diffusion of this knowledge to the scientific community, to teachers and students, and to the general public.

SAO is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its multiple programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch as well as for use in large ground-based facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriation or in the form of contracts and grants from other agencies while Institution funds are made available to SAO in the form of grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities and non-Federal contracts and grants.


This is the position of Associate Director for Technology and Engineering, (ADTE). The ADTE plays a central leadership role in the engineering and technology development of the SAO, in partnership with Harvard University, as one of the world’s premier centers for astronomy and astrophysics.   The ADTE reports to the SAO Director, interacts with the Deputy Director, and serves on the Executive Management team in the development and implementation of engineering & technology-related governance, operations, budgets, administrative, and management policies and plans, including long-range program plans, to meet the strategic objectives of the CfA that are efficient, cost-effective, forward-thinking, and of the highest standards.  The ADTE will communicate effectively with engineering, scientific, technical and administrative staff within the CfA, and will engage at the highest levels with external stakeholders. 


  1. Works with the Director, Deputy Director, and the CfA Executive Management team in the development and oversight of engineering & technology programs for the SAO, and makes decisions regarding direction, emphasis, and execution of engineering & technology programs.
  2. Develops and operates an innovative and forward-looking engineering & technology strategic plan within a changing funding landscape.  Identifies technology for SAO growth and development aligned with the overall SAO and CfA strategic plan and vision.  Develops or adapts cost centers, procedures and controls to give the greatest support for program operations consistent with legislation, regulations, and policy requirements of the Institution and other funding agencies. 
  3. Oversees information technology and support functions at SAO including but not limited to computer, data, and network management, research computing, infrastructure upgrades, network security, and disaster recovery.  Reviews and allocates resources to address current and future technology needs and computing requirements to support research programs and administrative processes at a high level. Ensure that compliance requirements are addressed on time and in accordance with SI/SAO policies.
  4. Manages the engineering & technology program budget to support the CfA mission and enhance organization agility, accountability, and transparency. Consolidates instrumentation development, instrument data management, software development, processing, and storage efforts across the observatory.   Takes lead in the development of staff resourcing plans and policies regarding budget formulation and efficient personnel allocation. 
  5. Ensure that the contractual obligations of instrumentation and software development programs are met within project timeframes.  Ensures that key performance indicators, safety and compliance protocols, quality assurance and reliability assessments are completed to the satisfaction of contract partners and stakeholders.
  6. Oversees the design of systems framework, resource sharing and allocation, software tools, and templates with the goal of reducing non-recurring engineering and project startup costs.  Builds consensus on the prioritization of cross-division technology initiatives. while keeping the Executive Management team abreast of progress and key developments.
  7. Serves as the liaison with partner institutions in regard to engineering and technology matters.  Develops and maintains strong working relationships with engineering and technical staff at partner organizations to support pan-CfA initiatives.
  8. Participates in discussions related to technology and data science initiatives at other SI Units and stakeholders, OCIO, and explores synergistic partnerships and collaborations with industry as appropriate.  Strives for best-of-class service and support and maintains an awareness of the frontiers of knowledge and best practices in instrumentation and software development and management, and data security.
  9. Plans, initiates, and directs the development and utilization of modern management techniques, methods, and controls. Effectively manages and supervises a large staff of engineering and technical staff in the units of instrument development, software development, program management, computation and product assurance.  Manages, fosters and facilitates positive and engaging interactions among instrument scientists, instrument development, software development, program management and product assurance teams.
  10. Maintains close and harmonious working relationships with senior supervisory staff, including the CfA Director, Deputy Director, members of the CfA Executive Management team and the leads of scientific divisions to assure integration of short-and long-range plans consistent with the SAO scientific, research and telescope strategic plans and vision.  Maintains close working relationships with other senior staff members.
  11. Works closely with supervisors in the development and advancement of CfA early-career engineers, technical staff, and software engineers.
  12. Establishes a positive and engaging leadership style that emphasizes open, transparent and clear communication via written and oral messaging.  Coaches and counsels staff and encourages a supportive team-based approach to project planning and implementation, introducing and readjusting operations to meet strategic plan initiatives, priorities and/or changing needs. 
  13. Develops and monitors policies to achieve management objectives in areas such as strategic workforce management, diversity, and equal employment opportunity within the engineering and technology program. Promotes policies and procedures that foster inclusive workforce participation. Relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences. Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding the treatment and acceptance of all individuals and is proactive in workforce diversity and inclusion initiatives.   Acts in ways that protect civil rights.
  14. Other duties as required.


Basic Qualifications:

- Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or an equivalent combination of successfully completed graduate education and experience*; and  

-One year of full-time experience at the Grade 15 level or equivalent that is closely related to the work of this position or has provided the individual the specialized experience noted below.  

*For information on qualification requirements, see

Specialized Experience:

Engineering/Technical:  Extensive experience managing the development and completion of telescope infrastructure, telescope instrumentation and related software.  Extensive experience prioritizing work packages within fiscally constrained and constantly changing financial environments.  Extensive experience in technical and engineering support for proposal preparation for multiple funding agencies, including the NSF and NASA.  Experience in the successful implementation, budget management, and personnel management for major technical, software, computation and engineering projects.  Detailed knowledge of the US Decadal Survey for Astronomy, national and international grant funding agencies, programs and deadlines.  Ability to identify emerging areas of technology relevant to SAO strategic priorities and obtain resources for research and development of such technologies.

 Project Management - Broad and deep understanding of project management protocols, workflow tracking, budget management, and risk management applied to telescope infrastructure development and telescope instrumentation development.  Ability to manage engineering, computational, and technical programs from proposal to completion within strict timeframes.  Ability to set key performance indicators and milestones and manage multiple teams simultaneously to achieve their milestones. 

Financial Management- Mastery of the principles and practices of budget formulation and prioritization of goals and priorities.  Experience allocating science budgets within a constantly changing and constraining budget environment.  Experience managing a cost center with accurate and accountable budget management.  Advanced knowledge of techniques for monitoring and managing expenditures to ensure cost effectiveness including the use of cost benefit analysis to set priorities, and knowledge of SAO financial processes and procedures.

Personnel Management:  Significant experience in large-scale management of technology, software development and engineering teams.  Extensive knowledge of performance management systems, recruitment policies and practices, and personnel policies and procedures.  Proven ability to manage personnel effectively, while creating a positive and inclusive work environment.  Proven ability to influence and engage others in effective management techniques and in building an inclusive and positive work environment.  Exceptional ability to delegate tasks and engage staff in contributing towards organization goals.

Communication skills— Outstanding ability to express information effectively in all formats, including on-line and during video conferencing, taking into account the audience and nature of the information.  Exceptional ability to listen to others, attend to nonverbal cues, and respond appropriately and respectfully.  High level communication skills and experience liaising with scientists, engineers, technical staff, administrative staff and executive-level management at SAO, Harvard and contracting partner organizations. 

APPLICATION PROCEDURE We will only accept applications online for this position.  To receive consideration applicants MUST submit all of the following: 

1. Curriculum Vitae;                                                                                                                                                                   

2. Vision Statement of the role of the ADTE: statement should include your plan for innovative technology, engineering and integration for the next five years (maximum 3 pages);                                                                                         

3. Statement specifically addressing the duties and responsibilities of and selection criteria for the position (maximum 2 pages);                                                                                                                                                                         

4. A Diversity and Inclusion Statement:  statement should address your experience related to increasing/improving diversity and inclusion, as well as a description of activities and/or practices you would introduce in the role of ADTE (maximum 2 pages).  

To apply for this position, please submit your application online:  Please note that you will be required to create a login (user name and password) in order to access the SAO online application.

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccination requirements and its impact on your application, click on Smithsonian Institution’s Frequently Asked Questions.  

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace

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