I work for a NASA center. Each year, NASA as a whole goes through an awards process where people submit the names of other people and teams and projects and missions that they think should be rewarded for something. It's a good way to provide recognition (sometimes there's even a check involved!), and a nice thing to let somebody know that they've done a good job.
A few hours ago, I just finished sitting through the 2007 version of the awards ceremony for my NASA center. There were upwards of 150 awards given out, and the person doing the announcing did a great job cycling through the names and reading what the awards were for -- it only took 1 1/2 hours!
In my cynical opinion, it seems that there are three kinds of awards that are given out at these things, as follows:
-- There's a category of award that I'll call "stratosphere awards" that are typically given to members of the elite/famous or upper management. These seem to often be given out just because somebody is well-known and respected, and associated with a mission or project that didn't fail spectacularly. They don't appear to be awarded based on the recipient actually accomplishing anything, since that's not really the nature of these people.
-- There are "team awards" that are given out en-masse to various teams that support a project or mission that are often given out after a launch or otherwise major mission event. These are given to teams that support said mission, so long as the mission didn't fail spectacularly. Note here that as long as a person is affiliated with the team in any way, that person can be a joint-recipient of this team award.
-- Then there are "individual awards" that tend to be given out to lots of different people simply because a manager likes them or perceives that they actually accomplished something good. Note here that the person doesn't necessarily have to do anything to receive this award, just be perceived to have done something.
In my case, I fit into the second category. I'm involved with a mission that's actually doing very, very well, and work in multiple roles (see last post). Because of this, my name was listed several times in the brochure for the team awards, once erroneously (but I'm not going to complain). I was able to personally accept the award for the team that I directly lead. It was very nice. I had the opportunity to stand in line, walk to the front, stride across the stand, shake the hand of the center director and the NASA associate-administrator-enter-longer-title-here, pose awkwardly with them while holding this very large plaque while a photographer gave us only one chance to not look like complete idiots while the announcer read what I was accepting the award for. I completely missed the description as I apparently am incapable of walking and listening at the same time.
Despite my assessment of how people usually get these awards, I do firmly believe that me and my team deserve this one. We have busted our tails for the past few years serving this mission, and have dealt with some major challenges. I think we've managed these things with finesse, have not been afraid to bring in outside resources when needed, and always managed to keep things going on-time, under-budget, and fully-capable. It's a nice thing to be noticed every once in a while!
Tonight, even, they're having a reception dinner for those who received the awards. Unfortunately, the entire team wasn't invited, so I'm going tonight to represent the team. I get to bring my wife along with me, so she found somebody to watch the kids tonight, and will make the hour-long drive down here to pick me up this evening. Last time we went to something like this, it was a fancy buffet-style meal with a variety of different ethnic foods; we really enjoyed it. We're hoping for more of the same tonight.
And I, for one, even though it's a great opportunity to network and enjoy the society of my fellow workers, am not ashamed to say that I'm going just for the free food! Ah, sometimes it's lovely to be a guy ...