This afternoon, I was interviewed by a Freshman at Georgia Institute of Technology who wanted more information on Aerospace Engineering. She is not completely decided on the major, but is interested in pursuing the degree. She had some good questions for me and I thought it would be great to share some of my responses in the event there are others out there contemplating the major. Here are just a few questions/answers from my interview today:
What is a typical day like in your field?
My major function at work is to provide engineering support to my customer (NASA, United Space Alliance) which includes evaluating damages/repairs of the Orbiter's Thermal Protection System (Space Shuttle tiles, gap fillers, thermal blankets). Every time there is a documented damage on a TPS component, as an engineer, I go out to the vehicle and evaluate the repair making sure that the proposed repair agrees with my engineering judgment.
What do you like best and least about your job?
Everyday I work with the Space Shuttle Orbiter and THAT is the highlight of my work day because I know that not just everyone can come so close to the vehicle. My hard work gets rewarded especially when I see the Space Shuttle stack out at the launch pad and of course, the amazing site of a launch! What I like least about my job are meetings because I attend so many of them a day and even though they are sometimes necessary, a decision is not always made at one because you may have people exchanging disagreements instead of compromises and solutions. So they are usually followed up by another meeting. They take up the most time and they pull you away from your normal work tasks.
What does it take to excel in your field?
To excel in my field and in any field, you have to be a “go-getter” with a positive attitude, meaning being willing to engage in major issues and offering your help on other tasks than what you’re assigned for.
What should I be reading in school to get myself ready?
If you decide to pursue Aerospace Engineering, decide what specialization you would like to engage in. This would help you determine if you would be interested in the Aviation or Space sector. Based on that, understand your course material, but most importantly, read current news articles on the changing technology to see how your course work is related. This will help you in many ways; you may have an interest in a company coming out with a new technology or you may want to be involved in research or analysis. Reading on current science/aviation/space news articles can keep you up to date and help you become prepared when in comes to looking for an internship or a job upon graduation.
What skills that you learned in school do you use the most in your field?
Organizational, communication, and teamwork are all skills that I use everyday. In school, the professor would dock points for any assignments that were not legible or transferred on engineering paper according to the syllabus. I make sure I follow the guidelines for any reports or documents and that I keep good records of issues through email/documents using organized folders on my computers incase anyone needs to be filled in. Communication with the professor and other students helped me to communicate in the workplace face-to-face and by e-mail. When I talk or e-mail about an issue, I make sure I am to the point in stating the problem, effect, and proposed solution. My projects at school often involved teams. Individuals on teams provide different approaches and ideas, but can also introduce disagreement/conflict. Not much different from the workplace.
How stressful is the work environment?
It can be overwhelming if you do not know how to handle stress. You need to know your own limit. A major skill that you begin in your undergraduate years is to know how to prioritize. In the work environment, there is constant work. You are never going to leave work with all tasks completed. I have learned to prioritize according to deadline and criticality. You can always ask to extend a deadline or ask a manger for more help within the group if it’s too much for one person to complete.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
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I like how you point out that some of the meetings "are sometimes necessary"...I can't help but laugh. It took me years to get past the idea that the meetings were keeping me from getting any "real work" done :)
One more thing you forgot about meetings...sometimes there will be snacks/food!
"... a decision is not always made at one because you may have people exchanging disagreements instead of compromises and solutions...." LOL I know all about this , I was on a FIRST Robotics Team as a student from 1999-2000 and as a mentor from 2002-2005, and the guys from nasa always having issues with eachother on how to fix something, instead of just coming up with a way to get the job done, it happened the most at the compitions when something vital to the robot would break and everyone was trying to figure out the best way to fix it in the short 5 or 10minutes we had before the next match. It was all fun though and some times I miss not being envolved, but then again I really do like sleep :)
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