The Space Industry offers a wide variety of careers and opportunities. You might be surprised at the variety of opportunities across maths, physics, chemistry, engineering and computing.
The Space Science and Technology sector typically employes people with primary degrees (NFQ Levels 7 or 8) and with a relatively high proportion of employees at postgraduate level (NFQ Levels 9 and 10).
The “space” sector in Ireland is quite varied and includes companies from many areas of technology. These include aerospace, structures, electronics, optoelectronics, software and bio-diagnostics.
School leavers should think about continuing their education at third level, before considering a career in the space sector.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
There's been a number of decision milestones that stand out in my career. Choosing engineering as a degree was an obvious huge milestone. I never explicitly wanted to be an engineer but I was always fixing things and figuring out how things worked so it seemed like a natural choice. Completing my MSc in Bioengineering also opened a lot of doors for me, due to the strict quality requirements demanded from the industry. Surprisingly also, completing an internship in the summer of third year also increased my chances of being chosen for an internship at NASA and the Florida Space Authority following graduation.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
How did you go about getting your current job?
I applied to a job opening and went through the interview process. I was lucky in that I was working at a world-class manufacturing site in Cork at the time, and the skills I had learned from working at a site with such a high focus on quality were skills that MOOG were looking for. This was my third industry changed (I had previously worked in oil & gas in London and medical devices in Cork) and I think the variety of skills I had learned in these industries helped me in my application.
Describe a typical day?
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
What are the main challenges?
What's not so cool?
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
My LC electives were physics, accounting and geography as these were all logical subjects without any risk of interpretation. Unfortunately, applied maths was not offered at my school and I do regret not studying it outside school. If I had studied applied maths at LC level like most of my college peers, it would have made it easier at 1st year college level.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The fundamental theory is incredibly important for my job, however I think the most important education is the on-the-job experience I have gained through different industries. I studied for my masters after 3 years working professionally in London and I was a lot more confident in directing my education than my peers who had just graduated from their undergraduate degree.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
It sounds cliche but I am easy-going and very much a people person. I like working as part of a team and understand that I both need help and can give help to others. I have worked with people with huge egos and it makes interacting very difficult, which ultimately makes their own job very difficult. There is always something you can learn from someone.
What is your dream job?
My dream job would be to work right in the centre of the action in the space industry either for one of the primes or for ESA itself. However, there can be a lot of politics and red-tape involved as you can imagine, so it would have to be a role that retains a large amount of design involvement, while being exposed to the major decisions. I'm not sure such a roles exists!
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
You do need to be naturally good at maths and problem solving. If you enjoy that type of work, then try to get as much on-the-job experience as you can early on either as a part-time job or through internships. If you want to work in an industry that is heavily involved in manufacturing try to get internships on a shop floor to give you the fundamental understanding of the manufacturing processes. Studying is incredibly important but experience will give you an edge over your peers.
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
You need to be good at problem solving and be detail oriented. You need to be confident in your abilities and comfortable with responsibility as a lot of your decisions can have major consequences. You also need to be able to work as part of a team as you will constantly be interacting with other personalities.
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
In the space industry, focus on quality is a key factor. Working in an industry that operates with high levels of quality control (such as medical devices) will give you an understanding of the requirements necessary for the space industry. There is also a major focus on detailed design and design for manufacture.
Experience in both of these will give you the fundamentals for a design position in the space industry. Of course, a keen interest in space will also give you the encouragement and motivation you need to break into this industry. It can be a frustrating industry due to the long lead times for programs and sudden direction changes of the industry so you need to be very determined and committed to the role to ensure that the product you developed reaches space!