Job Title: Project Engineer
Type of Company: I work for an aerospace components manufacturing company in north central Connecticut.
Education: BS, Mechanical Engineering MBA
Previous Experience: I have been an engineer at the same company my whole career.
Job Tasks: I am a Project Engineer. For the past 25 years I have worked on hardware for the NASA space shuttle, space station and astronaut space suit. Currently I am in charge of procuring hardware that will be used in the environmental control system for the Orion vehicle. The environmental control is similar to the heating and air conditioning system you would have in your house or car except that it also has to provide oxygen for the astronauts to breath and water for them to drink. The system is needed to keep them comfortable and safe during launch, space flight and re-entry through the earth's atmosphere. The Orion is the NASA replacement for the current Space Shuttle.
Some of my responsibilities include maintaining budgets and schedule associated with the products I need to buy and also assisting other engineering groups in establishing the baseline requirements for each component. In addition, my team works with suppliers to help them understand our needs and keep to the schedule and costs they committed to. It is very important that hardware is received when it has been promised because a team of people are waiting to assemble the components into bigger assemblies that will be shipped to the customer for installation into the Orion vehicle. We also work closely with our customer and NASA to understand how best to meet the needs of the astronauts while making sure that we are maintaining the appropriate safety and reliability standards.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the my job is watching each launch of the Space Shuttle or the astronauts perform a space walk like the ones they did to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope and knowing that hardware I have worked extremely hard on is making it possible for United States to maintain its position as the world leader in space exploration.
Job Tips: The most important thing in pursuing any career is to do something that makes you happy and keeps you interested and excited. Prior to beginning my career in space, I worked on submarines and it was not as exciting to me as space. About 10 years into my career in space, someone suggested to me that it might be a good time for a change and I switched, briefly, to airplane work. The work was interesting enough but it never excited me the way that space has and I moved back into the space arena.
If you think you might want to try engineering be sure that very early on you work very hard at all your math, physics chemistry courses.
Additional Thoughts: One thing that I believe takes us a long time to realize is that we cannot go it alone. There are very few jobs where an individual can go off and work alone and accomplish great things. You will find that most time it is teamwork that helps you achieve great things. You will need to be able to work well with people, and at times this can prove to be the hardest part of the job. Most times engineers get so wrapped up in the technical side of their education in a pursuit of knowledge that the personal side is ignored. To that end I suggest that a few courses in social science be added to your curriculum, including psychology.
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