Jose – Systems engineer

Jose is a Systems engineer at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. If you would like to work in the space industry, travel the world and get paid for it then read on! This may well be the job for you.

Tell us about your role…

The area that I work in comes under the generic title of system engineer in the European Space Agency (ESA) Technical Directorate. I use my physics knowledge to support programmes in manned space flight and robotics, navigation and consultancy.

The job varies a lot, from brainstorming with industry to technical reviews of new projects and feasibility studies. I also work on installing simulator equipment and training astronaut instructors on its use.

What does your typical day involve?

I’m based at ESA’s technology centre ESTEC in the Netherlands. Some weeks I can be in my office reviewing documents or working in the labs. Others I can be out at industry sites working closely with them. But one of the best times is when you get to go to a launch site to see something that you’ve worked on being launched.

What was your first job in the space industry?

I started in the space business writing instrument simulators for the European Southern Observatory. From there I worked in Darmstadt, Germany, on a satellite visualisation tool, then went to ESTEC in the simulations section.

What skills are required for your role?

The way that I found my first foothold in the industry was by having a range of other skills that complemented my physics background, such as software, languages and people skills. This combination allowed employers to see that I would not be just a one-trick pony.

How did you get to where you are today? (i/e/ qualifications and career route)

Even though I did not graduate with the highest of marks it was my adaptability and life skills, coupled with my knowledge of physics and optics, that ensured that I already had a position and was working at the European Southern Observatory before graduating.

Did you always want to work in the space industry?

What held me in good stead was a commitment to continuous professional development, which meant that I was able to achieve chartered physicist status after four years’ practical industrial experience. Later in my career I was able to complete a masters in Space Systems Engineering at the Technical University of Delft.

For me space was a childhood passion that ensured that I challenged myself continuously. This allowed me to set high goals that at the time did not seem achievable but enabled me to push myself.

What impact will your work have both now and in the future?

The space industry is a manufacturing and research industry that day to day the public does not realise is there. It makes an impact every day on all of our lives, from TVs to mobile phones, from the weather forecast to the maps in your car’s satnav system.

The next 10 years will see a rapid commercialisation of space, allowing today’s graduated to become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.