Tejal – Programme Analyst
If you love maths but are just not sure about going into banking or finance then check out Tejal’s profile. She ended up working at NASA as a Programme analyst where she gets to share her maths passion whilst working on really interesting space projects.
What attracted you to this job?
My current position at NASA appealed to me because of the direct work with project managers. I am able to talk to the highest level of project management and understand their wants, needs and goals for their projects. It was my goal to make that happen for them. Any advice I could give was welcomed and I feel like an integral part of their team. In some ways, I really wish I was more technically inclined or had pursued a career in engineering. It would be great to add my own input into our projects.
What does your typical day involve?
A typical day for me involves a lot of talking to out division and project level management teams. During these meetings, there are lots of strategic discussions on how to spend our funding. Some days are incredibly busy with status reports, trend analysis, and variance reporting. Other days are focused mainly on getting the “bills paid”.
What gives you the most job satisfaction?
We develop cutting-edge technology every day and, knowing that I helped in some small way when I see the projects I support and the managers that manage them, provides me with the greatest job satisfaction.
What do your friends and family think about your job?
My family, friends and neighbours love telling people that their friend, wife, daughter, or sister works for NASA. They like to introduce me to their friends and say, “She works for NASA!” My cousins think that I secretly hide aliens, but that is something I will never admit to 😉
I love taking my family to work and letting them touch/interact with the projects that I support. The engineers I work with really enjoy sharing what they do with people!
Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance.
I have a very unique working situation.
I met my husband at NASA. He decided to serve our country in a different way. He was commissioned as an officer for United States Marine Corps. After we were married, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton is Southern California. This put me in a very difficult situation. My team lead had suggested trying a tele-working agreement for 6 months, until I could find work in California. The first 6 months went really well, so my team lead and manager worked out an extension. Soon after, I began tele-working full-time while my husband serves.
On average, I work anywhere from 40-50 hours a work week. I do live in the Pacific Time Zone but I work Central Time Zone hours so that it doesn’t affect my customers.
How did you get to where you are today? (i.e. qualifications and career route)
I always loved maths. I was really good at it. I took the highest level of maths my school offered (i.e. Calculus) during my senior year of high school at 7 A.M. because I love it so much! When I started university, I originally thought I wanted to go into law. I had an internship with a top law firm in Singapore. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the differences in our judicial process but I didn’t enjoy the life style of an attorney.
I came back to university confused and lost about “what I wanted to be when I grew up”. After talking with my advisor, she suggested I apply for the Cooperative (Co-Op) Education programme with NASA. I never thought I would have the opportunity to work for our nation’s space programme with my background in Management, Marketing, and economics. Determined to find my place, I applied, and shortly thereafter, was offered a position in their Co-Op programme. I worked three terms of rotations and was offered two full-time positions upon graduation – one as a buyer in the Office of Procurement and the other as an analyst for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. I chose the analyst route and would not change it for anything!
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field?
TRY IT ALL! Your career path is much like your life – both are filled with interesting opportunities! Don’t feel as though you need to follow a typical 4-year university timeline. Take the time to study abroad, take classes you wouldn’t otherwise (you would be surprised how my philosophy class has helped better my communication skills with my engineers), and remember to TRY IT ALL!
I get to use my love of maths and numbers every day. I may not be using differential equations to solve a budget crisis but I get to use the skills and knowledge that I have obtained to solve complex budgetary issues. My advice would be to always be open to trying something out.
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?
My husband is pretty active and loves being outdoors. I join him on hikes in our local national parks. We live pretty close to the best surfing beaches in Southern California, so we frequent the beach pretty often – he surfs and I support from a safe distance on the beach! We are also big foodies, so we love cooking unique meals together like New York Strip Steak encrusted in espresso, garlic, and cumin! Yum!
To relax, I enjoy painting/drawing or anything that serves as a colourful creative outlet.
Have there been any embarrassing moments?
When I was a cooperative education student, many of my friends were other university students with varying backgrounds (most of which were engineers). A good friend of mine was working in the Missions Operations Directorate, specifically, on the Field Assistance Remote Tractor (AKA the F.A.R.T). He would always share pictures of it with me. When I was offered my full-time job with NASA, I was placed with the Software, Robotics and Simulations Division under the Engineering directorate. In my first few weeks, I met with Dr. Rob Ambrose (who is now the Division Chief). He was in charge of several high priority projects like Robonaut and the new Moon Rover known back then as the Chariot. He was showing me pictures of the Chariot and it looked like a bigger version of the F.A.R.T. I shared my knowledge of the F.A.R.T with Dr. Ambrose and he had no knowledge of this project. So, here I am this 20-something-fresh-out-of-college analyst sitting with one of the brightest minds at NASA telling him about a project called the F.A.R.T… that mind you, he had never heard of!
The photo of Tejal used in this article was kindly supplied courtesy of Courtney Dorsey.