If I could give just one piece of advice to anyone thinking of becoming a rocket scientist…either graduating, being in school and thinking of a future career in space propulsion…
Or someone looking for a change on career direction…
If I could condense my own experience into one idea and give this as my contribution, it would be this:
“Rocket Science is always about dreams and aspirations that people have about spaceflight and space technology…even though there are tons of technical documents and requirements to get missions delivered. So always find what that ideal dream is in each customer or colleague you meet and use this as your guide through the reams of information”
It may sound a bit out there but I’ll explain:
Day to day activities in rocket science are anything but “cutting-edge wizardry”.
Most of the time you are dealing with people, simple problems and seemingly-impossible and irrational requirements. And in all this no-one ever asks the fundamental question:
What imaginary ideal outcome is in everyone’s head?
Because everyone on the project wants great things to be done but simpler. Better configuration control, more product assurance, less qualification tests, less overtime, less documentation…but more exact documentation…
Sometimes every whim has to be met…and often costs and frustrations escalate…Well, engineers, rocket scientists, space project managers are all people.
They still have their hidden wants, desires and most importantly: worries and fears.
And the thing they want most is for those fears to be banished and worries to be calmed…and everything to run smoothly.
When troubles come up they are dealt with…no endless meetings and non-conformance reports of 200 pages.
No feelings of “mistrust” from customers…just straight from A to B. Start to Launch and flight.
So to do this, you need to get to the heart of the what people have in their heads. What does this rocket or propulsion device really do and what can it do for the project?
What are the biggest fears your customers have about your technology and how can you help them get over this.
If you can do this without stand-offs and showers of emails and faxes…if you can address the person one to one and really put yourself in their shoes rather than being the supplier of the rocket who will tell you what it’s going to do…(and I’ve been that person – it has some use but not a lot)…
If you can focus in on the really critical needs of the mission as seen from each of your customers…and do this in the face of everyone else telling you not to do it…because engineers and managers will focus on the specification a lot and NOT the people who created it…
You will find that you are much more effective at getting the rocket science dreams and images to become reality.
If anything, the best way to be in rocket science is to remember that 95% of all the requirements are not critical or urgent or requiring 7 meetings to talk about it.
Get to the heart of it…and you’ll make real progress…don’t get to the heart of it and you’ll be dragged into the panicking herds…And don’t worry there is always a stampede every day!