Rocket scientist jobs with SpaceX in TeXas

Does the “X” in Texas stand for SpaceX?!  For some fortunate rocket scientists it will!

Thanks to the rapid-fire blogging of Robert Zimmerman (here), an article in the Brownsville Herald here talks about two job openings there with SpaceX.  I’ll summarize and comment now for your convenience (and hopefully insight).

The two positions are for an electrical engineer and a Field Contact Representative.

Reading the descriptions in the newspaper article online, I find it interesting that a BS degree (not any Masters) is the minimum college requirement.  But both want significant and specialized amounts of industry experience.  You can be sure that these jobs are going to get a flood of applicants.  So here is my $0.02 of advice if you are considering to apply.

First, if you don’t meet ALL of the BASIC QUALIFICATIONS, don’t bother applying.  Is that too harsh for you?  I hope not.  Let’s keep it real here.

Aircraft and spacecraft (and their programs) have different criteria.  At one level are threshold criteria.  These are must-haves.  For instance, a cargo aircraft must be able to carry 10,000 pounds of internal cargo for 1,000 nautical miles on a standard day.  Then there are objective criteria.  These are nice-to-haves.  In this example, maybe 15,000 lbs of cargo in the same conditions.  Or the same 10,000 pounds of cargo on a hot day.

In some programs and domains the terms will be different, but the approach is the same.  If a vehicle or program doesn’t meet ALL of the threshold criteria, that is a show-stopper.  The customer has already gone through a lot of work to define these must-have requirements.  They can’t be changed without a formal contract mod (if already under contract with the provider) or if it’s in the proposal/selection phase, the customer will simply eliminate proposals that don’t satisfy all of these threshold requirements and then advance those that do to the next phase.

You have to assume that so many people will apply to these SpaceX jobs (and any publicly-posted aerospace job) that there will be many applicants that satisfy these threshold (or basic) requirements.  Then the company’s task is to sort through those to find a smaller number to contact directly for follow up.

So unless you want to learn what the rejection process is like with SpaceX, and put the time and effort into learning that, don’t apply (if you don’t meet all of the basic requirements).

Now, here’s where you can do something constructive with their job postings.  Study them.  Look at the details of what they need.  Think about the next steps in their plans.  They need an electrical engineer and Field Contact Rep now.  What or who will they need later?  What can you do today or soon to prepare and position yourself for something there?  Where has similar work been done before, and what can you learn from that or from people who did it? In this case we are talking about building a new space launch facility.

You also need to think about the other lifestyle factors, like location.  If you don’t know where Brownsville, Texas is, you better check that out before you apply.  And if you have a significant other or family who needs to move with you, consider that.  This should be obvious. But if you know you wouldn’t ever want to move to a point within eyesight of the Mexican border, you need to conserve your time and energy for other pursuits.

In fact, have you gone through the effort and thought to make your own list of criteria?  That’s right, you should!  What are your must-haves for a job and career?  What are your nice-to-haves?  If there are jobs that don’t meet all of YOUR threshold criteria, you either need to move on (quickly) or (not so quickly) re-assess your criteria.

Defining these criteria would have been just the perfect thing to do around New Years, looking ahead into 2015 and beyond.  Didn’t do that?  Then remember the ancient Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 5 years ago.  The second best time is today.  I am probably paraphrasing but you get the point.  Get your requirements defined and aligned, and maybe we’ll see you in Texas!

About Brett Rocket Scientist

Brett creates artful work in aerospace and innovation. He is currently a project manager, author, and speaker. Sometimes he is still an engineer and music composer.

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