From rocket science to drones – this new book on drones is delivering value 2

Hello friends and champions of innovative aerospace career trajectories! If you are paying any attention at all to our world, you know that unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – or drones as they are commonly called – are a revolutionizing our world much like the airplane revolutionized our world in the early 1900’s. We have serious […]

project manager salary

3 benefits of taking a project management approach to your career 2

When I have asked my readers and other people on LinkedIn what topics would be most valuable to them as they pursue their careers in aerospace, PROJECT MANAGEMENT was a common answer.  Reflecting on my own career move into project management, and then obtaining a project management certification (PMP), I agree that this is a […]

Project Management Fundamentals video from TheoriesInPractice 2

When I have asked aerospace engineers or engineering students what topics they want to gain experience in or get a job in, project management is a popular answer.

Project management is an effective and popular way to advance your career beyond a purely technical role in engineering or science.  It’s what I did, so I know it works!

My experience came first from OJT, or on-the-job training.  The title and formal position came later.

It wasn’t until I had worked full time as a project manager for nine years that I decided to obtain my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).  To obtain this certification, a person is required to demonstrate significant work experience as a project manager.  Then they must enroll in and pass a course with 35 hours of instruction (when I write this post).  Specifics can be found at the PMI website.

How can you learn about project management faster and sooner than I did?

How can you gain project management knowledge and experience before you have a job as a project manager?

These are excellent questions!  It’s questions like these that I answer in How To Be a Rocket Scientist.

To be a successful aerospace engineer or professional, it takes more than technical skills. It takes resourcefulness, persistence, creativity, and dedication.

Chances are very good that you are already familiar with project management.  You probably have experience with it too.  But unless you are familiar with the terms and concepts used by project management professionals, you won’t appreciate this experience.

When you don’t recognize and appreciate the experience, chances are great that your future or potential managers or employers won’t either.

On the positive side, when you recognize the activities and functions that are an essential part of project management, you’ll be able to jump on opportunities to gain experience with these things when the situations present themselves.

One very effective and accessible way to gain this project management knowledge and experience is to apply Tip #7: Use free and informal educational resources.

I searched YouTube for some short and effective videos on project management fundamentals.  Each of them has their own benefits and limitations.  The one I believe does an excellent job of explaining the key concepts and expectations of a successful project manager is a 10-minute video from two women at TheoriesInPractice. Watch this video to learn the basics of project management in a short and sweet presentation:

You may have trouble with some of the sound quality.  Their example is with a kitchen remodeling. But the content is excellent, and every project shares the same fundamentals, whether it is a kitchen remodeling project, building the next airplane, or engineering a spacecraft to land on Mars.

Are you someone who wants to learn and do more with project management?  Please let me know with a comment below!  And let me know if there are other things about project management in aerospace or aviation that you want to know about.  I’ll look for resources to help you or ask a follow-up question to find out what you have tried so far.

Thanks for navigating your way here to learn and do more with rocket science!

project management fundamentals

Using an Andon cord

In Lean Manufacturing (and originally the Toyota Production System or TPS), there is an Andon cord on the manufacturing line.  Whenever ANYONE sees a quality problem, they are able and encouraged to pull this cord.  It stops the entire line.  This post is also about my paperback. Putting an Andon cord so accessible and inviting […]

SpaceX shows rocket science is like squeezing JELL-O 4

Over the weekend, SpaceX successfully launched their 5th (fifth!) Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule to resupply the ISS. Company news with some photos is here. This was the primary and most important criteria for the mission–to resupply the International Space Station.  But of course, I and millions of other people were eager to learn the […]

The power of rapid feedback loops

I am loving the book publishing services through Amazon and CreateSpace!  Even the physical paperback book is possible to tweak and update on a fast and frequent basis.  It is entirely print on demand (POD), so I have zero inventory costs and so does CreateSpace/Amazon. “You don’t have to be great to get started.  But […]

Asking WHY isn’t just child’s play

Why do kids enjoy asking the question “why” so many times?? Even though it can get very tiring or annoying for the parents or teachers, they are using an effective tool from engineering and manufacturing.  Including rocket science!  It will be powerful for you as a current or future rocket scientist too.  It has been […]

Make every day count

Welcome to 2015!! We are all fortunate to see another year in our calendar. I hope each and everyone of my readers and subscribers had a very happy New Years Eve celebration and New Years holiday. I’ve been taking some time off the grid to be with my family. While it is popular (and maybe […]

Launch into 2015 like a lean startup 1

Let’s look at the new year as an opportunity for a new start in your career. And think of yourself as the owner or pilot of your own career. After all, if you aren’t in charge of it, who is?!

What I’m really recommending is to think and act like an entrepreneur—even if you are (and want to be) an employee in another company.

If this argument is too abrupt or controversial for you, I hope you’ll stick around. At least for this post, because I’m going to give you a powerful tool that many entrepreneurs and startups are using to be successful in their highly uncertain, competitive, and fast-changing environments. If you think about it, that describes the environment for everyone today, right? Even employees. Even you I bet. So let’s talk about The Lean Startup and how you can use it to set some meaningful goals in 2015 and make valuable progress no matter what your particular situation or goals.

Is it possible to use the lean startup in aerospace? You bet! I used this approach for several projects in my aerospace career and setting. I’ve seen this approach used in other aerospace programs too. Yes, even in a major aerospace corporation it can be used, effectively. That’s because any new project is really a startup, even when it exists in a large organization.

It’s best if I don’t give you details about my aerospace examples. Not for public consumption, you know. But I can understand if you are skeptical or curious. How about another example of using TLS approach in a big, old, bureaucratic organization? Here is a presentation from a public school teacher describing how she used it in her classroom. If you are a teacher (or a parent of a child in school) you need to watch this video especially!

Diane Tavenner – Lean Startup Conference 2012

The Lean Startup approach has been made popular and famous by Eric Ries. He is the author of the book The Lean Startup, which I highly highly recommend. I’ll link to his website at the end of this blog post. There is too much to explain and describe in a single blog post. But here is one key element that I recommend you use when setting goals for 2015.

One central aspect of TLS is cycling through a Build > Measure > Learn loop. This has similarity to the PDCA loop of Lean and 6 sigma (Plan Do Check Act). But here’s the twist and powerful insight: when in the planning phase, you reverse the cycle!

First ask, what do you want or need to LEARN in 2015?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to MEASURE in order to accomplish that learning?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to BUILD (or DO) in order to gain those measurements?

And that provides you the action plan for yourself in the New Year.

Let’s work through an example.

Suppose you want to get an entry-level job in an aerospace company. Reframe this as something you need to learn: how can someone (someone like me) get an entry-level job in an aerospace company?

Now you need to figure out what measurements are needed in order to gain that learning. Here are some possibilities:

  • how many entry-level jobs are there?
  • How many entry-level jobs are made available in certain parameters (timeframe, company, geography, etc.)
  • How have other current entry-level engineers obtained their jobs? (what measurements can I learn from them?)
  • What attributes do aerospace managers look for in entry-level engineers?

There might be other measurements—do the thinking for yourself. I’m just giving you a start.

When you have your list of measurements, from these it should be fairly obvious what actions you need to take or things you need to “build” in order to gain those measurements.

For instance, to learn what the total pool of entry-level jobs is in your city, you’ll need to gather some employer and employment statistics. If you can’t find this out reliably from online searches, you may have to (gasp) call some people or search them out first.

If you want to learn how current engineers have obtained their jobs, you just might have to meet or talk with some of them, won’t you?

If you’ve read my book, this will be a familiar tip to you: one of the best ways to find and interact with the people who can help you with this learning is to find and join a professional society (or more) that hold events in your city. AIAA, AUVSI, SAE, SWE, ASME, AHS…now that you know what measurements you are looking for, you will have a conscious and strategic plan behind your pursuits.

Be sure to remember your people skills and professionalism while you are in pursuit of this learning! Everything in your process should be a part of your learning in fact. Many times when I’ve met someone and tried to learn something about them or from them, I failed or messed up. So I told myself, “well, that didn’t go very well. What can I learn from it? How can I do better the next time?” Sometimes it involved contacting them one more time for an apology, if I got the impression that we had a misunderstanding.

More often (and this is an important thing), I would always follow up with them soon to thank them for talking with me, and express my thanks for meeting them.

It’s also good to keep the focus on them. Instead of asking “can you help me find a job?” you can ask “do you have any needs (or know of any) where someone with my skills and interests would be a benefit?”

If you want more suggestions and examples of how I got better at this, read Tip #10 in my book “How To Be A Rocket Scientist” – appreciate and work on the soft skills.

Through it all, keep the Learn > Measure > Build/Do cycle in mind. If what you are doing isn’t tied directly to gaining a measurement for something that you need to learn in your career pursuit, check yourself and where you are spending your time and energy.

Do you know already what you want to learn in 2015? Share it in a comment below if you are willing to share it. Or if you would like a private master-mind group to work on this plan together, send me a note (after you’ve subscribed to this blog if you haven’t done that yet).

In the comments below I’ll share some of my goals to learn in 2015. Thanks for reading and sharing in the aerospace journey with me. Upward and onward!


The official website of The Lean Startup:

The book on Amazon with recommendations for others on the topic: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Setting goals for 2015: Start with WHY

Attention fellow aerospace travelers!  It’s time to start thinking and talking about goals for 2015.  Don’t fear–this is going to be fun and exciting.  The first step will be to get our heads and hearts around WHY this matters.  Why do you need to set goals for the new year?  Why should you care?

My response is, because WE NEED YOU.  You have strengths, passions, and a position in society that are completely unique to you.  There are things that can be done–people who can be impacted–that only you can do.  It will require initiative, courage, and leadership on your part.

Not sure you’ll be able to find that within yourself?  I can assure you it’s in there.  It just needs a powerful enough reason to activate it.  That’s why we need to start with the WHY.  Watch this TEDx talk from Simon Sinek and then write down your reasons why you need to set some goals for yourself in 2015.  I’ll write next about a powerful tool and process to make progress on those goals, whatever they are.

Start with why – how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Simon Sinek TED talk

Simon Sinek TED talk

You can buy his best-selling book on Amazon here: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to