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I'm riding this great opportunity to space, and beyond!
'Sup Homies!

That's right, you read the title correctly. I landed a job with Space Exploration Technologies this September!

Background and Explanation

So let's backtrack just a little bit so I can give you all some background. As my dear, two dedicated readers may have noticed, I have been completely lax on the blog upkeep this whole summer. In fact, I've been lucky to average a post every two months. Well there is a reason for that. Since April, I have been working to get a job with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly known as SpaceX. For those of you who aren't aware, SpaceX is a new launch vehicle company that is trying to change things dramatically in the American launch vehicle industry. A large part of the impact they intend to have involves reducing the cost to space, which, theoretically, should increase access to space for laymen (as opposed to space being accessed only by government-approved astronauts). I talked about some of the impact they are having previously on my blog here.

That said, I am very excited to begin working with them later this month. If things go according to plan, SpaceX really will be changing the landscape of humanity's access to space, and, for the first time ever, I will have the chance to play a significant role in that quest.

But how did I come upon this great opportunity? Well, like all things wonderful, it started with a visit to In N Out Burger in Arroyo Grande. You see, I was returning from a dance theater show thingy back in April when I decided I needed food to eat. So, being stuck in routine as usual, I swung into In N Out. While standing in line I saw two people in front of me, one of which was wearing a SpaceX T-shirt. It caught my attention because you don't see that terribly often, but then the next thing the young woman said stuck out at me as important.

You see, the young lady in the SpaceX shirt and the gentleman she was with were discussing who was going to be paying for dinner. She pulled out a credit card, mumbled something about "Musk" paying for it, and then declared piously to anyone listening, "Thank you Uncle Elon!" as the card was swiped.

To understand that reference you have to understand that the CEO and founder of SpaceX is named Elon Musk. Essentially, this declaration of thanks to Elon communicated, to me, that these two folks work for SpaceX and were in the area for business. Opportunity had come knocking, and I was going to be damned if I failed to answer the door.

After I ordered my food, I made a point to watch, out of the corner of my eye, where the SpaceX workers sat. All those years of lurking and stalking cute girls had finally paid off. I cleverly navigated my body in a semi-circuitous manner to make sure I could fill up my soda and inconspicuously glide past the table that the SpaceX workers sat at. Sure enough, as I drifted by, my mind scrambled for the right words to start a conversation but not come off as a creepy stalker:

"Howdy! Um, do you two work for SpaceX? I read your shirt and overheard you talking at the counter and, well, ummm, do you?"

So much for suave and not-stalkerish....

After a couple of taken aback, semi-confused looks, the gentleman and lady said, that yes, indeed, they worked for SpaceX....and then continued to stare at me with one of those, "Who the fuck is this guy?" looks on their faces.

I hastily explained to them that I worked for another company in the launch vehicle industry, and that I followed SpaceX actively in the news and such. The gamble had paid off. They invited me to have dinner with them.

Over the glorious In N Out burgers, we discussed things like my background, what I knew of SpaceX. what my expertise was in, and other such nerd-core topics. When we finally parted ways, the young lady, Karen, had handed me her business card and told me to keep in touch.

Needless to say, I left with a little extra hitch in my giddy-up that night, and swore to praise the great name of In N Out for the remainder of my mortal life.
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From this day forth, I must forever kneel in reverence to the good graces of the In N Out gods...
Well, after exchanging contact information with Karen, I started to work with her and a few other people to try to land a job up at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where SpaceX is currently ramping up operations. After a couple months worth of phone interviews, and a couple of face-to-face interviews, it turned out I wasn't going to get that job at Vandenberg. However, I wasn't going to let that suppress my spirits.

I am not the sort of person to take, "No, you're not experienced enough," for an answer. As part of SpaceX's interview process, all potential candidates have to write up a personal essay for the CEO, Elon Musk, to read and evaluate, as he likes to be as personally connected to each of his employees as his time allows. Well, I had already prepared an essay for Mr. Musk as part of my Vandenberg interview process, and when I was told that I wasn't qualified for the Vandenberg position, I decided to let my future ride on my own half-thought-through decisions and guts.

I e-mailed my essay to Elon directly (the typical interview process requires the essay be screened and edited by a recruiter first) and attached it to a short message introducing myself and explaining that, while I was no longer to be considered for the position at Vandenberg, I still wanted Mr. Musk to know who I was in case future opportunities arose.

The gambit paid off. Mr. Musk contacted my recruiter and asked her to keep trying to find a better position for me in the company. And find me a position, she did.

What I Will Be Doing

Eventually my resume trickled into the hands of a person relatively high up in SpaceX's launch engineering group who found it interesting. We set up a phone interview and he spent about an hour on the phone with me grilling me on everything from atmospheric dynamics to control theory and pure logic puzzles. I can honestly say that it was the hardest phone interview of my life. But, apparently, I had done enough to impress him as I was eventually brought in for a face-to-face interview that resulted in an offer being extended to me for the position of Flight Safety Engineer.

Now, like all positions in highly technical industries, an engineer's actual title doesn't typically encompass the full, day-to-day activities of the engineer. For instance, currently I work as a trajectory analyst, which has me doing something relatively similar to the actions depicted in the image below:

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This is actually pretty close to what my cubicle looks like, in fact.
Now i need to make it clear that, in that picture, I am the fellow sitting at the computer, not the one with the fun job of spying on his coworkers.

Suffice it to say, I am not particularly content with being an over-stressed, cubicle jockey, analyst. I want to be an engineer that solves different problems every day. I want to fix hardware when the need arises. I want to be presented with difficult challenges which, when solved, result in tangible progress on a project.

As I understand it, I should have opportunities like this at my new career. As a flight safety engineer, I will be called in to help troubleshoot any problems that may arise during the build, integration, and test processes for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. When shit goes South, my coworkers and I will be brought in to offer an outside perspective, and to put forward potential fixes and solutions. That's pretty damn cool.

I've always wanted to, essentially, be a spacecraft repairman, and it sounds like this next step in my career will get me pretty close to that goal. I don't know how long I will be in this position. But I am damn sure my enthusiasm and excitement about it are going to vault me forward to some new and glorious adventures in the space industry. So with that thought, I will leave you, as well as with one more image which basically sums up what I think I am going to be doing come October 24th, 2011.
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The bandoleer of tools and American flag bandanna are standard issue as part of the Flight Safety Engineer uniform.
So until next time, and with much excitement, I wish you:

Good Hacking and Good Luck!
Brady C. Jackson
 


Comments

Sarah Coe
10/19/2011 18:46

Inspiring post! And pretty hilarious too--especially the illustrations. Your path to SpaceX seems so roundabout but I guess it shows that amazing opportunities can come from taking a risk in the right place at the right time. Congratulations and good luck!

Reply
10/27/2011 23:22

Thanks for the comment, Sarah!

I apologize for not approving it/responding earlier, but as this blog indicates, I've been moving and have been terribly busy.

That said, you are spot on about the roundabout nature of the hiring process. But I can tell you, nothing we do here at SpaceX is orthodox. Zany seems to be how we roll. But it sure makes for one hell of a ride. :D

Best of Luck to You, Ms. Coe!
Brady C. Jackson

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Chris
01/22/2012 16:37

Congrats and good luck, Brady. I am a consultant that works with SpaceX often on their AS9100 program, so maybe I will see you there one day. Yeah. I have one of those SpaceX t-shirts, and I always get comments when I wear it.

Oh, tip: don't eat the cheese next to the Cylon.

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01/23/2012 21:11

Sounds good Chris. Thanks for the well wishes. Next time you're around, look for the guy in the American flag bandanna. That'll be me.

;)

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Paul
02/15/2012 23:37

I'll have a phone interview with the structure division do you and any advise for me?

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02/16/2012 16:38

Awesome post. I love the humor. If you are anywhere near typical of the average employee with Spacex then I can not wait to work there. The idea of working towards advancing humans role in space is at the very heart of cool. Keep up the good work!

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02/16/2012 23:41

@Paul:

At the risk of sounding cliche: be yourself, and show SpaceX why you're a rockstar at what you do. That may sound silly, but that's the way to win over the folks interviewing you. You want to leave them with the impression of, "Hmmm. If we hire this guy, he could really change this company for the better. He's got guts and skills and can be responsible for real, challenging problems."

Also, be yourself. Nobody likes someone who is obviously putting on a dog and pony show. If you try to bullshit your way through the interview, chances are you will be called on it. Just be honest about what you can do, what you think you could do, and what you're not quite comfortable with (if that gets brought up) and it will be a better experience for you.

So, in short, be yourself.

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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02/16/2012 23:42

@Todd. I can't wait to see you around. Look me up when you get on site and we'll go have lunch sometime!

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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irrelevant
02/29/2012 19:53

I don't have a high opinion of SpaceX to say the least. In the aerospace industry, SpaceX is king in reverse discrimination. The only people from my university that got a job (mind you its a top 10 ranked engineering school) are girls--not all of whom are competent either (especially when compared to several outstanding students who were flat out rejected). Am I jealous you ask? Not jealous, but completely pissed after spending 5 years of my life with nothing to show for it. Its clear where Mr. Musk has his [womanizing] priorities.
/end rant/

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03/06/2012 21:47

Well Mr. Irrelevant,

You're certainly entitled to your opinion. But I will say that you're flat out wrong. As far as I can see, SpaceX has an incredibly diverse body of employees. I think the only commonality between any of us is our passion for humanity's adventures in space. And, of course, I got hired, and I'm not a female (then again, I did attend the Aerospace Engineering school that consistently ranks 1st and 2nd in the nation, not 10th). Of course, nothing I say here is going to convince you that your preconceived bias is wrong, so instead of rambling on, I'll simply put up a personal request:

This blog is my PERSONAL blog. It is not a website about, or related to, SpaceX in anyway. If you have a personal distaste for SpaceX, please find a public forum about that company to post your complaints on. Please do not use my personal blog as a sounding board for your own rants.

Mind you, my website requires approvals for comments to be posted. I approved your previous remarks because I am not a fan of censorship. I believe in free and open discourse. However, I also believe discourse should be on-topic. That said, if you choose to direct your remarks towards SpaceX on my blog again, I will delete them as they are off-topic and irrelevant.

Thank you for your opinion...as erroneously founded as I think it is.

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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Lee
03/28/2012 15:57

I'm interviewing there next week. I hope to run across you, Mr. Spacecraft Repairman!

Reply
06/26/2012 22:30

Hey Lee!

Sorry this response was so late in coming. Successful mission or not I've still been super busy. It's hard to keep up on my blog since I started at SpaceX.

Still I hope your interview went well. If not, I would highly suggest checking back in with us later on. We like to see perseverance and there will probably be more employment opportunities with SpaceX as we grow!

Thanks for the support. Feel free to e-mail me if you ever want to chat!

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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Andrew
05/01/2012 19:02

i know this post is pretty late but i want to say congratulations on getting a job at SpaceX! i wish to one day work at SpaceX. I am only a high school junior but have high hopes of working at that company it seems so awesome! may i ask how is it working there now? since it has been a while since the original post
p.s.i had to look you up on facebook (creep i know haha) but when i saw you wearing an american flag bandanna i started laughing so hard xD
anyways congratulations again!

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06/26/2012 22:37

Howdy Andrew!

Thanks for the congratulations. :)

I supposed I should apologize in turn for being so late to respond, but, you know, quid pro quo right?

Anyways, in terms of working for SpaceX, all I can say is that it is the single best job I have ever had. I can't really tell you much about the company, because that's not my place, but I can tell you that I've never worked in an environment so full of people who believe so truly and passionately in what they do. My coworkers LOVE space. And we LOVE solving the problems it takes to explore it. So I guess the short answer is that it's super exciting.

But I should also say that the reason I don't post to this blog as often is because I spend most of my time working. That's not out of demand, but because it is such an addictive job. It's hard to walk away from something you enjoy so much. But the job is demanding, so you gotta be tough to work here.

Anyways, junior in high school or not, I say go for it. It was around that age that I picked Aerospace Engineering as a major and that worked out great for me (I always knew I wanted to work in the space industry, but the specific college major decision came later). Regardless of your age or where you are at now in life, it's never too late to set your mind to something and just dedicate yourself to it. Don't get me wrong, sometimes such a dedication is a struggle in both discipline and patience, but it often works out.

So chase your dreams and good luck. I hope to see you here someday!

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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Doug
05/26/2012 16:31

You, sir, rock. Much Respect to you Brady C. Jackson. :)

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John Silva
06/11/2012 15:27

Hi Mr. Jackson,

Awesome post! I'm glad things worked out so well!

I'm 21 and I'm currently third year Biological Sciences major and lately have been truly captivated by the idea of working in the space industry. I'm talking more along the lines of manned flight and exploration. I have no idea what I want to do and haven't had chances at things like Space Camp or whatever due to other interests. I'm more focused on finishing up my classes and getting my degree at the moment. I was wondering if you could provide some guidance as to what the next steps could be? After graduation what I could do to wind up in places like SpaceX?

If anything, thank you for your time!

Cheers,
John

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06/26/2012 22:46

Well to be honest John, you might not be too far from where you want to end up as it is. I am not sure what sub-discipline of bio sciences you are studying, but that major is quite applicable to any space company that intends to dabble in manned- spaceflight, or even in organic experiments in space (quite common on the ISS actually).

In terms of advice on moving into the space industry from your discipline, I would say that your safest bet is to start looking into the various bio-science research that NASA does in space. They have a large program on the ISS dedicated to studying various lifeforms in space, and they fund quite a few research projects at the university and R&D levels relating to developing technology to progress human survival and livelihood in space. So your best bet right now is to start looking for literature (start at nasa.gov and maybe do a google search for "university space biology research" or something like that), and consuming that literature at a very high rate. That is, learn everything you don't already know about how your major and what you're learning in school could apply to the space industry.

As for relating to SpaceX. We actually prefer to hire folks from a diverse pool of backgrounds. So hiring someone with a bio-science background isn't out of the question if we can find a good place for you to fit in. If you want to apply, clean up your resume and submit it at spacex.com (there's a careers link on there somewhere). I can help you parooze the resume too if you want to e-mail me. Your best bet with SpaceX is to demonstrate as much interesting hands-on experience as you have. SpaceX likes academically smart people, sure, but we LOVE doers. It's kind of our thing.

So hopefully that gets you started. E-mail me if you want (I can't promise a prompt response, but I will respond as soon as I can).

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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06/24/2012 02:11

Thanks for posting this

Reply
06/26/2012 22:46

You're welcome Morgana! I'm glad you liked it. :)

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RJ
10/25/2012 17:29

Hi Brady,

I stumbled upon your blog while researching SpaceX and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. You seem like a very intelligent and articulate guy. There's a lot of valuable information and insight here that probably isn't available anywhere else on the web. I genuinely appreciate you sharing your experiences and advice to those of us who strive to be in the position you are.

I have an interview in a couple of days at SpaceX, Hawthorne. The position I am interviewing for is "Technician Trainee." I'm extremely anxious yet excited. I feel that although it is an entry level position, I may be under-qualified. I have an AS in Aviation Maintenance Technology and a FAA A&P license. I scored an 80 percentile on my analytical skills test on Kenexa. I'm also a veteran with a mechanical background. I have no Aerospace work experience. Being a part of SpaceX would be a dream come true and I would hate to miss this opportunity to achieve it.

Do you have any advice for me as far as the interview process and what I can do to prepare myself or demonstrate my value to them? Thank you in advance!

Reply
10/27/2012 16:49

Yo RJ! Thanks for reading!

Check your e-mail for my response!

Cheers!
Brady

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Naren
02/04/2013 01:04

You're blog is amazing..Do you have an email that I can send out a few questions to ? if you don't mind ?

Thank you Sir

Cheers

Naren

Reply
02/11/2013 22:18

Hi Naren,

You can find my contact info on my contact me page here:
http://bjcovertaction.weebly.com/contact-info.html

I have to warn you, however, that I am very slow to respond these days as, well, I'm working at SpaceX. :P

Still, shoot me an e-mail or facebook and we'll see what we can do.

Cheers,
Brady C. Jackson

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