That's right, you read the title correctly. I landed a job with Space Exploration Technologies this September!
Background and Explanation
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.
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
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:
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.
Good Hacking and Good Luck!
Brady C. Jackson