Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Final Words of Wisdom

Some of these you may have already heard of. It’s good to be reminded of them. They are good habits to live and work by, not just in aerospace.

If you can apply them all, every day . . . . . . . I salute you. You should be my teacher.

Here they are:

Pareto’s Law

20% of the inputs generate 80% of the outputs. I quoted this to you earlier in this series of posts. It applies to everything.

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Five Myths That Need to be Slaughtered

(1) My manager should help me achieve my career goals.

(Also known as: When I get bored of this job, my manager will help me move to a more interesting one.)

Maybe he should, but almost certainly he won’t.

Your manager is primarily concerned with his own career objectives.

If he’s got his eye on a promotion, or even a sideways move, the last thing he wants is a vacancy on his team. That’s another problem that his manager will point to, and say, “We can’t promote you until you sort that out.” So he’s going to do everything in his power to dissuade you from leaving.

He may say, “Just do me this one favour, I’ll make it up to you”.

No, he won’t.

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Five aerospace career strategies

If it’s so hard to get started in aerospace, and it’s so hard to have a long-term satisfying career in aerospace, is it even worth making the effort?


Here are five strategies for doing so. (And just for the record, I am applying a couple of these strategies myself currently.)

(1) Identify a need or an inefficiency that’s overlooked, and develop a solution.

Paul Graham, one of the early web pioneers and founder of tech startup VC firm YCombinator, wrote a brilliant post that condensed the process of starting a new firm down to five simple rules:

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – The opportunity gap

I started writing this post in response to a comment from a reader, who is curious about a perceived opportunity gap in aerospace between the US and Europe.

It’s not purely a perceived gap, of course. If the gap is perceived, then, to borrow from Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase, the gap is real.

If you live in the US, which has for the last 50 years invested most heavily in its aerospace industry (commercial, military, and all other sub-sectors), then you have the best chances of launching and growing a successful aerospace career.

If you live in a Western European country, your chances are not as good, but they’re still pretty good compared with the rest of the world. Things are improving, but slowly.

Let’s ask the questions, then.

Why do so many young people in Europe and in the US (let alone the rest of the world) still find getting an aerospace job so hard? Why is it so painful?

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Quick anatomy of an aerospace project

What’s an anatomy of an aerospace project? How do all the processes, design, construction and testing, pull together?

Phew. You want me to discuss this? In a single post?

It needs a book!

And there are books available. I recommend Prof. John Fielding’s book Introduction to Aircraft Design, simply because I studied under him, and I never met anybody else with such a comprehensive engineering knowledge of aircraft and the industry that produces them. You could ask him any question, and if he couldn’t answer it directly himself, he’d point you in the direction of a book or a person who could.

People like that are few and far between. And you almost never find one inside a company that actually makes aircraft. They’re usually academics who have deliberately removed themselves from the business in order to study it from a distance.

That’s the problem with aerospace. The process (really, the process of processes) is so damn complex that it’s almost impossible to see the whole picture.

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For Flipboard junkies . . .

Flipboard is an iOS and Android app that you can use to browse articles from your favourite publishing sources.

Just three months ago, they enabled viewers to become curators, I.e. you could start curating and publicising your own virtual magazine (on the Flipboard platform). Give it a try.

I’m now curating two magazines that are quite relevant to aerospace types:

(1) Free Spirit – Everything of interest to those who want to live and work on their terms, free of The Man!
(2) Fly Ahead – Drones, UAVs, independent aerospace firms, and the free-minded professionals who want to take aerospace forward and won’t settle for the status quo!

Feel free to subscribe to either/both of them! Just download the free app, and search on the magazine names.

And/or start curating your own magazines!

Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – How on Earth Does This Place WORK? Continued

As I said in the last post, in every office . . . .

All is not as it seems.

In every office, in every university, in every street gang, in places of worship, in organized charities . . . . . there is office politics.

Every human being entering a room brings a soul, an ego, a temperament, a collection of past experiences, values, joys, and fears, etc. Some positive, some negative.

It affects how they interact with other individuals. It affects how they interact in groups of people.

You’ve experienced this already, of course. It exists in every community of people who meet daily to share common values or achieve common aims.

What you may not know is the degree to which it can make a mockery of org charts.

It is quite possible, for example, for a programme manager or integrator to have less real influence than a section head or a project manager. On the surface, one should have more authority and influence than the other, but in practice, because of temperament or personality, the reverse is true.

Just understand that for every org chart you see, there is an unofficial org chart that isn’t written down anywhere, but that everybody has in their heads.

Get familiar with that unofficial org chart. Learn to work with it. It can save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run.

Here are some of the “unofficial” job functions you will meet:

Continue reading Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – How on Earth Does This Place WORK? Continued

How to bore an engineer

Give her a task that could easily be done by a piece of software.

Then tell her to do it again. And again. (No software.)

And tell her it has to be this way because this is the way it was for you.

The problem now, of course, is you don’t just have a bored engineer.

You have a bored engineer who’s looking for the exit. And a possible new recruiting problem.

Yeah, I know, you didn’t leave. But youngsters today have more options (and more gumption) than your generation.

The solution to a recruiting (or employee engagement) problem is simple: Eliminate boredom.


Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – How on Earth Does This Place WORK?

Once you’ve got that first engineering job, you’ll have to deal with an array of new faces, names, job titles and processes. Someone will probably push a series of organizational charts (org charts, for short) in front of you, illustrating the hierarchy and reporting structure of the company, the department you’re in, who does what, who reports to whom, etc, etc.

It will be bewildering at first.

It will be bewildering later on, when you change departments or companies. A whole new set of face, names, processes, etc.

These org charts exist in aerospace companies for two reasons. One is obvious: Just as a map helps you navigate from one place to another, an org chart helps people understand how to interact with each other day-to-day.

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For geeks who defy gravity