Tag Archives: career

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?

Yes.

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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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

Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – How am I Going to Get an Aerospace Job? 5 Tips – continued

(This post follows on from Post 8 – How an I Going to Get an Aerospace Job? 5 Tips)

TIP #3: RECRUITERS ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY EITHER

Don’t forget that if the recruiter does his/her work well, you stand to benefit. Possibly for a lifetime. You get an interview with the hiring company. The company likes you. You get a second interview. They still like you.

Then you get a job.

Bingo.

Everybody’s happy. (For now, at least.)

Continue reading Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – How am I Going to Get an Aerospace Job? 5 Tips – continued

Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – What it feels like on the inside

The typical aerospace engineer went into the industry because . . . .

Designing aircraft was cool.

You’d get to stick your name on one of those birds up there, and tell your kids about it. You’d get to do detailed technical work, work with smart people, come up with new ways of doing stuff, make birds fly really fast, play with cool software that had pretty pictures, etc, etc. And, well, the pay would be enough to support you and a family, house, two cars, and an occasional holiday in the south of France.

And the best? You’d get to see the first flight.

(Not much gets aerospace types excited and emotional. Believe me, you get excited about first flight.)

Wow! Awesome, right?

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – The State of the Industry, continued

In the 15 years I’ve been in aerospace, everything has changed. And it’s still changing.

Airbus has FALs (Final Assembly Lines) and parts factories in China and the USA. It has significant design offices in Bangalore (India) and Wichita (USA). Boeing has a big design office in Russia.

Far more design work is outsourced to suppliers, often small firms, all over the work. Some is done for a fee, some on a risk-sharing basis (i.e. they are paid per aircraft sold).

Airbus (and Boeing, and the other major airframers) have moved towards the Integrator model.

High-value-added technical design and support work is outsourced to wherever, and the airframer manages it from a distance. (Boeing didn’t do this very well with the 787, hence have been talking about pulling more design work back in-house. However, economic and talent recruitment pressures will limit this.)

The driver for this is economic, not political.

Continue reading Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – The State of the Industry, continued

Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – The State of the Industry

You are leading a blinkered life if you don’t think that we live in a time of great change.

Aerospace is no exception.

When I started at Airbus in 1998, the vast majority of design work happened in-house. Or more simply: The lion’s share of the work was done by the employees of the Airbus partners. (It wasn’t a single company in those days, rather a consortium of partner companies.)

The employees all worked on the partners’ premises in four countries (France, Germany, the UK and Spain), and roughly ten locations within those countries.

Airbus had suppliers as well. Mostly smaller companies, in those same countries.

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Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – What on earth is going on?

Your second most important technical skill is Awareness.

Of yourself. Of what’s going on around you. With your colleagues. In the department. In the company. The industry, the world, politics, new technology, etc.

Again, not so much of a skill as a habit.

What I do know is that as you stay aware of how you and the world around you is changing, you stay ideally positioned to seize opportunities and avoid problems.

Techies tend to prize themselves on being just that, technically-minded.

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