I am the Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) / Payloads Manager for the HST Operations
and Ground Systems Project. While my job title is very broad, the type of work that I do
from day to day is also quite extensive. In fact, I like it that way. New challenges, as
well as dealing with the unexpected keep my job very interesting.
I oversee the engineering activities associated with the telescope's OTA subsystem as
well as the science instruments. It is my job to make sure that we are operating these
subsystems as intended, as well as to work to solve any problems that arise during the
course of operations. Quite often, I like to think of my job as a problem solver.
Operations specialists monitor the telescope's engineering telemetry data almost
continuously. They make sure that the telescope is operating according to it's command
load or instructions. At times, this engineering telemetry gives us clues that a science
instrument or other subsystem is operating differently than we expected. One of my
favorite tasks is to set up the framework for solving these one-of-a-kind problems.
Specifically, I work with many people from many different specialties in spacecraft
systems. I help to define the problem, develop several possible solutions, and present
the problem and possible solutions to upper level management in a straightforward manner.
Once a course of action is selected, I oversee the process to make sure the solution is
implemented properly and effectively. I enjoy seeing it all come together. It is
gratifying to see a problem that at first appeared to be very difficult, become
understandable and result in a very good and practical solution.
Deciding on what career I would pursue was more of a process than a single decision.
During my first year in college, I went for the challenge of pursing a degree in
electrical engineering. I was fortunate to have summer jobs that helped me learn what
engineers really did. In my first job out of college, I was assigned the responsibility
of testing a primary weather sensor once it was integrated with its spacecraft. I enjoyed
this work immensely. Every day, it seemed as though there was always more to learn.
During that time period, I drove past the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) many
times. I was fascinated with news reports of attempts to control a spacecraft that had
gone awry. Being motivated by challenge and wanting to understand more, I made a decision
that some day I wanted to work for GSFC. At first I worked as contractor helping with the
design of new ground communication systems for transporting data. Later I had an
opportunity to work as a GSFC civil servant employee helping to manage the development of
a new ground system for controlling communication satellites. However, I always held on
to my dream of working with spacecraft. When I heard that HST was looking for help, I
jumped at the opportunity. The opportunity to participate in the HST first servicing
mission was more than a dream come true.
My preparation for this career involved and still involves a daily decision to work
diligently at whatever task I may be assigned. "One who is slack in his work is brother
to one who destroys - Proverbs 18:9". Whenever I've taken short cuts in my school work,
most often I've found that I have to go back and learn it the right way anyway. My
college degree is from Purdue University in electrical engineering. I've taken many
classes after my bachelors degree to continue to build my skills. The best preparation
for me is to do whatever task is put before me with a goal of excellence.
The best thing about my job is knowing that the work we do is appreciated by
scientists and the public alike. I am married and have a five-year old daughter and a
two-year old son. It is great to see even my family get excited about the great pictures
that come from HST. The thing I like least about my job are the mundane tasks such as
updating progress schedules.
As a kid I knew very little about the field of engineering, however, I did have a
burning desire to know how things worked. I had a reputation with my father for fixing
things. My dad still claims that I fixed things such that they never worked again. My dad
endured my tinkering and was very proud to see me become an engineer.
For anyone interested in becoming an engineer I definitely recommend that they follow
a college preparatory curriculum with heavy emphasis on math and science. Master as much
of a subject as you can in high school; you will definitely see it's importance in
college and many times later in life. At the same time don't neglect your other subjects.
It is important to be well- rounded. Consider joining special interests clubs and
participating in athletics. These provide an important outlet as well as help to build
people skills. The best overall advice I can give is to work diligently, always have a
backup plan, and take each day one at a time.
My father was the greatest influence in my decision to pursue engineering by his
example in taking on great challenges in his career. He worked hard and always made the
best of his circumstances. Above all, I was definitely influenced to set a course of
action and stick with it. Whatever course of action one chooses, ultimately the decision
and responsibility is theirs.