How did you get into your job?
I was studying Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Aston University and someone came in and gave a talk about his work at RAL Space and the work of the Science and Technology Facilities Council more generally. It caught my attention – specifically the focus on space. I successfully applied through the graduate recruitment programme and came into RAL Space in September 2016 straight out of university. The person who gave that presentation ended up becoming my line manager for the first couple of years of my career.
What is your role?
I'm a Software Engineer. I work in the Software Group of the Imaging Systems Division. I'm working on several projects, the main one being a mission called ProSPA. ProSPA is a collaboration with the Open University, and several other organisations, to put a chemistry set, as part of a lander, on the south pole of the Moon to extract elements from the lunar soil for analysis. The chemistry set consists of two sets of mass spectrometers which use different techniques for determining what elements and compounds are present in the lunar soil. My job is to develop the software that runs the chemistry set.
Why is your role important?
A lot of the instruments that go to space include software – without it they could not perform complex functions. Software allows us to run instruments remotely. It gives us greater control and a level of insurance because software is the only aspect of an instrument that you can actually change once it's flown. It's entirely possible to discover a problem after launch, find it, fix it and upload a new copy of the software or a patch and it should work.
What's the best thing about your job?
My colleagues are fantastic and they're a key reason I enjoy my job so much. Also the projects that we're working on together are amazing. So you could say I work on really interesting projects that are at the forefront of scientific discovery in space, and I do this with great people!
What do you value about working for RAL Space?
I'd definitely say the people. Is that a cliché? Our software engineers are all very talented, very open, very friendly people. We all get on really well and work well with the electronics team too. Probably the thing I value most is that there's so much expertise across the organisation and I feel that I can just approach relevant people if necessary - even if we're on different projects, there are overlaps so we can help each other.
What advice would you give to people looking for a job in this industry?
If you want to get involved in spacey stuff and you're not sure you have the right background for it just try anyway regardless. Whatever your background you can get involved with the industry and contribute because you don't have to be a scientist or an engineer to contribute to space. There's all sorts of different roles within “space" and there's a lot more diversity in what we do now. I always had an interest in space, so although I'm not a scientist, I am adjacent to the science. I get to see it all and read about it all, and be involved in making these scientific discoveries actually a reality.
Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self now?
You know, I think I would just say that it's all going to work out in the end.