Melissa Lee
20 May 2020



Senior Project Manager in the Space Engineering and Technology Division


​​​​Melissa Lee, Senior Project Manager at RAL Space

Credit: Melissa Lee

How did you get into your job?
I studied Chemical Engineering at university. Due to the nature of the degree, we were often engaged in large group projects to solve industry wide problems – from carbon capture plants, to oil and gas refineries. I found that I had a particular skill in bringing large technical teams together and getting the different engineering roles to talk to one another to come to a unified solution. It was then that I realised I wanted to pursue a career in project management!

What is your role?
I am a senior project manager. At RAL Space, such projects are usually related to the development and operation of scientific instruments, facilities and missions. It is my responsibility to manage the golden triangle of project management: time, cost and quality. To do this, I need to monitor scope (are we delivering what the customer has asked for?), schedule (will we deliver it on time), finance (are we within budget?), risk (what precautions should I take to mitigate any potential blocking points?) and resources (do my team have the skillset and time to complete the tasks?). 

What's the best thing about your job? 
The best part about my job is that I get to work on projects that are really making a difference in the world. I am working on the MicroCarb mission, a satellite which will monitor and characterise the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Missions like this don’t just happen! They take years of development, millions of pounds and hundreds of scientists and engineers. I see my role as an enabler – so I liaise with the customer to look after the legal, financial and contractual issues, so that my team are free to focus on doing their job well. 

What do you value about working for RAL Space?
RAL Space is such a dynamic place to work –​ we all have a common interest in space and it’s motivating to work in an environment where the goal is for the greater good of science and engineering!

Even when I joinined as a graduate, I was given full responsibility of an aerospace project – so you get a lot of exposure and learning opportunities from day one. It has been intense, but I have felt fully supported the whole way and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world! 

What advice would you give to people looking for a job in this industry?
Don’t be put off by the fact that you haven’t got a background in aerospace. I had no idea I would be in this industry until my final year of university – and I was studying a degree almost completely unrelated! Our industry values people who are eager to learn, question what is possible and will work hard to achieve that. 

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self now?
I would tell myself to let my hair down a little more! There’s no need to be the best at everything: work on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. 

Taking part in outreach activities at RAL Space.

At work at RAL Space meeting a group of students from Beihang University.