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From speed mentoring to skype conferences – learning how to network with space enthusiasts
After the great feedback we received for our paper on Monday I thought:” Well, it can´t get any much better.” But then, Tuesday came along…
On that said Tuesday, the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) organized a so-called “speed mentoring” event for young professionals and students. The procedure was pretty similar to the one at “speed dating” events- at least so have I been told. We (the young professionals and students) sat together in groups of six at one table and two seats remained empty. Those two seats were filled with mentors, who had only 12 minutes to enlighten us with their wisdom and guidance.
There was, for instance, “Team ESA” which included Paolo Ferri, Head of Mission Operations, and Michael Schmidt, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESOC. At first you could see the whole table hold their breath when those two approached, as nobody wanted to say anything foolish. But then, Paolo Ferri started talking and introduced Michael Schmidt and himself to us and from the first second, he was really relaxed and down to earth. I asked Paolo Ferri what his motivation was to get out of bed in the morning, as I wanted to see if he was already fed up with his job, or if he still was as motivated as at the beginning of his career. The answer was clear: he still is driven by the same fascination as in the beginning and while saying that, his eyes began to sparkle.
That was pretty much the same with every mentor, no matter if NASA, CNES (French space agency) or KARI (Korean Aerospace Research Institute) was written on their nametags; everyone was really open minded and honest. We asked almost every mentor team the same question, which, in retrospective, showed us pretty well the work attitude in every major space agency. The question was quite simple: “What soft skills do we need to succeed?”
Interestingly, we never got the same answer twice. NASA´s Ass. Dep. Associate Administrator for Space Communication and Navigation, Phil Liebrecht, said that you need a solid education and motivation (and a U.S citizenship also helps).
Paolo Ferri answered that we need reliability and passion, whereas “Team KARI” said that we would need eagerness and politeness. Furthermore, if you want to work for KARI, it would be appreciated if you like to work on weekends as well. After the speed mentoring session, I can really say that I now know where I can envision myself working one day and I am really inspired (and have been more motivated for my studies at university ever since).
Experiencing all that is kind of overwhelming, but what really lasts are the new friendships we could start to build. To make sure that we stay in contact, we founded a SpaceOps group with the goal to work together on a project, which we yet have to define. We already had our first teleconference, spread over 4(!) time zones from Texas to Australia. I really hope that our collaboration grows further.
It was truly a great experience to participate in such a big conference and to get to know all those space enthusiasts. I am also sure that this was not my last space related conference!!
Author: Sophie Gruber
One of the most important features of large conferences, such as the SpaceOps conference 2016, is the networking aspect. The setting of these conferences provides many opportunities to interact with other professionals, research teams and representatives of institutions working in various fields of research. But we experienced that the networking usually does not happen during the presentation session. Most of the exciting things happen during the many scheduled coffee breaks and social events, since it is much easier to discuss specific questions with the regarding person of interest in smaller groups than during a Q&A session after a presentation. Besides, the conversations can go into much more detail.
In many cases, the networking with regard to these conferences results in close collaborations between different teams and organizations and friendships as well. During the conference I had the pleasure to meet and get into deeper conversations with many interesting people who are valuable contacts for the present and future. I got to know a member of the New Horizons Team, for instance, who gave me a much more detailed insight into the project than it would have been possible otherwise. Furthermore, the networking continued after the tight schedules of the conference days in our case, since many groups decided to do some activities together in the evening as well and it was no problem at all to join a group. Hence, we had the chance to experience the South Korean tradition of karaoke together with employees from ESA, NASA and other institutions and private companies, which was a unique experience I dare say.
Moreover, it was a good opportunity to make contacts that can help you to get an internship later on or support you with your projects. This was helpful for me as a student in particular, since it is always easier to show your competence and passion to somebody in person than in an email. And even for future jobs it is beneficial to know somebody who works for the same institution or company already, since that person can add a more personal component to your otherwise primarily fact based application. In general, it can help you to create a difference between yourself and the crowd of other applicants.
Author: Michael Müller
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