Okay … I can’t wait anymore. The news of where I am going is too awesome.
It’s NASA!! It’s NASA as part of the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California. That’s where I am going, that’s who I am going to be working for. There’s no professional way to say except, It’s Frickin’ NASA!
Starting mid-December, I begin work as a Procurement Quality Engineer at JPL. That is the same role I worked when I lived in Alaska with BP Exploration, and for the last seven years with Cessna in Kansas. So, it is a return to the position I know, and a position I love. This time in a new-ish industry with new challenges and new situations. And it’s NASA!
JPL should be a division of NASA you have either heard of, or heard of what they do. Most recently they got a lot of big screen time in the Matt Damon movie “The Martian” (anytime they showed nerds building or calculating something, they were based at JPL in the movie). The main objectives of JPL are more for the Unmanned projects, specifically interplanetary studies. All the Mars Rovers were run through JPL; the deep space probes like Cassini and Juno are JPL projects, even the newer space telescopes are controlled by JPL.
So, for the record, just to technically correct, I am not going to be working for NASA in as far as, they aren’t the direct employer. JPL is actually a part of California Institute of Technology (or more well known as CalTech). See, CalTech formed JPL to study jet and rocket technology at its infancy in the mid 1930’s, nearly twenty years before NASA was formed. It had been funded and contracted by different branches of the government over the years, but has consistently worked under contract to NASA since 1958 – and NASA is it’s only direct contractor. So while I am going to be badged to do work for NASA, I will be an actual employee of JPL / CalTech … so you could say I lived out my dad’s dream of going into education. But while you can split hairs on technicalities, and I know some of you in particular will, it’s still NASA.
Now, this means, I need to move to California. The pup and I will be heading out in early December after we get the Boston condo in order and ready to go onto the market. When we arrive, I should be put up into temporary housing – likely a long term hotel (I know … that’s new and different) – for a couple of months. After that, we will likely find some place to rent as I get the lay of the land and get my current mortgage off the books. It’s a little bit of a twist, to take time like that, compared to what I did in Boston or Alaska – but the focus for me is strictly about finding the right long term plan.
You see, I found this job, it didn’t find me (kinda). I originally pursued JPL for a different position that I was knowingly underqualified to really compete for – but still made it from a candidate pool of over 10 down to the last two. At one point, I had an onsite interview for that job, and it was the most enjoyable & fun interview experience in my life; not just because of what the job was, but the interactions and play between the panel and I. Yes, I didn’t get that position, but it was pretty clear I made an impression. While that fell through, when this position opened up … They Called Me. We had a few bumps getting through the background checks, but here we are … locked in … and ready for takeoff.
You can believe I am excited about this job … I mean, who wouldn’t be really. But what drove me down this path was a few things that stick with me.
First I remember as a kid getting asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said “Astronaut”, having absolutely no idea what that really meant. Over the years, that was clearly not going to be the path for me – but I remember seeing a movie called October Sky where a kid from West Virginia had similar dreams, and ended up in a trainer position with NASA.
But just as much, a conversation I had with one of the greatest people I met through my work history, John Gorley. When I met him, he was already in his 70s and had decades of experiences to share, and he was never afraid to share any of them. From his college football days, to his escapades in the early days of air travel, to working different jobs to get by, to this long tenure at Honeywell. But when we asked him what he was most proud of, he didn’t even blink an eye – he got to design parts that went on the lander that landed on the moon. It is the greatest achievement in the history of mankind, and no matter how small a part he played, he got to play a part in it.
I get to play a part in the great achievements to come. I may not ever slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God, but I can be part of the way that man continues to do so. That … THAT is why I am excited about this job.
It’s Frickin’ NASA.
(See … didn’t I tell you it was going to be awesome?)