Lost In Space


On my first day, I got lost.

Part of my issue was that I went straight on Surveyor Rd rather than taking a left on Voyager St, so I can walk up Pathfinder Rd instead of finding a back stairwell up towards the visitor center.  Soon enough, what became a five minute walk back to my car became closer to ten minutes; and could have been worse if I stopped to look at the placards.  Luckily for me, there are worse things you can do to screw up on your first day of a new job.  Getting lost as you are heading home is probably pretty low on that list.

Today was my first official day as an employee of the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).  As with any first day on the job, it seemed like it lasted forever.  It didn’t help that I was up at 4AM, because I am still on East Coast body clock time.  The pup and I went for a walk, I had time to do some goofing around on my computer, and time to have a good breakfast.  Fifteen minute commute, and there I was … waiting.  I mean, waiting was the rule of thumb trying to get this job, so it makes sense that I had to hang out at the badgeing office for an hour hoping someone would punch a button to let me get badged in (and then still not getting that button punched).  There was no new hire orientation for me, that will come January 3rd (since there were all of 2 people starting today, and they will have over 70 spread over the fours weeks of next month).  Then came finding my desk, meeting my team, getting a computer set up, getting initial training on how things will work, and access to all the stuff that I need to read and get familiar with over the next couple of weeks.  First days are always like that — it’s overwhelming yourself with mundane tasks separated by trying to learn things you will probably forget.

Oh and the utter panic about screwing things up on your first day.

So, it was nice that the only thing I really screwed up was trying to find my way back to the car.   JPL is on a big campus (or a big ‘lab’ is the correct term).  There are loads of buildings that are inconsistently structured and seem to be in different orientations.  I am going to get a full tour tomorrow or the next day when the team gets time.  Still, I kind of fell into a tour by getting lost on the way out of the place.

But along the way came one of the great bits of symbolism about the day itself.  All those streets I named, they are named for different programs … programs you should know.  Voyager, those satellites built in the 70s that are still hurtling out of the solar system and sending back pictures.  Pathfinder, the first Mars probe that came with a rover we all loved to watch.   And that wrong turn I took … it went right by the ‘satellite assembly building’ … where they are literally building the missions you watch do all those great things.

And there were other moments like that.  We are sitting around talking about quality clauses on contracts and someone says “Good thing the Mars 2020 program is getting with us early.  Let’s hope Europa does that too.”  They basically just name dropped the two biggest unmanned space exploration programs in the near future.  One with the purpose of understanding the sustainability of life on Mars, and the other the sustainability of life on a moon of Jupiter.     Like … no big deal, just exploration of our solar system.  In my one-on-one time with my boss, who has only been there for a few months himself, we shared geeking out stories between each other about how cool this place is.

And the people … awesome.  I showed up at there wasn’t one, but three ‘welcome to the team’ signs and cards.  I am already getting pressure to RSVP for the holiday party (that I didn’t even know I was invited to).

So it’s been a long day, an overwhelming day, but a good day.  But if I was going to summarize how I feel right now, I keep thinking of a song from the musical Annie, which is simply titled:  “I think I’m going to like it here”.


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