After 16 years in aerospace - I'm finally moving on.

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by tindel, Jul 2, 2015.

  1. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    Put my 2 weeks(ish) notice in on Tuesday. I asked my company to keep it quiet and let me slip out the door. But I still want to talk about it a bit so here we go.

    I started with Lockheed Martin in 1998 as a high school intern scanning in pictures of moon rocks. That led to a sub-contracted tech job through LM in a class 10 clean room on a solar mission called Genesis while I worked on my BSEE. I spent the year before I graduated at Jacobs Sverdrup resupplying the Shuttle and Space Station with biomed hardware supplies (bicycle and treadmill parts mostly). After graduating, I took a full-time EE job at LM in Denver working ground support equipment on Orion - the next manned spacecraft. For the last 7 years or so I have been working on deep space missions. Juno - a orbiter mission to Jupiter, MAVEN - a orbiter mission to Mars, and most recently InSight - a equatorial landed mission to Mars.

    More specifically, for InSight, I designed the solar array and battery charge control module. That was my first real design job, and will probably be my crowning achievement of my career. I spent 2.5 years designing this circuit board. It had multiple interfaces, was mixed signal, high power control, low quiescent power, multiple operation modes, on-card power, telemetry, and multiple safety features. It required that I work with Thermal, Mechanical, Layout, Technicians, Management, Scheduling, Systems, Stress, EMI/EMC, Ground Support, Test Engineering, and Manufacturing to be able to balance corporate policies, physics, and style to produce a perfect card. Very complex beast. I don't think anyone else at LM could have done that job and it is the heart of the spacecraft. The spacecraft will literally not see the next morning if this card doesn't work perfectly.

    Someone once chastised me here by saying that nothing has to be perfect after I gripped about my boss stopping my progress one day and forcing me to release my engineering before I felt like it was complete. I said at the time in some industries some things have to be perfect (I wasn't quite ready to reveal exactly what I was working on). This card has to be perfect. There is no servicing crew on the surface of Mars. I can now say that this card is perfect (despite the white wires that resulted from my boss pushing the card out the door).

    I have had an outstanding career at LM. They have treated me very well. I have seen the X-1 that first broke the sound barrier, I have seen the shuttle, I have seen the Saturn V, I have radiation tested parts at Berkley National Labs, I have held large moon rocks and other precious interplanetary samples, I have been on 4 deep space missions, and I have worked with some of the best engineering teams on the planet. Ultimately the politics, lack of common sense (on the part of the corporation as a whole), lack of good mentorship, and the desire for more design work led me to make a career change.

    I'm now going into the commercial LED lighting industry with a small start-up company in Longmont. I'm excited and scared since this is a brand new door to walk through. A bit less prestigious, but there are really good engineers there of all level of expertise. Some from military, health, and commercial. I'll be the first with a space background - I think. The pay of the new gig is a little less after factoring benefits, but I think I will continue to become a much better engineer working with some of the other guys there and is definitely a win-win. I look forward to going into a church, hotel, stadium, etc. and seeing my hardware being used. I also look forward to the potential of receiving some patents for what I'll be doing.

    Anyway - the family just woke up - so I guess I need to get dressed and go to work. I'm learning it's incredibly hard to have any focus during your last two weeks of employment. They really do need me to do a few last things, but my motivation is nearly non-existant.


    PS. When I told the boss I was leaving - he offered me a promotion and 'any job I wanted' to stay. I told him I'd been looking for a job there for 6 months and been on 4 interviews within LM. I tried and couldn't find the right fit. To top it off - no design work was available (at my labor grade anyway). He said that he could 'make a job' for me. I told him he'd be wasting his time at this point.
    cmartinez, SgtWookie, gerty and 3 others like this.
  2. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    It's always good to be recognized for your work and clear that your boss understood that a valuable asset was leaving. It's good you are taking a risk that will both challenge and invigorate you (since extraterrestrial rocks aren't cutting it anymore).

    Good luck in your endeavors!
  3. Papabravo


    Feb 24, 2006
    When I retired in January 2014, my boss convinced me to stay until April 2014 on the QT. It was difficult to manage, but I did it and I believe I reaped substantial benefits from the effort. I wish you well in your new endeavor.
  4. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
    Sounds like a great adventure for a very talented person. I would give you my secret to success in commercial industry but it involves compromising pictures of high executives that I'm sure you won't need.
    #12, Sinus23, tindel and 1 other person like this.
  5. KJ6EAD

    Senior Member

    Apr 30, 2011
    Tindel, that's a very impressive work history. You need to correct two spelling errors though (griped for gripped and existent for existant).
  6. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    Thanks KJ6EAD - I've always been known for my engineering skills - not necessarily my speelling skills!
    SgtWookie and ErnieM like this.
  7. DickCappels


    Aug 21, 2008
    It is a matter of "Acting!" as John Lovitz would say. Act as though you are going to be there next week and the week after next. It causes the minimum disruption; things continue as long as you are there and then the pick up again after you are finished as if you had died on the job.
  8. Kermit2

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 5, 2010
    I have transistioned from medical, to aerospace, to oil exploration and each time the economy has pulled the rug out from under my employer. I am riding out the oil slump now, with one eye on the door and fingers crossed. Best of luck to you in your new field. Sincerely!
  9. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    Ah! The J. Edgar Hoover Method.
    Hoping it doesn't fail and you need a Lee Harvey Oswald.
  10. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    Dick - exactly. You get it... I sent an email to my really good friends the other day - most of them already knew that it was going to happen, a few didn't though. I'll probably let some of my more casual friends know next Friday - my last day. A few might figure it out when I clean out my desk and lab bench on Thursday afternoon.

    Thinking I'll probably bring in doughnuts and coffee on Thursday for the tech's in the lab and let them know then - they'll figure it out when I'm cleaning out my bench either way. They don't get near enough love for all the work they do.
    killivolt likes this.
  11. ronv

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 12, 2008
    We are from the same area. I had a similar experience. Early in my career I left IBM for a start up you may have heard of - Storage Tek. I was the first employee after the founders. Everyone said I was crazy, but 17 years later it was a billion dollar company and I left to start my own company. It felt kind of like a divorce when I walked out the door.
  12. killivolt

    Active Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Hard to leave; but at least it's on your terms.

    Good luck in all you do; hope you make lots of cool things for us.

    I need good communication and data rates. Check this out.

    wiki more recent.

    Most of the people I know; don't care to much about it. But; at the "Uni" wifi sucks. Line of sight would be good; just that Manufactures need to come on board. As well as some good designers.

    Just saying.

    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015
  13. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    There are several people I work with that used to work at Storage Tek... we may know some of the same people.
  14. sirch2

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    Good luck with the new job, hope you enjoy it.

    Every job I have left (and there have been quite a few) they have offered me something to keep me but would never offer anything whilst I was in the job. As you have found once you have made up your mind to go, it's time to go.
  15. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012
    Here's a shot of me with MAVEN - a Mars orbiter.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 3, 2015
  16. Glenn Holland


    Dec 26, 2014
    I just retired from my job after 32 years with a major transit agency.

    When I told my boss that I was going to retire, he replied "Don't let the door hit you on the way out".

    However, I'm planning a whole new career as a lawyer specializing in investigating corruption in government. And in my part of the country, there's a Do Do load of it and no shortage of work.

    Stay tuned for more!!!
  17. RichardO

    Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2013
    It seems that everyone in the Denver area has worked for Storage Tech or Lockheed Martin. ;)

    Best of luck at your new job!

    p.s. Will I see you tonight for more details?
  18. tindel

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2012

    Sorry I missed you last night. I have a lot of work to do before I move so I spent the evening painting instead. Probably won't make it to the electronics club for a few weeks. Every night is precious right now so that I can get the house ready for sale before I start my new job.
  19. cmartinez

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    What a wonderful professional trajectory you've just described... wish mine had been half as interesting as yours... but we all have to make do with whatever means are given (or found along the way) to us. Congrats on your excellent attitude and the guts you've shown by taking such a brave decision to move forward. I wish you the very best, both professionally and personally.
    tindel and KJ6EAD like this.
  20. Reloadron

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 15, 2015
    Wishing you all the best as you make this transition. I retired a few years ago and was fortunate in that for my career I did pretty much things I enjoyed. While I won't say going to work was always fun the majority of my career was enjoyable doing projects and things I enjoyed. That is what I see as important, enjoying what you are doing.

    cmartinez likes this.