Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2/17/10: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ok, so everyone at one point in their lives is asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" At this point my son would answer - A Fire Fighter, and my daughter - A Princess, specifically Cinderella.
So for me in 6th grade my parents took me to Disney World for the first time. During this trip they took me to Kennedy Space Center. That trip took all the indecision out of my mind, I wanted to be an Astronaut!
My parents thought it was a passing phase, just like when I wanted to be a Vet, a travel agent, and an interior decorator. But this one stuck. My Mom who was a traditional home maker or could be called a domestic engineer tried to push me to be a teacher or actress but I would not change my mind.

I then was in awe of the Space Program and would put posters up in my room and I knew all of the missions and what was going on. So when it came to looking at colleges I would not even consider any college that did not have NASA in their books or did not have Aerospace Engineering. When I went to WPI for my interview and the Admissions Rep talked about Projects with NASA I knew immediately this was where I would go to school so I applied early decision and was accepted.

Once Jr. year hit and the NASA Project selection began I was the first to apply and would touch base with the Teaching Assistant coordinating the program daily. Low and behold I was picked! I was soooo excited. This was my dream come true. I was selected to work at NASA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, OH. I couldn't contain myself, I was so happy.

The whole experience of 3 months at NASA was amazing. I worked in the Orbital Mechanics area (which was my favorite class at WPI) on the Discovery Diana mission. I worked on a program to calculate how much time the solar electric powered space craft would spend in shade and sunlight and presented to NASA Branch Chief's and Staff. I smiled every day going to work and would get caught many nights working late by NASA engineers who would go on to tell me to go out and have fun.

When I was there I even got to meet Sally Ride and get her Autograph. That was amazing. I had her picture up in my room for years.

The Branch Chief at NASA loved my work and wanted to hire me but couldn't at the time. Instead he did the next best thing and gave me personal contacts at several NASA contractors. I reached out to all of them and then Martin Marietta came to interview at WPI. I was selected and found out who was interviewing me. I let the guys at NASA know and they had worked very closely with this person in the past. So I did a little name dropping and got passed on to the on-site interview with Martin Marietta Defense Systems in Pittsfield, MA. They hired me in to the Engineering Leadership Development Program which was meant to build leaders in the company. At the same time I went for a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering. To make a long story short, I worked several years with Martin Marietta who then became Lockheed Martin but was never really happy. It was not what I had pictured. I worked on black boxes, test equipment, decoys for aircrafts, and a liquid propellant gun. This was not the dream of the Space Shuttle or Orbital Mechanics I once had. I did apply for the Astronaut Program through NASA figuring I might as well. I knew my chances of getting picked were very slim but I did have the degree and some experience. Everytime I got a thick envelope from NASA I would get all excited, but it was just to renew my application. Worth a shot though. Who knows, crazier things have happened.

Unfortunately for me this interview question's answer tells the story...On an interview recently with BAE Systems they asked me what is your biggest career regret. Well for me it was going to school for Aerospace Engineering (so really a decision made in 6th grade is my biggest career regret). When I got out of college it was recommended I only list Mechanical Engineer on my resume and not even list Aerospace with the limited amount of Aerospace jobs with all the budget cuts. I know at this point NASA is getting cut even more.

Now I think overall other jobs would have been a better fit. I spent days upon days looking at part-time jobs and they are mostly in medical areas such as Therapy. I highly respect people who can make a change in direction of their career at any point. At this point I feel too invested and don't want to have to start at square one to do something different especially with two kids that are my focus. It is not that I hate what I do, I like Project Management and being a Business Analyst, it is just the dream I thought I had was only fulfilled for a fleeting 3 months. But that's ok.

So when people say to me "It's Not Rocket Science", my response is "No it isn't, but I wish it was."

So what did you want to be when you grow up and are you doing it? Comment and let me know.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

I wish I had read this post before the party last weekend. I'm not sure if I told you or if you know, but I'm currently in the process of changing my career. I'm waiting to hear back on a couple of Nursing programs that I applied to....should hear any day now! Just so you know, when I had my interview at one of the programs, they actually thought I was YOUNG to be doing a career switch. They said a lot of the people in the program are in their 40s and 50s and just deciding to go back and change their it's never too late. :-) But I totally know what you mean about deciding on your career at a young age....I have such a long story behind how I came into Accounting, we'll have to chat at the next gathering. Good luck with whatever you decide!!