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Aerospace Climbing the ladder

  1. Apr 2, 2012 #1
    It is my understanding that some engineers working in aerospace find that a role in management best suits them and seek to climb the ladder of the company they are working for, where as others focus entirely on the technical, R&D side of things, content to stay in the same position indefinitely.

    I'm not sure which of these roles best suits me quite yet, to be honest. I am just starting college and although the hard core design aspect of engineering fascinates me, I can also see "part of my father" in me, in that he was a very successful manager of a logistics firm and really made a substantial impact in that company. It wasn't about status or power for him, he's really quite modest, he just really excelled at managing, and I guess the world needs people like that.

    I was looking at the "careers" section of SpaceX's website (I live very close to Hawthorne), and one of the positions in the business operations area is "Mission/Project Manger"

    Taken from the website:


    * BS Degree with minimum 5 years industry experience
    * Technical project Management experience
    * Excellent written and verbal skills
    * Experience working with cross-functional team and external customers
    * Highly detail oriented, diligent, hard working with excellent customer interface skills

    I guess my question is, after completing one's B.S. degree, how many years and what positions do you take in order to end up in this sort of managerial role. I take it one starts as an entry level aerospace engineer, and then I'm curious what steps lie in between this and the career of project manager, like where do you gain the "technical project management" experience. Is it assumed that someone would not find themselves in a position like this until they are in their 40's? Are there project managers younger than this? What lies after? Are there positions senior to this one?

    I'm sure some engineering people are thinking argh I hate people like you!! Ladder climbers who give me unrealistic deadlines and waste company resources!! Curse you!!

    Just curious what everyone's assessment is of the transition from engineer to managerial role(s)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2012 #2
    You will not get a managerial role at SpaceX by completing the generic, minimal requirements. That is a cutting edge company on the forefront of it's industry. Just want to make sure you understand that, not trying to be mean...Every day they get, and turn down, hundreds or even thousands of applications from people who far exceed the minimum requirements.

    Realistically, it will take you somewhere in the realm of 5-10 years to even get into a meaningful managerial role. However, you can get "experience" along the way, by managing small groups or projects, and getting involved with the managers and indicating your desire to go that route.

    Generally this is the path:
    Jr Engineer (or associate, whatever they call it)
    Intermediate Engineer
    Project Engineer **Which may also just be the Intermediate, but could be any level, really**
    Project Manager

    Of course, there are tons of directions you can go, and you can find yourself going up and down this ladder (in your responsibilities, not your job title). And it's a good route to go, if you like to manage people. If you like the actual engineering, you'll find you do less and less of this as your managerial responsibilities increase.

    A PM at SpaceX likely has 15 - 20+ years of Industry related experience, or between 5-10 years of industry specific experience. They'll probably have higher education degrees as well, and/or be Licensed Professionals.
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