Tuesday, April 11, 2006


On Alex Trebek

Today might have been the randomest day ever. It started on a slightly bizarre note on account of a missing top, was followed by a visit to Jeopardy!, and ended with a speech by Colin Powell, who is actually hilarious.

8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time: My friends will tell you that I am chronically 5 minutes late (a habit which I am trying really really hard to remedy), but this time I had a legitimate reason. See on Saturday, one of the roofs of my T-top Chevy Camaro (I know, probably not the car you expected me to drive) popped off and shattered on the side of the highway. As luck would have it, the forecast for this week in Los Angeles (the SOLAR CITY of 1976) is rain, broken up by the occasional torrential downpour. Therefore, this morning, I had to fashion a rain slicker for my Z28, and consequently arrived at the weekly business development tag up exactly 2 minutes late. (a BIG deal when you're leading the discussion)

The point of this incredibly long ramble is to nonchalantly introduce you to the Business Development, a world of strategy, intrigue, and politics. And since this is not a blog of random musings, I will spend this entry telling you about a pretty sweet (read: interesting) career alternative for engineers. (especially for those of us who are not excited by aluminium alloys or solar array configurations) In most organizations, the business development team, is responsible for capturing new business and deciding which opportunities to pursue. On the CEV program, the BD folks are also responsible for public outreach and for initiatives such as helping Congress see the value of the space program. It's a cool gig, and I've been fortunate enough to moonlight in it for the last 2.5 years.

But before I go any further telling you about how great BD is, I'm going to take a second here to proffer some advice ... My first job out of college was working on the aft fuselage of the F/A-18 Super Hornet conducting stress analysis on sub-flush countersunk Hi-Lok fasteners. Trust me, work doesn't get much more detailed (read: boring) than that, especially if you're not a tinker-er. I can't fix ANYTHING, and am not a low-level detail-oriented person. I'm all about great big ideas, such as turning around an alumni club or selling a space program.

I had great co-workers on the F/A-18, but the work bored me to tears. So within a year, I was doing everything in my power to transfer to the space program. It took quite a bit of finagling, but eventually I landed in systems engineering on the Orbital Space Plane program, which ultimately morphed into the CEV. Today, I split time between BD and systems engineering, which exposes me to both the business and technical sides of the house.

So the advice is this: be proactive. I was able to get into space because I sought the opportunity myself. I've had a chance to work in BD because I volunteered. The thing is, it's really easy in engineering, or in anything else for that matter, to stay where you are put. Most of the folks I started with still work on the F/A-18, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you see something that interests you, go after it, because there's a good chance that you just might get it.

OK. Enough pontificating.

2 p.m. PST, I left work early today because my awesome friend Mark (a fellow Michigan alum) got me a ticket to a taping of Jeopardy! It's the last taping of the season (and, in fact, ended up being the 2006 Tournament of Champions finale :)) I've been wanting to go to Jeopardy! since 2002, and since I'm moving to Boston in August, I figured I'd better act fast. btw, in case you're wondering, in which case I applaud you for making it this far in this post, Alex Trebek is ornery, but incredibly funny in person.

8 p.m. PST, After Jeopardy!, I bummed around for a couple of hours before heading to downtown LA to hear Colin Powell speak. The best part of living in this town is that there are so many opportunities to see cool things. I subscribe to a speaker series, and have seen some great speakers from Tom Brokaw to Dennis Miller to Bill Clinton. Powell made the audience laugh with some great stories about saving an island inhabited by 20 goats.

11:22 p.m. PST. I should really go before I bore you all to tears. G'night from the West Coast!

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