I’m often asked “so…what exactly do you do?” It’s a fair question given my nontraditional career path. I earned my Ph.D. in planetary geochemistry, worked as a postdoc on a NASA mission, took a job at an asteroid mining company, and now work at a systems engineering start-up.
Despite leaving academia, I’ve stayed engaged with the planetary science community, having found my niche working at the intersections—the colliding worlds—of academia and industry, scientists and engineers. I use the term “applied planetary scientist” to communicate that I apply the knowledge base of planetary science to solve practical problems as opposed to pure research.
It wasn’t easy to get here, though. When I started looking past the walls of the ivory tower, I had to figure everything out myself—where to look for jobs, how to write a resume, the difference between a hiring manager and recruiter, and so much more.
Several years later, I’ve now been on the other side of the table: I've undergone the industry job search process twice and also participated in numerous interviews, even making a hire to my team. I want to share what I’ve learned along the way.
Through this blog, I hope to reframe the narrative about planetary scientists leaving academia, provide direction I didn’t have on how to get an industry job, and share insight into the space mission engineering process from a NewSpace perspective. If you're looking to leave academia, know that you are not alone and that success can be found beyond the walls of the ivory tower.