Colliding worlds: A planetary scientist in industry

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.

The ivory tower of academia looks suspiciously like the one from The Neverending Story

The ivory tower of academia looks suspiciously like the one from The Neverending Story

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.

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