WeWorkInSpace offers personal experiences as inspiration for future non-technical space employers
Are you passionate about space and looking for a non-technical role in the sector? WeWorkInSpace helps you find a non-tech space job in law, marketing, design, business development, HR, finance and other niche space jobs. To showcase on how to get there, they offer interviews with non-technical space experts. This time one of the team members of NL Space Campus was interviewed: our community manager Maaike Smelter. Read her advice for others who want to work in the space sector but have no degree in engineering!
What is it like to put your expertise to work in the space sector?
My expertise seems vague and is not easy to explain to engineers, but to me and slowly even to engineers, since I have this job, I finally feel and know how to explain my expertise that is of great value to the sector. Bringing people together, creating communities, may sound like I'm just a fun event organiser. But in reality I have a good feeling of who to contact, why and what type of people I would bring together. Secondly, I never just ask anyone to join me for anything, say on stage, in an event, for an article, for coffee or to connect with someone else. It's all about connecting the right people. So the most important job I have is to ask anyone: 'What do you need and how can i support you?' and really listen to what the answer is. Most of the time the answer is 'connect me to the right person' to offer the opportunity for a next step for them. Whether that is for promotion, a launching customer, inspiration or getting better in their work. My expertise is to listen in between the words and figure out what it is they really want and need. If someone says they need funding, maybe all they need is a better story, an easy donation page or some coaching to find that right investor. It is my job to then for example inspire them to create a better story, connect them to someone who is already successful in getting donations and/or funding, or someone who has a great network of investors, or even experience reaching out to investors. The events I organise are just platforms and opportunities to learn the actual questions and to connect with the right kind of people. For example every month we host a Networking event for the space sector, with over 100 people from the industry, institutions, startups, scaleups, investors, (local) stakeholders, government and students. We offer 3 initiatives the stage to pitch their idea or company and we share updates from the community. This event has grown in 2 years from 30 to sometimes 150 people, without needing to promote it anymore. To me that is proof that with events like this, we fulfil a need for our community. That's why I don't see my events as just a fun afternoon, but as small inspiring opportunities growing in between the people attending.
What advice would you give fellow non-tech space enthusiasts if they want to pursue a job in space?
The space industry looks like a closed off sector and yes, working at ESA without having a masters degree seems undoable, mostly it is. But there is actually an easy way of starting to work in the space industry, because this sector has something most sectors don't: infinite enthusiasts with infinite projects and therefore easily created work experience. Just join an organisation, work on a project, visit an event, talk with other enthusiasts and tell everyone you want to work in the space industry. Trust me, withing one year, you will have work experience in the space sector on your resume. If not, come find me and I will connect you with the right person ;)
Can you tell us more about your day to day activities?
Usually, I start working at the office in the morning with something that needs to focus time. For example writing an important email, creating articles for the newsletter or building a slide deck for a session on stage next week. In the afternoon I will have meetings with partners about what speakers are needed for that one event, but also the catering, the materials that have to be printed and what emails to reach out to, who might be interested to join this event and why is it so interesting for them? Then during the day, I get some coffee, talk to community members and whoever I run into wherever I am, and call someone that I need to talk to or like to know something from. Usually, I end the day by getting my tasks in order and if there is something that I really needed to do today. The next day I might have a meeting with my colleague or someone I work closely with, to spar about why this one event was so successful and why the other one was not. What is the difference and what can we learn from it? Can we make what we created better? Or can we cancel something we wanted to do? I like to cancel ideas too because that creates more space to focus on what is really important. Much of my work during the day is deciding if something is important to go with and then setting out the task with someone who can make it happen, or deciding to not go through with it and create space for something more important. Then in the afternoon, I will have lunch with a stakeholder and talk about what we can accomplish together or if there is something I would like to have that person or organisation involved with. After I might go to a networking event and meet some new people, get to know something new about the sector and listen for the new connections I can make. Within all of this, the most important skills I practice in my job are people skills and organisational skills. And I think that this job is not really suited for introverted people either!
What is your study background?
Social and Cultural Projectmanagement (Bachelor in Social Work)