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Perspective on the new space (job) race


Millennials may or may not think “Elon Musk is a god,” as one panelist at an AIAA-Rocky Mountain section’s event put it. Either way, the SpaceX founder’s influence — and that of companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Group — are undeniable. From the millennial perspective, “They’re making space cool again,” another said.

The new companies have also acquired a reputation among industry recruits for being less risk-averse — having less “scar tissue” from past failures.

The commercial space boom “has had a huge influence on people coming into the industry,” says Will Pomerantz, vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit. “Space has always had that appeal, but for a long time, it was hard for people to understand that it’s an industry you can actually work in.”

While that was the case, he suspects it lost talent to the tech industry — the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon “with a very well-established reputation for what it’s like to work there.”

He’s been involved in his company’s campus outreach and has unique insight into the incoming aerospace workforce thanks to his role co-founding a nonprofit fellowship program that places undergraduate interns throughout the industry.

He’s learned that young professionals need to keep an open mind about where they apply — that small companies can offer big experience.

“For any given person, some of these companies will be a much better fit than others.”

Virgin Orbit is the Virgin Group’s new company focusing on small satellites. “We are a smallish company that is well funded and moving quickly. … When there are fewer other people around, it means every individual gets more responsibility.”

To fend off restlessness or frustration — owing in no small part to a lifetime of connectivity — it’s often about providing that instant challenge.

“They definitely are exposed to a lot more information,” Pomerantz says. “They have it all at their fingertips.”

The downside to this instant information gratification is that they may get frustrated when the data is just not there — or when processes seem to hold up progress — and “that frustration needs to be channeled.”

However, the defining characteristic he perceives is unquestionably a positive:

“The best students today are better than they’ve ever been before. By the time they finish school, they know so much more and have done so much more than someone my age ever did.”

Click here for more on the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program co-founded by Will Pomerantz — and good advice for students on landing any internship.

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Education

STAYING 
POWER

Attrition was down by half among workers with five or fewer years on the job, according to Aviation Week’s most recent Workforce Study, dropping from
21 percent in 2009 to 10.5 percent 
in 2017.

Perspective on the new space (job) race