July 2008

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July 3, 2008 R #

Temporarily Homeless

I'm no longer a resident of Boston. I packed up my stuff, the movers came, and left my Beacon Hill apartment for the last time. sigh...

Boston has been a great city. I'm going to miss it.

Now I'm hanging out in Utah on my way out to LA. It's been great seeing all my cousins out here, and catching up with a few friends. A big extended family becomes cooler as everyone gets older.

My cousin Lorien is designing and managing the landscaping of Rivendell, a multi-million dollar home characterized after The Lord of The Rings.

Everyone is getting married. Three cousins in the last year, and two more this year, in addition to my little bro. That's cool because they marry cool people who make things more fun.

This is my favorite ice cream shop. I hit it every time I'm in Provo, and get a Pumpkin Oreo shake.

Provo has its quirks, but it has some really cool character as well. Becuase nobody needs alcohol to have a good time, they throw random parties and performances on the streets whenever. Hook up some speakers, carry out the couches, spread some blankets, and you have an instant local concert.

July 5, 2008 S #

Fourth of July... and Fourth of July Eve

The Fourth is definitely my favorite holiday.

Another cool thing about Utah is they make the 4th of July a whole season. Christmas season, Halloweeen season... and Fourth of July season. The 4th is a whole week long celebration... and its great!

The Fourth is fun, but the whole town comes out for a huge street party along the parade route on the Fourth of July Eve. Everyone is camping out, setting up big screens, X-Boxes, and everything else.

My whole extended family ends up in Provo every Fourth, originally because my uncle was a mad firework fanatic, and then it's just a fun place for the summer holiday season. This is my Dad grilling the steaks and every other kind of meat for this years huge party at my uncle's place.

July 21, 2008 M #

Back in LA

Day 1 - I found my Jeep. I've always wanted a vehicle to take off the top and the doors.

Day 2 - I found my apartment, 3 blocks from the beach and 1 block from Hermosa pier.

Day 3 - I found my first new Blond-Hair-Blue-Eye-California-Girl friend.

Not bad for an arrival.

And my neighbors are totally cool and social.


I'm back in sunny California because I landed my dream job with SpaceX.
Starting this week.

I'm super stoked about it. There isn't another job in the world that I'd rather have than the job I have right now. Even given the choice to work on the original moon-shot with Apollo or now with SpaceX, I'd choose SpaceX. We're opening space commercially, which means it can be sustainable, instead of a large government program reliant on tax funding and political motivations.

We decided my title for now will be Production Engineer within the Propulsion team, though I'm really there to do whatever is most important to develop our production processes to be. well, Lean. Right now though, we're a loooooong way from Lean. Not because anybody has done anything wrong. We're just in the transition phase from Craft Production making one-off rocket engines with the engineers and technicians highly involved with each other, to now designing production systems that can produce an engine a week by the end of next year. So I get to be involved in designing all of this. which is exactly what I've been studying for the last two years.

_ _ _

So... How I ended up at SpaceX.

While working in England last year, Elon Musk (SpaceX Founder and CEO) happened to be speaking at MIT during one of my trips back to Boston. I've been following SpaceX since I learned about them in 2004. I actually first heard about SpaceX and the Falcon rocket straight from Elon. It was at a party the night before Burt Rutan's first test flight of SpaceShipOne for the X Prize. Elon would've been about 30 yrs old then, and I just assumed he was one of the many engineers at the party working on cool stuff. So I introduced myself and we started chatting just like any other aerospace engineers. He was a cool guy, and I liked that SpaceX was trying to go straight to orbit instead of sub-orbital first. I never guessed he was the founder of SpaceX, or PayPal, or his first company Zip2.

So, now at MIT, I was chatting with Elon after his presentation on SpaceX. I was curious about how they're handling this transition from design to production, and some of their moves like getting ISO 9000 certified. Eventually he switched the conversation and asked:

"Are you applying to SpaceX? Have you applied? What's the deal?"

I responded: "I'm sponsored by Northrop Grumman, so I'm contracted to a few years with them after I graduate."

Reply: "We'll buy you out. You don't have to be indentured to them."

I honestly hadn't considered selling out from NG. But with this opportunity opening up right here. I knew exactly what my answer would be if I could join SpaceX.

So I sent Elon my resume with a description of what I'd like to do at SpaceX, expecting him to forward it to his production people. Three hours after I sent it, he replied concisely addressing each component of what I had written, and instructing his HR guy to connect me with the other appropriate people for interviews. That kind of responsiveness and attention is impressive.

My first phone interview was with the VP of production. She passed me on to the propulsion team's production manager. Then in January when I was back in the States, I visited the headquarters in Hawthorne to talk in person and with more people. The offer came through shortly after that, and I signed with SpaceX and resigned from Northrop.

_ _ _

So that's how I sold out. Northrop Grumman was sponsoring me with a really nice package, and they were opening up good opportunities for my reentry upon graduation. Rather, the Electronic Systems Sector VP of Engineering for the Western Region was really opening doors. I'm not sure it would have been going so well had I just relied on the corporate processes. For a corporation to really work, I believe personal connections up and down the company are indispensible... Corporate Process cannot replace individual relationships.

When I signed with SpaceX, the first person I told was this Sector VP who had been opening doors for me. He was supportive about it, and our conversation ended with him saying "If I were in your position I'd probably do the same thing. Good luck. Let's keep in touch."

Most of the corporate people treated me professionally, but one guy was rather petty about it. I'm paying NG back according to the contract, but even so, I realize it's quite. discourteous of me. I wish it didn't have to be, but I've made the right decision, and sometimes that isn't always easy. So be it.

This is a personal web page. Things expressed here do not represent the position of my employer.

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