Koen De Beule, the problem solver
1. What is (are) your current job title(s), and what does it (do they) mean?
I am an electronic design engineer for the European Space Agency. While this title is pretty much identical to the one at graduation, it does not cover the activities performed during my day to day operations, as an engineer for the European Space Agency, it’s never just one thing.
2. Why is your job important?
Any engineering job within a technical environment is of importance. The specific strength in our engineering group is that we are used a lot for ‘last-minute problem solving’ or what we call ‘technical fire-fighting’. Within space applications, sometimes there are deadlines (e.g. you must launch a comet chaser in time or it will miss the comet), in case there is a technical issue with the spacecraft, we must use all our contacts/knowledge to solve it the most efficient way possible and on time.
3. What led you to that career path?
I was always interested in aviation and aerospace technology, so during the study you look for opportunities (as stagiaire and/or trainee) to gain knowledge both from technical and operational point of view. When that step is taken, you need also some luck and some guts to get where you want to be.
4. How would you describe your typical work day?
It varies very much, sometimes I am solving a pure technical problem on a spacecraft, a technical facility or a payload. Other days I take part in a design review or a safety inspection. Beside this, as a public servant I also take part in communication, education and public relation activities to promote the Agency to the European audience.
5. What is the most exciting thing you ever had the chance to do?
Exciting has a different meaning for everybody, but to stay in line with the 3 typical points just mentioned at question 4, I shall name these. My team and myself ever were involved in solving an urgent issue with the Columbus Orbital Facility, less than a year before it went to space. I was also present when the last space shuttle (STS-135 ATLANTIS) left the Earth on 08/07/2011. Last but not least I also take regular part in the education program rexus/bexus, in which we teach the new generation of engineers the know-how behind space-projects.
6. What advice would you give to your young self?
To stay realistic in what is possible but to keep going after your dreams. I would even go further and give advice to all who want to hear it that a good study time is only 5-7 per cent of your life, but it will dominate the rest of your life. Stop dreaming your life, but start living your dream.