Tell us a bit about where you work and what you do in your role.
I work in LA at SpaceX as a Mechanical Design Engineer for the Structures Team in Vehicle Engineering. More specifically, I’m part of a small team that owns the full design, development, build, and test of a new satellite program. My day to day is split between time at a computer and time in the factory and test facilities. While at my desk, I am usually in CAD (Computer Aided Design) software designing parts or in FEA (Finite Element Analysis) software analyzing structures to make sure they won’t fail in launch or flight.
What is a day in the life like post-graduation? (feel free to include a bit about work-life balance, hobbies, enjoying a new city, etc.)
I like to have a pretty structured day in order to fit everything in that I want to do. A typical weekday I am up by 6am and workout with my roommate at a gym that we can walk to. I am extremely lucky to live less than a mile from the beach, so I’ll often run along the water if I want to clear my head before work. If I don’t workout and get a good sweat before work, I’ve noticed it takes me a little longer to get into a rhythm at my desk. I am at work by 8am and grab some breakfast at the work cafeteria. Having food at work makes it really easy to eat healthy and saves money too. I am usually out of work at 8pm and either head to a sport or home. I am on a hockey team and play in a basketball league with some work friends too. If I go straight home then I will hang out with my roommate and turn on the NBA games. I am a huge NY Knicks fan (yes, I know we suck), but the only games on when I get back from work are the Clippers/Lakers games. I try to get to bed by 10:00pm and read for 30 minutes to help me fall asleep. I have found this to be the best method for quieting my mind before bed. On a typical weekend I will play pickup basketball outside and try to get to the beach to relax for a few hours. I love going to concerts and finding live music bars. LA is overflowing with new super talented artists and hip small gigs. I am a lifelong drummer but I currently can’t have a drum set in my apt, so I have been looking to find other places to play. Overall, I try to spend my weekend outside as much as possible.
What do you love most about what you’re currently doing?
I was extremely lucky that the job I wanted and the city I wanted to live in were in the same place. I was rejected from SpaceX Internships in years prior, but I studied really hard for the full-time interview process and things fell into place. I absolutely love my job and there are days work is really fun. My favorite days are when I am bolting parts to the satellite and get to touch the parts I previously made in CAD. There are even days when I need a part post-machined and I will hop on a mill myself to get the quickest turnaround. I am especially looking forward to having my first parts go to space when our satellite launches for the first time. What I love about SpaceX is the level of responsibility people are given and the fast-paced environment. This idea of “owning” parts and decisions is stressed at SpaceX in order to have full accountability and prioritize safety.
How did M&T prepare you for what you’re doing now? Alternatively, how do you see the duality of M&T coming through in what you do now?
M&T prepared me for a rigorous schedule and taught me how to keep a good work-life balance. Engineering school taught me how to problem-solve and how to stay calm when given a problem you initially have no idea how to solve. Wharton taught me very strong communication skills, how to work on a team effectively, and good self reflection habits. Wharton also developed my presentation and negotiating skills. I concentrated in Management and took classes like MGMT 238 and Negotiations 1 and 2. M&T also gave me really great friends at work! I go to a SpaceX Penn Alumni Lunch every other Wednesday and have connected with some M&Ts that I did not know while I was at Penn.
Where do you see yourself going in the future?
I see myself trying to grow as much as I can at SpaceX. In the short term of ~4-6 years, I have the goal to be a team lead of a mechanical engineering group. I really enjoy being an engineer, but I want to put my business and mgmt side to use as well. I enjoy working on problems that haven’t been solved and can help people. My hope is to gain enough experience to one day be able to start my own company, but right now my focus is learning.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow a similar path?
My advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path would be to get into the machine shop as much as possible and build something outside of class. Whether it is joining Penn Electric Racing, Aerospace Club, or building your own drone in your room, it is crucial to get your hands dirty and build something outside of class. I took MEAM 201 as a senior in college, so I was very late to the game. I was the only senior in a class of freshman and sophomores. Take MEAM 201 and MEAM/IPD 501 as early as you can. Learning how to use a mill and lathe gives you independence as a mechE. I stayed at Penn for a 5th year to do a masters in robotics and this was actually my least intense year from a scheduling perspective. This gave me the opportunity to put a lot of time into my IPD 501 projects. For M&Ts, I understand time is limited, so try using Senior Design as your platform for the “outside of class” project. MEAM Senior Design is an incredible platform and timeline for a super technical project. If I could go back and take one more class it would be in Finite Element Analysis. I did not do much FEA in college but I do a lot of it now at work. Another class I’d recommend taking is Math 312. Linear algebra is extremely useful and powerful with programs like excel and MATLAB.
Reed Ginsberg earned a Master’s of Engineering in Robotics and completed the M&T Program in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Management both at the University of Pennsylvania. This post was contributed by Alyssa Furukawa (WH ’21).