Pascale Tshilumba

Pascale Tshilumba

Belgian, Secretary/Administrative Assistant to Head of Telecommunications, based at ESTEC

I was born in Brussels, Belgium where after taking my Baccalaureat in Latin and Greek I decided to take a private secretarial course. My first job was with a catalyst and chemical company in Vilvoorde but after a year and a half I started looking for another post, partly because there were a disconcerting number of accidents that took place in the factory, some serious and also to improve my prospects.

ESA were advertising for secretaries to work in Paris so I applied, went for an interview and was accepted. At the time I knew very little about ESA but found working in the Personnel Department in Paris a good introduction as I soon got to know how the Agency worked and met staff from all the different centres.

In 1989 I was offered a job with the newly formed European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. This was a great experience as I was the first secretary to start work there. Being in right from the beginning meant having to buy office equipment and meeting with local contractors for logistics support. After two years the first astronauts were recruited and I helped to organise the European visit of the astronauts responsible for deploying the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) science platform and accompanying them to ESOC.

After four years I decided to transfer to ESTEC in the Netherlands for family reasons. At ESTEC I worked first as an administrative assistant to the head of the Product Assurance Division and then to the head of the Microgravity Division. During this time I went to Cape Canaveral to see the STS 95 launch with Pedro Duque on board and then went on to Houston to follow the mission in the control room at the Johnson Space Center. It was hard work but a great experience. Now I work for the head of telecommunications, an interesting area that covers digital broadcasting, mobile telecommunication systems and telemedicine amongst others.

As you can see at ESA I have been able to move around both between and within centres, which is one of the attractions of working at ESA. I do not like routine and moving around has enabled me to see different aspects of the work that ESA does and to see the big plan. I like to think that the variety of jobs that I have done enables me to bring something new to my present job and also keeps me on my toes as I learn about different areas.

I have also continued my studies while working and this year I obtained a professional certificate in management from the UK Open University, for which ESA paid half the tuition fees.

Working at ESA means working in a young, dynamic and diverse environment. Space is the future and I like being a part of it.

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