Georgios Gkekas, a software engineer, is a Young Graduate Trainee in artificial intelligence. He arrived at ESOC in July 2007, and says it's an ideal place where colleagues share mutual understanding and are eager to help each other. "Space is a very exciting field - especially for a computer engineer."
Georgios Gkekas is originally from Athens, Greece, and is a software engineer in ESOC's Advanced Mission Concepts & Technologies Office. He began his 1-year work term as a YGT on 23 July 2007, and studied Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.
What interests you about working in a space-related career?
Space is a very exciting field - especially for a computer engineer. Being involved in a space-related project means that you have to cooperate with experts from a vast range of sciences and exchange field-specific knowledge with each other.
So you get to understand the basic principles behind other sciences involved in space: astronomy, flight dynamics, celestial mechanics, etc. Furthermore, space by itself is very intriguing, exciting and challenging.
What have you learned since you arrived at ESOC?
The first thing that the advisors try to make clear is the role of ESOC inside the European Space Agency and how the different responsibilities of ESA have been split amongst all its establishments. ESOC is primarily responsible for mission operations, which includes almost everything after a mission has started. This has at least the same - if not a higher - degree of importance as the initial, pre-launch mission design phase, because someone has to ensure that our mission control systems are fault-tolerant and work all the time when a satellite is up there.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a space-related career?
You should, first of all, be highly motivated. This field - apart from being exciting - is also very challenging and demanding.
Interpersonal communication skills and the ability to work on large and diverse teams - where every member has a completely different academic background - are also important skills for someone wishing to excel in space work. ESA's YGT scheme is an excellent opportunity for young graduates to gain a first impression of what it is like working in a space organisation and what requirements they should fulfil in order to continue their careers on this path.
Which person at ESOC has made the strongest impression on you?
My team head, Alessandro Donati, has made the strongest impression on me. Apart from being an expert in what he does, he also cares personally about each team member's wishes and difficulties. I still remember my interview with him, when - after I had made a mistake - he encouraged me by telling me that I should not worry because in ESA people do not just work in order to contribute to the agency but also in order to expand their knowledge.
This solidified my impression of ESA and confirmed my belief that it's an ideal place to work - where colleagues have mutual understanding and are eager to help each other.
Last update: 13 December 2007