What is your name?
Where do you work and what is your role/job title?
I work at a company called Andor Technology which is an Oxford Instruments Company, and I work as an astronomy and quantum-applications specialist. That basically means I’m the link between astronomers and our company. I should also mention that Andor Technology is a company that manufactures and sells scientific camera solutions for astronomy, but also other scientific applications.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes. Absolutely. I’m really grateful for that. One thing that’s really important to me is even though I did leave science after my PhD, through my job I still feel connected to astronomy and the community. Another big thing for me is that I really love the travelling aspect. I get to see a lot of different research groups and get ideas about their projects. Another final thing that’s really important is that it’s a very flexible job. My husband has a job that requires us to move quite often internationally. Andor and Oxford Instruments are really supportive of this and I’m really grateful. Otherwise I would have to stay behind and spend a lot of time away from my husband or I would have to quit my job every couple of years. I’m really happy that I can keep my job and that it’s flexible, and every day is different. I really appreciate that.
Questions about your current Job
How did you go about getting your current job?
I finished my Ph.D. in 2018. My Ph.D. was in natural sciences with a main focus in astrophysics. I always thought I wanted to stay in science, but then I realised during my Ph.D. I needed a change. Afterwards I applied for all kinds of different jobs. I applied for data science jobs and project management but during the application and interview process, I realised that I wanted something more commercial and not just programming. I wanted to work with people and do something more commercial. At the time I didn’t know what was out there, and what was possible, but I was quite lucky because while I was having all these thoughts I was contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn. He shared a job profile with me, and I have to be honest, I ignored the job post for about 2 weeks because it sounded too good to be true. It involved a home office and travelling and was still related to astronomy, so I thought this cannot really exist. But my husband pushed me to write back and ask some questions and see how it goes… and now it’s my job! So yeah, I have to say, LinkedIn really helps you to find a job.
Describe a typical day.
Really there is no typical day for me, especially in non-Covid times where I travel. Two years ago I travelled internationally; I visited Hawaii, California, Sweden, the Baltics, the UK, Switzerland…and more. So you can’t really say there’s one typical day. Also now in my home office I work with so many different research projects and research groups. When I was in science I worked mainly in exoplanet observations, whereas now there’s a big difference as I work with solar astronomers, or people that focus on space debris tracking, and recently I’ve been working with quantum physicists so you really can’t say that every day looks the same
What’s the coolest part of your job?
As I mentioned, I work with so many different research groups it’s really interesting to hear about different projects and also their requirements. It’s really rewarding when you work with a group for a long time and try to find the perfect solution for them. ANDOR offers “off the shelf” camera solutions but sometimes, and especially with astronomy, there are camera customisations required that fit the project. It’s really cool if you can find the ideal solution for the group, and they’re really happy, and you’re happy and you get to see the results. They may even do a webinar for you and you can hear more about the project and share it with others. That’s really cool.
Are there any elements of your job that you dislike
I started working for the company in 2018, and in 2019 I was travelling quite a lot. Travelling a lot can get quite exhausting, but that said I’ve now been in a home office since March 2020 and that starts to get tough too, so I think it’s really just important to get the balance right.
Questions about education and training
What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?
In school I did realise which subjects I did not really like. That was history etc. I knew I liked maths and physics but I didn’t know what I could do with that in the future, so initially I applied for a program that had more of a natural science focus. Unfortunately that didn’t work out because I was one of only four students who applied for the program and so it didn’t take place. What I did then was try to get some extra subjects – I had a technical drawing class that was really fun, I did some biology field trips… So I just explored all kinds of extra courses I could do that would give me a feel for natural science and to see how it would be useful for me in future.
Questions about yourself
Did you take any extra-curricular activities that have been beneficial to your career?
In university I did walk around and talk to a lot of professors, post-docs and PhDs at the university and asked for advice and if there were opportunities out there that I could take. Through this I managed to get my first experience in astronomical observations. I managed to get some experience at the local observatory, and got to know people, and I even got my first job at the local space research institute.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
I’m starting to repeat myself, but it’s really rewarding when you work on a customised project with a customer, and it finally comes together. These projects are not really done in a month, so usually you work on it for a year or a year and a half, so it’s really, really, rewarding when you find that ideal solution and it all works out and you see it operating at the telescopes and you get the results. It’s really rewarding.
What is your dream job?
Pretty much the job I have now. Before I got this job, I didn’t even know it was out there! Right now, Andor provides solutions for ground-based observatories, so maybe in the future it would also be cool to work on projects that also involved space-based detectors and these types of missions. Or maybe work on climate change… I don’t know. I have a lot of ideas and I’m still exploring all kinds of aspects of the role that I have now. I started 2 years ago, and my role is really growing continuously so I can always add new things to my list.
Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice
What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.
I think networking is a big part that really helps. Even while you’re studying, talk to a lot of different people. Don’t be too shy to ask for advice and learn what opportunities might be out there. It can also help you to learn what you don’t want to do and that can be very valuable experience as well.
During study, perseverance is really important. Don’t give up right away if something is difficult. If you push through it, it will be worth it. You’ll be so proud of yourself and nobody can take this experience away from you.
When I was looking for a job, having a strong profile on LinkedIn really helped.
When I think back to my early days of study, I’d had a job in astronomy for like 6 years after school and in my first years of study I wonder if this might have helped me overcome my shyness when it came to networking and talking to different people. I think it helped. So any kind of work experience you can get is really valuable, even if you just learn that it’s something you don’t want to do, so get all kinds of experience.