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Getting a job in AMSAT

You have been reading the request for information on AO-7 and a number of 
you have sent me requests for "what can I do" type of emails.  A year and a 
bit ago I wrote a series of memos about AMSAT and one was how to get a job 
in AMSAT.  I am resending this memo below.

Since writing the memo and talking with many amateurs I have come to sense 
that besides telling you how to get a job in AMSAT, it also needs to be 
said that whatever it is that you do for AMSAT you do not have to be 
PERFECT at it, after all just take a look at me!  You may well not agree 
with me on some things at all, thats OK, what is important is to TRY and do 
something, and then get better at it, and when you figure out and start 
doing something that starts adding value to the process someone will ask 
you for more or to change it a bit or or or or or got it?

“How to get a job with AMSAT!”

AMSAT is in the hiring mode.  And YOU heard it here first, there are no job 
interviews, just a very standard and totally secret process on getting a 
job with AMSAT.  It would not be fair to tell anyone how to get a job at 
AMSAT, so I wont tell you how to get a job at AMSAT, I will just share with 
you how I got two of the jobs I have had at AMSAT.

Surprised?  AMSAT hires everyone who finds a need and fills that 
need.  Yes, just like the business magazines about entrepreneurship will 
tell you, FIND A NEED AND FILL IT, you too can become a successful 
zillionaire in AMSAT.  Public acclaim, rapt attention from audiences, 
pictures in the AMSAT Journal, added to the workers mail reflector, and 
your peers will think you have learned to walk on water.

Have you ever seen a job advertisement for AMSAT?  If you think you have 
seen an AMSAT want ad what you have probably seen is one of the 
advertisements by those guys who used to use the AMSAT copyrighted name 
from time to time.  As far as I know AMSAT has never had a personnel 
department and they certainly have no budget for new hires, but you can 
most certainly get a job with AMSAT.

Find a need and fill it.  Ask for a job and you might be given something to 
do.  Find a need and fill it and you will have a job for life.  If you have 
heard this before, it is the same story for success in corporate life  find 
a need and fill it.

Here is how I got my first job in AMSAT.  OSCARVI was launched in the early 
1970’s and it was obvious after the first week there was a problem with the 
little satellite.  The satellite responded well enough to the command 
stations of the day but it also went ON and OFF when ever it felt like 
going ON and OFF.  It was obvious that OSCAR VI was not going to last long, 
it was dying slowly, and the battery never had a chance to get charged up.

I wrote a letter to AMSAT telling them that I could see the satellite over 
the polar area for up to 8 or 9 out of the 12 or so orbits a day.  I asked 
AMSAT if they would like some help in keeping OSCAR VI operating in the 
mode that AMSAT wanted the satellite to be in?  I proposed a way to solve a 
very obvious AMSAT need.

I had found an AMSAT need, AMSAT gave me the opportunity to fill that 
need.  A crash program went on to get on the right frequency and send the 
ON and OFF command signals at the appropriate times.  (There is a better 
write up on these events in the AMSAT Archives)  For nearly 5 years some 3+ 
million commands to OSCAR VI kept this little satellite going.

I had a job in AMSAT!  WOW!  No interviews, no forms in the personnel 
department, no pay cheque either, but I had a job in AMSAT.  I got to pay 
my own phone bill, electricity bill, buy my antennas, but by gosh I had a 
job at AMSAT.

How do you get a job in AMSAT?  Got it?

While OSCAR VI was dying over the 5 years, I became aware that the battery 
in OSCAR VI was really not very good.  I became interested in batteries.  I 
thought about, tested hypotheses on batteries for nearly 10 years.  After 
about 5 years of preliminary work I began asking each new satellite project 
if they would let me have a job at building a battery a new and different 
way.  Finally in desperation (the launch time was approaching and there was 
no battery solution available anywhere else) so I was given some money to 
buy some NiCd cells and to build the first space rated battery using 
consumer grade NiCd cells.  I put a team together and we built a 
battery.  Did we build a battery or what!  Today, 2001, June 6, that 
battery in OSCAR XI is still running! It charges and discharges many times 
per day, I recently saw an orbit number for this satellite in excess of 
70,000 orbits  that is a lot of charge and discharge cycles  every day 
since 1984!  I had found another job at AMSAT, find a need and fill that 
need.  You do not hear anyone blaming the batteries for their satellites 
not working anymore.

That is how to get a job at AMSAT.

Well that is the good news, there are a few other details that are really 
important about jobs at AMSAT.  First, AMSAT expects that for the vast 
majority of the AMSAT work that the guy who does the job will be self 
supporting financially.  This can be really painful.  I tried to avoid 
this, expecting AMSAT to fund the work that I was doing for AMSAT and it 
caused some trauma, in fact there is still a fence that I have yet to mend 
in this area.  When you get your job in AMSAT make sure that just like you 
would with any employer that each of you know who is responsible for doing 
what in the provision of parts and materials.  25 years ago the parts 
availability here in Canada was not good, I expected AMSAT to provide 
parts  this never worked out properly and it was always a contentious 
issue.  Solving the AMSAT problem once you have found it includes 
self-financing most of the time.

Take the use of your station for AMSAT activities.  To provide TELECOMMAND 
services for OSCAR VI to AMSAT I had to use my main station  so I rarely 
got to operate on OSCAR VI after that started as I had to keep the 
transmitter on the command frequency.  Later when the MICROSAT’s came along 
I managed to get some AMSAT equipment for the work but it was like pulling 
teeth and there was tension of the allocation of very scarce resources, 
just like in any organization the resources are constrained and there is 
strong competition for those resources.

For your job in AMSAT then you need to either put your hand in your own 
pocket or you have to get good at finding a sponsor.  Working the radio 
club speech and presentation circuit can be pretty good as well if you can 
arrange for a donation every year or so.  This also means you have to do 
some paperwork and other stuff but at the end of the day, AMSAT really 
likes self-funded workers on their projects.

How not to find a job in AMSAT.  Pop up, unknown and propose to build your 
own version of a Delta rocket and you wont get a job in AMSAT.  Start 
small, solve an AMSAT problem, create some unique value, deliver something 
that does something that needs to be done.  Every AMSAT worker team leader 
is constantly watching for talent and skills, listen carefully, demonstrate 
your skills in appropriate ways.  You can tell who your boss is by finding 
out who sent Keith Baker a request for you to be added to a projects 
private mailing list.

Quit doing things that AMSAT needs done and you will quickly be out of 
AMSAT.  You can also marginalize yourself with an AMSAT boss who is not 
going to deliver and you will be out of AMSAT.  Just like in the daily life 
of a Corporate worker, build your relationship community and you will live 
by your friends.  If you don’t like what is going on, and everyone else is 
happy, just go away quietly.  Like me several times, you can come back 
later if the scene changes.

Got it?  Find a need and fill it and you to can have a happy and long 
career in AMSAT.  I really wish I had seen this item when I started in 
AMSAT, I hope you can find some value from the lessons I have learned….


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