My name is Joe Manzo. I’m an associate aerodynamics engineer at Orbital Sciences Corporation. I’m in the aerodynamics group. So as you can imagine, there’s lots of different parts to building a rocket. Electrical engineers, the mechanical guys. You specialize on one aspect of the launch vehicle.
Aerospace engineering I chose because it’s pretty cool. There’s so many different type so engineering you can do. Bridges don’t move. They’re static, so they’re not that interesting to me. Cars are cool, but really, airplanes, rockets, and high speed flight is what really peaked my interest.
The cool thing about rockets is that it’s a definite, ‘It worked!’ Or ‘It didn’t work.’ If it works, it feels good.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The sun. I got to work this morning at 9:00, 9:30. We’ve got flex hours. Basically I have to work 80 hours over a two week time period.
How often do you use the phrase, ‘it’s not rocket science.’
There’s people that joke about that at work. ‘It’s not rocket science. Well, it’s not rocket science.’ Ha ha. It’s not funny.
What’s the best rocket science joke?
Engineers are introverts. And at my company, we’ve got these big hallways where you have to walk past other employees all the time and make awkward eye contact. The joke is that you can spot a social engineer because he’s looking at your shoes, and not his.
Does saying you’re a rocket scientist work for picking up girls at a bar?
I actually say I’m a fireman. But when I do say what I do, I say I’m an aeronautical engineer. Then they figure out I work with rockets. If they’re smart, they figure it out intuitively. That scores big points. Way bigger points than if I told them outright that I’m a rocket scientist.
What education do you need to be an aeronautical engineer?
There’s basically three things you have time for in college. Study, sleep, and party. And you only have enough time for two. You really have to focus early on if you want to be an aeronautical engineer. Pay attention in math classes. And pay attention in English classes. That’s one the biggest surprises I had with this job. You have to write a lot.
What’s your ultimate goal?
To work part time. Like, by the time I’m 30. I’d like to do some consulting. I’m thinking about getting my MBA.
Other interesting stuff about your job?
Well, we work on a lot of military defense projects, so a lot of the stuff we do is top secret. The way that I work is that I have to bill for every six minutes I work. They divide it into tenths. So sixty minutes, one tenth of that is six minutes. So I bill every six minutes I work.
Editors Note: This interview was transcribed and condensed in 2009 and is part of our Throwback Thursday interview series examining the career paths of successful individuals.
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