Get to know us a little better
Meet Lorcan! Lorcan interned with the Real-time Services and Systems Operations (RSO) team for about six months this year and was kind enough to share his experience with us before he left. Find out what exactly an intern can expect with us by reading his interview!
Could you tell us a bit more about your role at EUMETSAT?
As senior intern, my role was to develop a tool called GSAR (Ground Station Analysis Reporting). The tool, based on an off-line environment, gathers data from the ground stations and, in particular, the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) located in Svalbard.
The data gets stored so that if something goes wrong, you’re able to go back in time and check the information for each day to make sure everything is working as it should be. The tool has been around for quite some time, but I was supposed to bring it from validation status to operational status, which unfortunately didn’t happen due to some complications.
My main objective was to implement the GSAR tool (used for the EPS antennas) on the three Meteosat Second Generation antennas located at the primary ground station in Fucino. I also had to update some of the reports for the EPS GSAR and do some testing.
Unfortunately, I never got around to this as I was too busy writing an “MIB Creator”: a piece of software I created that makes files to tell a program how to deal with real-time data, telling the software what all the values mean and the range of values a property can have etc. for GSAR and TMPROP.
TMPROP is a telemetry tool that lets you look at certain pieces of information about what an antenna is/was doing at a certain point in time. This became the main task during my time there as it needed to be created to allow the main objective of my internship to be completed and was the main obstacle to my primary objective when I arrived.
Do you feel like you learned a lot?
Yes, I learned tons. Between when I started and now, I’m a completely different person in terms of professional development. The amount of exposure you get in six months to all these different environments, projects and the calibre of people you get to spend your time with allows you to learn so much.
Was it your first internship?
I had a mini one at Telespazio (a European spaceflight services company) during my first year of studies but I didn’t have so much to do in the way of tasks - it was more of an introduction to the environment. This was the first fully-fledged one.
What does being a senior intern mean?
It means, aside from my main duties, I was also tasked with working with and keeping an eye out on the other interns. I took some initiative and tried to go above and beyond my official duties, reaching out to other departments and trying to find smaller projects to work on together.
Can you tell us a bit more about the RSO team and what they do?
The RSO team is like one big family. Everybody that I came across was nice so it didn’t really feel difficult to connect with people.
I worked directly with five others plus my boss, Rocio (Ground Stations Operations Manager) and some colleagues from other departments. I also helped out with operations on the Jason mission.
The RSO department has about five people per office for about 10 offices, so I would say there are about 50/60 people working there - there’s a real “home away from home” vibe. I was incredibly lucky to be a part of that team.
What were you doing before coming to EUMETSAT and what are your future plans now the internship is over?
I graduated from university in mid-July last year and I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I was wondering what I was going to do and where I was going to go when I came across this position, applied and came over right away.
I studied aerospace engineering at the University of Leicester and got the undergraduate degree. In September, I’m going back to do my postgraduate degree at the Politecnico di Milano, where I’ll be studying space engineering. I’ve never been to Milan so this is going to be a new adventure for me.
What are the things that you enjoyed the most and the challenges you encountered?
The biggest enjoyment for me was the people and once you get there, it’s really like one big family. It’s very easy going and not an overly formal atmosphere. Everybody is very professional and welcoming.
On top of this, I just generally loved my job. I worked right next to where they control most of the European meteorological satellites and that’s just incredible. When you stand in that control room, you are seeing through the eyes of a chunk of metal which is 36,000km away - it’s hard to fathom how far away that is, the technology is just mind-blowing.
I also walked by real-size satellites on my way to work every morning. After some time working there you might take it for granted but this is really cool. There’s also a koi pond and a bridge inside the building giving you a real “Google” vibe as you enter.
Additionally, with all the different clubs, some nights I would be here until 21:00 and I wouldn’t think anything of it. This place is conducive to that sort of atmosphere. It’s energising.
As for the challenges, there were a couple directly related to my experience there and a couple of challenges that would be more general. Regarding my experience, the person who hired me left EUMETSAT before I arrived so my new boss had to take responsibility for me and we spent the first couple of weeks better defining what I was going to do.
Regarding general challenges, coming from a university environment where everything is super stressful, deadline focused and everyone is super conscious of time, it can be different when you arrive at EUMETSAT. Especially at the start because you have to learn where everything is located, figure out your role and objectives, meet people within the organisation and try to figure out and complete your tasks.
This can be unsettling because you want to quickly make a difference and you want to feel useful, like you belong there. What you don’t realise is that everybody has gone through the exact same thing when starting, but you feel like you’re the only one.
Finding the right group of people to hang out with was another challenge. As an intern, you’re in this strange social predicament where you are too old to go out with the college kids but too young to connect with some of the older people just because your interests and day-to-day life would be different outside of work. That can be difficult but after a while, you find your place there and that’s when it gets really fun.
In the end the biggest challenge was walking away from all of these amazing people that welcomed me into their workplace and were patient in teaching me so many amazing things. It was really hard to say goodbye.
Do you have any memorable moments?
Yeah a lot of them. For sure the first time I entered the building I was just trying to hold my jaw up off the floor, I love the design. Also, the first time I stood inside the control room I got this tingly feeling like “look, ma, I made it, this is it”.
Another memorable moment was giving my final presentation. From the moment I arrived there and figured out what it was that I was supposed to be doing and started making a difference, time flew. It feels like yesterday that I walked in and now it’s over. When I gave that presentation, that was the first time it hit me like “oh no, it’s coming to an end”.
The “Fete de la Musique” (an event organised by the EUMETSAT Staff Association Committee) was a really fun, after-work event where we got to watch musicians from EUMETSAT and ESOC perform in a mini festival. The first time I also used the music room together with some other colleagues was awesome, we started to play together regularly after that and it’s great that EUMETSAT has these facilities on site.
Then there was that time I went for a casual chat after work with the Director-General Alain Ratier, which was pretty cool. The Copernicus Roadshow was also really nice. I met some very interesting people and the atmosphere was buzzing as I was surrounded by an influx of people and talent - it was great to be involved.
That’s one of the nicest things about EUMETSAT. Every day you walk through the main entrance on your way to the office and there’s something going on. You just feel like everything is constantly moving, changing. It’s a very fluid environment and you just pass through that.
One of my favourite moments there though was just walking around Rosenhöhe (a park in Darmstadt) with one of the other interns. I was really lucky to have the chance to know them.
What are your plans/hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
When I was 16, I had my whole life planned out and nothing turned out the way that I ever imagined it would. So I don’t believe in five-year plans. There’s an old saying that goes “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” and to me, the enemy is time - which never really turns out the way you think it will, so I have no idea.
I hope I’ll be able to come back to EUMETSAT one day because I really liked working there, loved the people and it’s just a very enjoyable place to be but I don’t know when that might be.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
It was different in Darmstadt to what it would have been at home. I think it’s different everywhere you go because you pick up a little bit of what everyone else is doing.
The biggest thing for me has been music. When I lived at home, I would play guitar every single day. I haven’t done that in about six years but there I did, just by virtue of the fact that there is the music room. That always gave me such a buzz! So, whenever I had spare time, I would go there.
Also, since it’s Germany I had to go around and sample all the local beers - so myself and my colleagues would occasionally frequent the odd pub after work. A little bit of exploring as well. One of my favourite things to do in a new place is to just pick a direction and walk. No maps, no phones, just walk and end up in some random place. You find the best things when you’re not looking for them.
Thanks to Lorcan for giving us his time - we wish you the best of luck now that he’s left EUMETSAT and on his next adventure!