We.OHB. part 9 with Dr Kenneth Schmitz, System Engineer 

A motivator of junior staff with a soft spot for black holes   

Leveraging the complexity of the laws of physics and chemistry not only helps us to explain the existence of black holes but also provides a broad basis for the fascination with topics related to astrophysics. Kenneth Schmitz has been interested in astrophysics and space travel for many years. Aged 33, he has been working at OHB as a satellite systems engineer for a good year. A holder of a doctorate in computer scientist, he talks in the latest part of our We.OHB. series bout his work at OHB as well as his dedication to promoting young talents and fascination with black holes. #weohbwednesday

Dr Kenneth Schmitz: "Space is the pinnacle of engineering." © OHB

There are hardly any computer specialists left on the employment market. Why did you decide to join OHB? 

Dr Kenneth Schmitz: As a system integrator, OHB was potentially always a very interesting employer for me. At this company, we are working on challenging and complex projects that cover almost all facets of engineering. In addition, I had a very good gut feeling during the application phase. The handshakes I got here immediately felt sincere and authentic. So, I quickly realized that I really want to work at this company.

Did your gut feeling put you on the right track?

Yes, absolutely! I work a lot in the cleanroom and consider it a great privilege to be able to work directly on the satellite hardware. I keep regular contact with colleagues in software and hardware development and other disciplines to ensure that the desired progress is achieved. The big advantage of being at OHB is the freedom in which I can work here. Anyone who is ambitious and willing to experiment will be given an opportunity of moving beyond the specified limits of the job profile. I wanted to assume responsibility very quickly and was allowed to do this. Currently, I’m working in a small test team of six to seven people. I like the personal contact and it is extremely important for me to be able to use and promote the strengths of each team member individually. And if the atmosphere is right, you can also meet after work for a beer. This is not possible in this form everywhere.

That’s right. A good team spirit is indispensable. How did you end up in space technology? 

For me, there’s something rather Romanesque about space flight? On the one hand, it is the physics behind it that inspires me, but it is also the dimensions which we have to think in when we talk about space. When I first heard that a black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy had been mapped as a result of the interdisciplinary collaboration of many departments and I was able to understand the method that had been applied, that was a real milestone for me. In my opinion, space is the pinnacle of engineering and also a domain in which cooperation transcending geographic borders is necessary. Many of the developments in space are still in their infancy. I believe that we will soon be achieving things that we have so far barely dared to dream of. So, there are plenty of reasons for my long-term motivation. I also like to convey my enthusiasm for space travel and OHB in the outside world.

And what does that mean?

I’m passionate about developing young talent. I want to help OHB find well-trained young professionals. I am currently teaching a course in computer science at the University of Bremen on a voluntary basis. In this course, we are exploring applications that by their very nature are seen through the lens of space flight. What I notice is that the pressure on young people is increasing all the time nowadays and they need clarity at an early stage as to where the journey is headed. So, I would like to help them by extending a hand and accompanying them.

Perhaps some students will be new colleagues in the not too distant future ...

I would certainly be delighted to welcome them. When I started here at OHB, it was almost like a class reunion. I encountered many familiar faces that I knew from my undergraduate years or my doctoral studies at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. The overall package is a good fit. The challenging tasks, the scope for quickly assuming responsibility, flexible working hours, our company fitness program, open communications – and: OHB is honest with itself.  I’m someone who sometimes says what no one else dares to. And I can do this here. OHB is always open to development proposals.

Do you have a motto in life?

Of course. Continuing on from the previous question, it is “He who speaks will be helped.”  And I will be speaking and listening a lot later on today as I’ve got a marathon of meetings lined up this afternoon.

Do you have an insider tip on how not to lose your concentration in lengthy meetings? 

Coffee. Black, deep black coffee. If there were more caffeine, there’d be a black hole in my cup. (laughs)

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