This story takes place in a car.
I’m kidding, of course-this story does not take place in a car, but outside of it. It’s being told in a car, though, and this is important; just as interviews aren’t always conducted across tables, so satellite technology is not solely controlled by a geek sitting behind a computer desk.
The technicians who work on the satellites for the aptly-named Telesat are not computer geeks; far from it, in fact. Their jobs involve more than just pushing buttons, though button-pushing is involved. In the words of one technician, “I’ve always been interested in pushing buttons, and computers have lots of buttons.
And the Telesat fleet must certainly have many buttons. There are three satellite fleets- Anik, Nimiq, and Telstar; the company’s first satellite, Anik A1, was launched in 1972. Here in 2010, there are currently twelve satellites active and two under construction, one of which is set to start working later this year.
What do these satellites do, you may ask? Well, they do a variety of things. The Anik satellites cover the Americas, providing coverage to even the most remote communities; one of the Aniks, F1, is one of three satellites serving the Latin American region, and is preferred choice for government projects and long distance learning. The next fleet, the Nimiq series, is used solely by Bell TV to provide services to North American consumers; appropriately, its name is Inuit, a word for “a thing or a force which binds things together.” And the third group, the Telstar fleet, was the first to deliver a live intercontinental between the states and Europe; today, the fleet includes satellites over Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as here at home.
With a variety of functions for these satellites to perform, you might ask- what kind of person does it take to maintain them, and what are they like? Well, first of all, I can tell one thing that they aren’t, and that is owners of pocket protectors.
For consideration, I give you one such technician; he goes by the name of Peter, and he’s a regular guy, just like you or me. When he was growing up, he wanted to be a mechanic; at the age of 4, he was folding sheet metal with the help of his grandfather, who he identifies along with his father as someone who has had the most impact on his career choice and its path. Even now, when asked if he could be anything else, he simply replies, “a mechanic.”
In school, Peter chose to major in Computer Technology, because, as he said it, “computers have a lot of buttons.” And, of course, he has always been interested in pushing buttons; additionally, he likes what he does because he likes making machines do things for him; he also likes seeing results quickly.
As to his current job, he likes it for its versatility; after all, work involving the satellites doesn’t only mean mechanics. There’s theory involved, and programming, and things like keeping an eye on radiation measurements and observing the satellite orbits; and, if you get tired of one thing, you can always go to another. When he was hired, Peter was hired because he has mechanical abilities; since then, he says that working this job helps in becoming something more.
What does Peter do? Well, in his job, he might be doing something like finding a new orbital position for a satellite; and, once it’s launched, thanks to Peter’s help, that satellite will be performing duties that will include things like providing access to anyone above the 80th parallel. Alongside that, the satellite will also be doing things like sending information to Environment Canada, on topics such as the thickness and movement of the ice shield. Or it might also be sending out data on the movements of the clouds- or maybe it will be sending out transmissions that could be important to the issue of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.
Due to the fact that some of Peter’s work involves issues like arctic sovereignty, there is a limit to how much we can find out, and to how much someone like Peter can divulge. Things like ideas that have been had or implemented fall into the ‘hush-hush’ category; all Peter himself can tell me about his ideas is that most of them have been in relation to cost-saving measures. But again, still, he can’t talk about specifics. What he can talk about, on the other hand, turns out to be really cool, and he says it’s his proudest achievement- finding a new orbital position. Specifically, he found a new orbital position for a new polar satellite, something that gets put on a nationwide patent sort of scale. Ideas like his, he says, could and do save lots of money- serious money, too. Like, millions of serious reasons could potentially be involved.
When he’s working, Peter says that his ideal working would be that someone might tell him what to do, and that they would then leave him alone to work on it afterwards. When ask him how he would feel about working for someone who knows less than him, Peter’s first response is to tell me that that is a loaded question. Following that, he tells me that he wouldn’t have any problems working for someone who knows less than him- as long as that person is willing to accept his knowledge in turn. It is a team effort, after all.
Considering the question of what he might look for in someone he was interviewing for his position, Peter takes a minute to think before giving an answer. His eventual response is to say that no one person is right for the job; as such, he wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a set of exacts. Rather, he would be looking for a variety of qualities, a multitude of aptitudes, the most of which would be the ability to learn quickly. Peter is of the mind that a person’s ability to learn and adapt is the issue of more importance.
If you or I were the ones interviewing for a position like Peter’s, we might want to consider the example of someone already doing that job. But we wouldn’t be considering just clinical aspects; one question we would be asking ourselves might be ‘what kind of man is this Peter?’ If we were to ask Peter a question, it might be something like listing five words to describe his character. If the person we were interviewing is anything like the Peter in this article, he will list words like eager, resourceful, logical, independent, and even rebel. Eager means his eagerness to learn, and resourceful speaks to his adaptability; logical speaks to his knowledge of anything technical; and independent and rebel could mean that he has his own ideas and own level of creativity, both things that we could apply as assets if we were to hire him.
If we were in Peter’s position, it’s fun to consider what our own personality traits might be, and whether or not they would be similar to Peter’s; for example, would we also want to have dinner with historical figures like Da Vinci, Rubik, or Nostradamus? If we won the lottery, would we want to buy a farm to grow crops or raise animals? If we had to travel to Newfoundland, would we kiss a puffin’s rear?
Maybe we would, and maybe we wouldn’t. All I know is, if the computer geeks apply for this job, they’ll get turned down, because this would be WAY out their league. Satellites involve much more than just computers and they need cool people to work them.