Welcome to the latest feature in our ‘Day in the life’ series with Aditya Mandrekar, our Senior Software Systems Engineer.
Can you tell me about your educational background and previous work?
”I grew up in Mumbai where I completed my schooling and took a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. I then spent the first few years of my working life in an embedded software engineering position. My passion has always been aviation and aerospace, and I have a love for astronomy and astrophysics as well, but aerospace to this day is still my main passion.
After 2 years working in a heavy electrical company in India, I was able to take up a research position in a university in Mumbai in the aerospace department where I was writing the navigation, guidance and control software for Micro Aerial Vehicles. This then enabled me to be accepted for an MSc in Avionics System Design at Cranfield University.
It was 2009 when I finished my Masters and the UK was in the middle of a recession, there were few jobs so I fell back on my previous experience, went back to embedded software and worked for a small company in Cornwall. After five years at Bluefruit, I managed to make my way back to aerospace and I joined Meggitt where I eventually became a software team lead. At Meggitt we delivered safety-critical software for cockpit instruments for airliners.
I was approached by a recruitment company that told me there was an opening at In Space Missions Ltd for a Software Systems Engineer, I looked them up and thought it was interesting. Firstly I was excited at the thought of working with satellites which would be a thrill by itself. Second, I was keen to join a small organisation so that I could get to know and work with the whole team and I also wanted to challenge myself as all my previous experience had been with software development. Now instead of writing the software I would be co-ordinating, managing and keeping track of everything related to the software, it felt like a challenge and I was pleased to join ISML.
What made you interested in space?
”My interest in space was due to my grandfather who was a very keen amateur astronomer. He could spot dozens of constellations just with the naked eye. He showed me the stars on a regular basis and would point out the planets and I remember him waking me up at 4am to watch Comet Hale-Bopp. This love for astronomy came from my grandfather’s enthusiasm for the night sky.
How did you become interested in engineering, what inspired you?
”My family inspired me to be interested in engineering. My Dad and one of my sisters are structural engineers and my Mum is an architect and there are other engineers in the wider family but I have always been more interested in physics and electronics and computers. I grew up in the late 90s during the computer revolution and electronics were a big thing so I became very interested in electronics at this point.
What does a Senior Software Systems Engineer do?
”At ISML I work with Project Managers and System Leads on monitoring the progress of software work across our projects by generating software tracking metrics. I help set policies and procedures for software development, acceptance and delivery. I also conduct software audits and help colleagues select the right tools and processes for our projects. Now that we are scaling up, we need more specialised tools to manage the larger projects that we are doing. I’ve also been involved in module-level software-driven testing of hardware, and I help mentor one of the junior engineers who is responsible for testing.
What are the Specific requirements needed to do your job?
”A knowledge of how software requirements are written and how software should be tested at both the unit level and the system level. This is useful to know as it generally drives a successful project. If you can understand how to test requirements and what they are meant to achieve early in the project, it reduces the chances of introducing bugs further on in the project.
What is expected of you to do your job?
”In the short term they want to know if the software providers are doing the right thing according to the project requirements and whatever they have been asked to do is being done right. That is a project specific goal. On a larger scale they want to know if we have the tools and processes in place to deliver projects with software that works and, if not, help put them in place.
What do you like about working at ISML?
”The people without a doubt! I have a couple of reasons, they are patient and they are always happy to answer my questions. The team has such a wide range of knowledge about the industry. I am learning a lot due to this fantastic team and it really fascinates me about what I don’t yet know!
Was it hard to make the transition?
”Yes, it was hard and it is still hard. I am a software developer at heart but now I need to know the other side of things and the challenge is to get the software developers the information they need to get the job done, it is not easy.
What inspires you to come into work?
”There is so much I don’t know and so much new to learn, especially in this industry and the fact that whatever I am doing is going to be launched into space, and in the end it will be going around the Earth at about 7,000mph, it is amazing thinking about this.
What do you like about Space that helps us back on Earth?
”It is the ultimate view of the planet as a whole, from the ground it is easy to get concerned about things that are only within your sight whereas from space you have to look at the planet as a whole, you see a different perspective from space. I love the quote from Carl Sagan’s book, The Pale Blue Dot, this was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan’s suggestion, by Voyager 1 on 14 February 1990 as the spacecraft was departing our planetary neighbourhood for the fringes of the solar system, he turned it around for one last look at its home planet: “Look again at that dot, That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives there."
What do you like to do in your spare time?
”In the summer I play cricket for a club near Winchester and I love to cook and bake, baking in particular, biscuits and bread and I enjoy watching the Great British Bake Off!
Article by In-Space Missions
Date: 1st March 2022