Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rocket Science


Before coming to work on the International Space Station (ISS) I worked in one of the specialty chemical companies along what is affectionately known as “Chemical Row,” a section of highway not far from where I currently live. This section of the Gulf Coast is a major petrochemical area, so a lot of people work in the industry.

I worked there for seventeen years, as a young engineer in a lot of different areas. One of my bosses from there, a very clever guy, is now CEO of the Corporation and is about to make about a hundred million dollars on a buyout, give or take a few million. Crazy stuff. 

But the ISS had appeal for the glamour of the job as well as the technical challenges. I was here when the first part of the Station went up, when the first section was manned. I am still here now that the Shuttle isn’t flying any more. 

That won’t last long, I guess. NASA won’t need most of us, and they’ll downsize more of us. This area really is full of rocket scientists. The really good ones, willing to leave, will find work elsewhere. The rest of us will hang on until we are let go. That means an earlier retirement than I planned, but not necessarily an unwelcome one. It’s a challenge, and I like challenges.

So my buddy and I started writing apps for the iPhone (iFamily, really – iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) and we like doing it. Our first app was finally approved and I used what little social media skills I had to send the word out, but we’ve managed to sell less than ten apps. We didn’t even hit double digits. 

I confess to some measure of disappointment here. We worked for a few months on the programming and learned a lot, but it was the business side that was kicking me around the block. I mention that a bit in a previous blog post

It would be nice to be interviewed. I sent a note to my daughter about it. I don’t know what other interview questions might be asked, but I know the one I’d want to end with.

So, ultimately, what is your goal with application development?
That’s a tough question. Right now I work for a contractor for NASA, but the job situation here is perilous. We expect, now that the Shuttle is no longer flying, that most of us will be laid off in the next year or so. What I was hoping was that I could develop another means of support, but there’s more than just the technical aspects of creating apps. There’s sales and marketing and an entire business side that is difficult to fathom. This application development isn’t easy stuff. It’s not like it’s Rocket Science, you know.

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