Hello everyone, my name is Reine Ntone and I am an Aerospace and Systems Engineer. I work for Millennium Engineering and Integration Company. I’ve been working on NASA Ames Research Centerprojects for two and a half years now. My role is to ensure that the systems designed for a given space mission are operational, relative to the mission’s objectives, while remaining compliant with the regulations.
“My favourite time of the year is when we spend long hours in the laboratory building the satellite“
Let me show you a glimpse of my daily life: I generally start my day with reading my emails while making my daily to-do list. Not only is it essential to list them all, but also to prioritize them according to the due date.
I am currently working on two projects: TechEdSat and Cube Quest.
During the design phase of CubeSats, I focus on drafting the documentation of system engineering and assist the Program Manager with concept and product design reviews.
I also work closely with the specialized engineers on the team to ensure that all the requirements are met, as per the interface control documents.
My favourite time of the year is when we spend long hours in the lab building the satellite. I am responsible for the Exobrake. It is a flexible, tension-based braking device looking like a cross-shaped parachute, which deploys from the rear of the satellite to increase drag. It requires me a lot of time designing, building, and testing the device. So, I study aero thermodynamics, which are crucial for all space missions.
A few weeks prior launching, I supervise the environmental tests of CubeSatand assist the software engineer during the functional tests.
What I love about my job, is that my days are hardly ever the same as my schedule and tasks heavily depend on the key milestones up to the launch of the satellites. After my working hours, I give my time to mentor students on their design projects.
“Success is not measured by the titles we have, but rather by our ability to raise others to the top. I hold great honour to share my knowledge, even after 8 o’clock“
Regarding my studies, I graduated from high school in 2010 with the objective of becoming an engineer, with no specific idea of the job I wanted to exercise. My parents encouraged me to start my engineering career with a Bachelor in Engineering to acquire a solid technical background.
“I was used to be part of the top 3 of the class in France, but I got a zero grade on my first quiz in advanced aeronautics ! ”
During my traineeship as a mechanical engineer assistant for Barfield, Inc. in Miami, I fell in love with aerospace engineering. After this formative and rewarding internship on all levels, I went back to France and committed to pursue my university degree in aerospace engineering. Thanks to my BSc. (Bachelor of Science) in Engineering, I was able to transfer most of my credits and get my second BSc. in Systems Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering.
Being a student, I was already looking forward to working at NASA. Therefore, I decided with no hesitation to move to the United States, more specifically to Silicon Valley to learn from the experts in the field.
I started my MSc. (Master of Science) in Aerospace Engineering in 2016 in San Jose city (San Jose State University) in California.
A semester prior graduation, I started a part-time internship for Millennium Engineering and Integration Company (MEI) for the NASA Ames on interdisciplinary projects. In January 2019, I was offered to make a transition from the Internship to a full-time position as a Government contractor for MEI.
My first year in Silicon Valley was full in challenges. I had to learn English in one semester and pass the TOEFL to be able to enter a n MSc., Aerospace program at San Jose State University.I was used to being in the top 3 of the class in France, but I got a zero grade on my first quiz in advanced aeronautics! I was lost because the English course I had, was not technical at all. I then got in touch with my teacher and asked him how I could do to better perform while staying knowledgeable about my situation. This conversation allowed me to change my approach to my studies and helped me adjust to the American system. This event also helped change my outlook on failure as I started the program with a zero over twenty but ended it with an overall GPA (Grade Point Average) of 16.
” With the change of attitude, the society more and more realizes that women are “superheroes”, as they can be mothers, wives, employees, entrepreneurs or CEOs at the same time “
I am fortunate to have never faced an injustice in science being a woman. On the contrary, I have always felt supported. I still see myself as an asset to my team and I do not take things too personally. If negative remarks are raised, they are strictly related to my job and they are an opportunity for me to progress. My colleagues at NASA are very caring with me and I feel comfortable with my team.
Funny fact : when my teammates, mainly males, order pizzas for lunch, there is a strong probability they would think of getting me a salad because they know I love it. Same for breakfast, they won’t touch my favourite donut and chances are I’ll find it on my desk when I get to work.
My extra-professional life is made up of simple everyday pleasures. Every morning, I make a list of my professional and personal goals, and I tick the boxes, with joy and good mood. I love my job so I consider it a succession of activities through which I learn every day, it’s not tiring when you are doing what you love!
I play tennis almost every day! Much more than a physical activity it is an opportunity to spend time with friends from other work fields. They give me another perspective of life. Two hours a day, we take a break to disconnect from work and have fun! It is in an integral part of my balance.
I also love riding motorcycle in the Californian mountains with my husband. I love enjoying the moment and beautiful experiences, like for instance road trips – after all, that is what life is all about!
I always find the time to do the things that make me feel happy. I also like reading, I read about two books per week in English or in French.
I also spend a lot of time with students to help them and share my experiences with them because success isn’t measured by the titles we have, but rather by our ability to raise the others to the top. I have a great deal of honour to share my knowledge, even after 8 o’clock.
” Science for Girls is proof of a breath of fresh air in science “
The advice I would give to young people who wish to work in the field of aerospace is they need the rigor and discipline. Space is far from being inaccessible, but it requires sharp eye for detail and not being afraid to work long hours without letting the frustration takeover. You also need a solid background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
In my opinion, from an early age, girls are conditioned to only dream of certain jobs. I therefore encourage every young girl who reads this article to see herself as an astronaut, mathematician, or others if she wants to, because it is time to normalize the presence of women in the scientific field.
The lack of role models is also one of the reasons why the number of female scientists is still low. When we see that it is possible, we are motivated to make it despite obstacles and prejudgments.
With the evolution of mentalities, the society more and more realizes that women are “superheroes” as they can be mothers, wives, employees, entrepreneurs, or CEOs at the same time.
I think that we have come a long way and this 30% of women in STEM will increase to 40% in the coming years as more and more initiatives encourage women to go into science. Science for Girls is proof of a breath of fresh air in the scientific field.
Written by Houda