May 2012 Archives

We did it again.

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Dragon C2 returned to Earth this morning after 9 days in orbit with the International Space Station.

Getting to the point where we could begin the mission was a tough journey.  Countless* late nights and weekends were spent at work going through every little detail.  (*I'm sure my super-amazing exceedingly-tolerant and understanding wife can derive the actual count.. I love you Maria!)

The mission itself was also tough.  The majority of the critical operations were scheduled for the wee hours of the morning (launch, fly-under, rendezvous, departure, re-entry).  My desire to monitor progress 24x7 was quickly overcome by exhaustion.  It's one thing to pull an all-nighter, but it's another thing entirely when you have a steady trickle of adrenaline fed into your veins.  When I was finally able to sleep I would dream about the mission.  When I woke the first thing I would think of was the mission--the adrenaline would hit me again and I would leap out of bed anxious to get back to work so I could monitor in real-time what was happening.

I still can't believe how well the mission went.  The rational part of my brain knows that for all the hard work we put into the design, development and testing of this vehicle it should have damn well worked, but there's another portion of my brain that simply can not believe it.  I have to keep looking at the photos to remind myself that we actually completed the mission.

I re-read my post from the C1 Dragon and I'm struck how similar and different the experience was. Seeing things go as planned was as astounding and overwhelming as it was on C1, but I knew with this mission the next-hardest-part was always right around the corner. There are always plenty of more opportunities for things to go wrong.  It was tough trying to keep emotions in check the whole time--you want to celebrate each little success but not "jinx it."

The final rendezvous was the climax of the mission.  So much had to go right for it to work, and although there are many protections in the system to handle things in the event something goes wrong, it was challenging keeping those "what-ifs" out my head during that phase.  When Pettit and Kuipers finally announced they had captured Dragon it was a huge relief.  (Those guys are rockstars btw).

The successful splashdown today was a great wrap-up to the mission.  I'm so thankful for the support my wife and family have given me, I'm proud to work with the SpaceX team, and I'm thankful for all the great assistance the people at NASA have given us throughout.

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Dragon Returns

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Live recording of NASA TV during re-entry:
These two articles have helped shape my thinking with respect to hiring and interviewing. They are written by software engineers for software engineers, but they should apply to any discipline.

Yishan Wong: Hiring is number one (2009):

    Make hiring your number one priority, always... it is only once a culture of giving hiring top priority in peoples' attentions will individuals and managers naturally begin directing their energy into doing things like deciding what constitutes effective interviewing techniques, what kinds of questions are best to ask, how to effectively diffrentiate between good and bad signals in an interview, etc, and subsequently how to train the entire cadre of interviewers to be able to effectively and repeatably practice this.

    ...Hiring is a zero-sum game. Candidates that don't join your company will join a competitor's, and your loss will be their gain. If hiring isn't your number one priority, it's unlikely you'll be number one at hiring, which means someone else will, and the true best candidates will go to them, while you'll be left to hire the "best candidate you were able to interview."
Joel Spolsky: The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing (2000):

    The most important rule about interviewing: Make A Decision. At the conclusion of the interview, you have to be ready to make a sharp decision about the candidate. There are only two possible outcomes to this decision: Hire or No Hire.

    ...An important thing to remember about interviewing is this: it is much better to reject a good candidate than to accept a bad candidate. A bad candidate will cost a lot of money and effort and waste other people's time fixing all their bugs. If you have any doubts whatsoever, No Hire.
Update: Valve's internal employee handbook was recently released publicly: http://newcdn.flamehaus.com/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf It has some great comments on the importantance of hiring:

    ...here are some questions we always ask ourselves when evaluating candidates: Would I want this person to be my boss? Would I learn a significant amount from him or her? What if this person went to work for our competition?

    ...We're looking for people stronger than ourselves. When unchecked, people have a tendency to hire others who are lower-powered than themselves. We should hire people more capable than ourselves, not less.

    ...In some ways, hiring lower-powered people is a natural response to having so much work to get done. In these conditions, hiring someone who is at least capable seems (in the short term) to be smarter than not hiring anyone at all. But that's actually a huge mistake.

    ...[We value] people who are both generalists (highly skilled at a broad set of valuable things) and also experts (among the best in their field within a narrow disci- pline). This recipe is important for success at Valve. We often have to pass on people who are very strong generalists with- out expertise, or vice versa. An expert who is too narrow has difficulty collaborating. A generalist who doesn't go deep enough in a single area ends up on the margins, not really contributing as an individual.
High-def video recorded from the ISS:


Live recording of NASA TV from the last 30m to capture:


Live recording of SpaceX webcast during launch through solar array deploy:

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