Engineers Explain What It Takes To Get A Job At Elon Musk's SpaceX


Photo: NASA

SpaceX, the space transport company founded by superhero entrepreneur Elon Musk, is a glamorous brand.It seems like quite an appealing place to work. After all, there aren’t many companies out there trying to put people on Mars.

The SpaceX software engineers took to Reddit to answer questions about their company in an Ask Me Anything thread.

Naturally, one question that kept coming up was: what’s it take to work at SpaceX?

“We all come from a diverse background of companies and schools,” they wrote. “Most of us are Computer Science students but we definitely have a good amount of EE, Physics, maths, Computer Engineering, and even some self-taught engineers here.”

The engineers also mentioned that you don’t need an M.S., though it can help.

There are four separate software teams – flight software, enterprise information systems, launch engineering, and the avionics test team. And yes, they’re hiring software folks.

They explained what you need to know for each of them:

  • For Flight Software, C++ and algorithm/data structure knowledge are very important. 
  • For Enterprise Information Systems, C# or Front End experience + great algorithm/data structure knowledge. 
  • For Launch Engineering (the team that uses LabVIEW), awesome LabVIEW + great algorithm/data structure knowledge. 

“See the trend? Study maths and know your sorting algorithms,” wrote the engineers.

The average age of the software engineers is about 30. They got there by applying through the website or they were contacted individually by a recruiter.

But if you’re from abroad, there’s a whole different set of issues.

“Unfortunately, due to state department regulations, hiring internationally is extremely difficult, but not impossible with the appropriate controls in place,” wrote the engineers.

They also took the time to explain what it would take for to someone to earn an internship at SpaceX:

On the software side, actual coding experience (hobby or class projects) look great on your resume. We also love to see passion about space; feel free to dork out on your resume or interview. We use C++ a lot but there is also plenty of Python, C# and even some Matlab is used here. Some experience with lower-level systems such as the networking stack doesn’t hurt. Align yourself with a professor and attach yourself whatever he or she is working on. High altitude balloon projects are now relatively easy to get started with a few friends and can be very applicable.

So, how are the hours at SpaceX?

“Crazy,” wrote the engineers. But they defended the workload:

“When you’re trying to change the future of human history, that’s to be expected. Our CEO has said SpaceX is like Special Forces — we do the things that everyone else thinks is impossible. That means sometimes you’re going to work crazy hours. There are definitely way easier jobs than working at SpaceX. But you also get to experience things that you can’t find anywhere else at any other company. Its definitely a trade off —and for those of us here, totally worth it.”

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