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Behind the Network: Q&A with Iridium Mission Operations Manager, Ahsen Abbasi

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  1. Congratulations on all your success throughout your career! How long have you been working at Iridium? 

I started working on Iridium in September of 1997, and with the exception of about 2-3 years, I have been with Iridium ever since!

  1. So, you returned to Iridium after leaving for a brief period of time? What led you back to the company?

Iridium was the first job I had after graduating from college. When I left to explore positions at other companies, it took leaving for me to realize how truly special Iridium is. Both in terms of employee empowerment to make meaningful changes and in the work environment. So, after leaving, I came back to Iridium the first time an opportunity presented itself.

  1. You have accomplished so much over the years and are now the Mission Operations Manager for Iridium. Could you tell us a bit more about your position?

As the Mission Operations Manager, affectionately referred to as “MOM,” I am responsible for ensuring that the Real Time Operations team – which is the team responsible for the 24×7 operations of the Iridium satellite network – has the training, software, procedures, processes and pretty much anything else they need to ensure they can execute the mission to the highest standards.

  1. What are some of your favorite moments from working at Iridium?

Two moments that stand out the most in my mind are both related to the Iridium satellite launches. The first moment was in 2002, when I was part of a very small team responsible for the launch and early orbit operations of the IS-1 launch mission, which put 5 Iridium satellites into orbit. That was a moment early on in my career where I was given a great responsibility and worked for almost 2 years planning for that launch. The moment where we were able to successfully establish communications with all 5 satellites was one of my proudest. Similarly, working for 5 years so closely with Iridium and Thales engineers in preparation for the Iridium NEXT launches, and to then replace the entire constellation successfully without a hitch, was also truly amazing.

  1. Were there any challenges you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Being a project for this many years, there were of course many technical challenges which we had to overcome, but the challenge I would like to highlight is a personal one – To be able to remain engaged and excited about coming into work every day for 20+ years. My personality is that I need to personally feel challenged to remain engaged and productive. This was easy to do because of the 2 very important aspects of Iridium’s work culture. First, the work environment is not static. It’s constantly evolving to support new business initiatives, as well as through individual efforts to always make things better, faster and more efficient. Second, Iridium has a strong history of giving opportunities to employees to take on different roles. Over my 20 years at Iridium, I have worn about 8 different hats, which gave me the chance to take on new and exciting responsibilities.

  1. Do you have any advice for someone that may want to follow in your footsteps and work at a company like Iridium? 

Iridium is one of those increasingly rare companies where you can have a full career, and not just a job. That being said, you will get out of it what you put into it. My advice is twofold –

First off, recognize that you can introduce changes no matter what your role is in the company. Always think about how we can be doing things differently and making them better (faster/cheaper/more efficient). Additionally, always take the opportunity learn about parts of the business, operations and company which are not necessarily related to your current role. If you do these things, you can have a fantastic career at Iridium, as you will find “the next thing” will naturally present itself. 

To learn more about a career at Iridium, visit: https://www.iridium.com/company-info/careers/ 

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