Every year, the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) announces their 20 Under 35 list of space & satellite employees or entrepreneurs age 35 and under who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the early stages of their career and are expected to have a profound impact on our industry in the future. In this Q&A, we sit down with 2023 SSPI 20 Under 35 recipient and Iridium® Space Systems Engineer Neha Lin.
When did you first become interested in space and engineering and decide you wanted to pursue the field as your career?
As a little kid in school, I was always interested in math. Numbers made sense to me, and solving problems was fun. While attending graduate school, I met my husband who was working on small satellites at the time and became an aerospace engineer. Because of my background, we worked on a few projects together, and that was my introduction to the various aspects of the space industry. It was fascinating to learn how heavily the space and electrical industry coincide with one another.
How did you end up working at Iridium?
In college I had the chance to work with small satellites, and through that experience I indirectly learned about Iridium. However, it wasn’t until many years later during a move to Virginia that I was recommended for a position at Iridium. It was a new career path for me, but it was exciting knowing that I would be able to apply my knowledge to finally work in the space industry.
What is your favorite memory so far working at Iridium?
I started my adventure at Iridium during the second-generation satellite launch campaign, known as Iridium NEXT. During this time, I had the pleasure of interacting with the Thales Alenia Space experts regularly. The best moment for me would have to be the third launch in October 2017, when we made first contact with the newly launched satellites. I was at the Mission Control Center for that launch, and it was so exciting to be surrounded by my colleagues cheering and celebrating the momentous event together. It was a very surreal experience for me, and following all the successful launches, the excitement is still very much the same.
You have already had so many successes in your career so far. What are your goals or plans for the future?
I plan to continue pursuing knowledge in my career and look forward to using my skillset and experiences to grow into a leadership position.
Looking back, what piece of advice would you give your pre-Iridium self?
I would tell myself that all questions are worth asking. I would also make sure to take every opportunity to engage with experts in the field. Many experts in the field enjoy working and sharing knowledge with the younger generation, and I hope to take on that mentorship role as well in the future.
What is one thing you didn’t learn in college that would have helped you in your career?
The journey of knowledge is a lifelong pursuit fueled by curiosity. Most of the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired has been from learning on the job.
What advice do you have for other professionals under 35 in the space and satellite industry?
Don’t sell yourself short! Often as young professionals, there’s a fear of not knowing enough or questioning ourselves. It’s important to put yourself out there and get your point across. There will be times when you’re not going to be technically correct, but you’ll be surprised at the times your input ends up being more valuable than you think.