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A World Beyond Groupon

by Miki Saxon

It’s a sad commentary that when discussions turn to technical careers so many people immediately assume that means software/startup/consumer product monetized by advertising.

Tech careers are can be so much more than that!

Exactly four years ago I wrote about Millennial Katie McAlpine’s new job at the Large Hadron Collider (and shared her rap video about it) as an example of a truly cool large company science job.

Today, I thought I’d introduce you to Millennial Matt Heverly, who heads the team driving NASA’s Curiosity as it explores Mars.

Yes, you drive by programming, but how much more exciting to work on a team that explores a planet than to build another social app.

And for those who think working for a large, semi-governmental corporation (Jet Propulsion Labs) means an uptight attitude you couldn’t be more wrong.

Bobak Ferdowsi, a flight director who sports a mohawk with red, white and blue streaks…

But it was the group’s esprit de corps that left the lasting impression. A spoof video, “We’re NASA and We Know It,” recorded to the beat of the song “Sexy and I Know It,” now has 2.4 million views on YouTube. Mr. Ferdowsi, now known online as Mohawk Guy, has 53,000 Twitter followers, up from a couple of hundred before the mission.  People inside Building 264 here, part of the Space Flight Operations Facility, have long had a sense of humor about themselves — at one rocket launching, a group of scientists wore Spock ears.

It’s great to get kids involved in science and math, but they need to know that there are dozens of career paths out there that have depth and meaning and aren’t necessarily startups.

Just for fun, I’m posting the spoof, but you should also take a look at these videos of Mars.

And be sure to join me Friday for a look at the new, more solid direction of internet and software startups according to Sequoia Capital’s Jim Goetz.

Flickr image credit: Satire

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