July 25, 2019

A future shaped by planes, rockets and stars

Karl and Marianne share a passion for aerospace. As they approach the end of their studies, both are interning at Thales, a world-renowned company on the cutting edge of research. The experience is allowing them to happily fulfill their passion and dream about a future shaped by planes, rockets and stars. Aéro Montréal met with them as part of the Rise to the Future career promotion campaign. Currently in her last year at Polytechnique Montréal, Marianne began her studies in astrophysics and engineering physics before specializing in electrical engineering. A computer enthusiast, Karl has been studying computer engineering at McGill University for three years.

Mia-Rita Elias, Aéro Montréal: Why did you become an intern at Thales?

Marianne: I looked at the list of internships I was offered to complete my bachelor’s and many of them were related to programming. The Thales internship was of particular interest to me because I found it much more attractive to work with applicable and concrete systems. In addition, Thales operates in a rigorous field with diversified expertise. I am really happy with my choice because it is an exciting field with lots of opportunities and job prospects.

Karl: I’m lucky because I was chosen early in the hiring cycle. In fact, Thales interested me above all for aerospace. It was the logical result of my internship last year; I wanted to continue to specialize in the field of aerospace and critical systems. The critical systems program is very different from software in other areas where it is less important that systems be functional at all times. We work on programs that can put lives at risk if they don’t work well, so that makes me even more motivated to apply myself to the work. This aspect interested me tremendously and is something I can explore at Thales.

Mia-Rita Elias, Aéro Montréal: What sparked your interest in aerospace?

Marianne: Since the start of my studies in astrophysics, I have always had a passion for everything that involves planes, rockets and space. So, I was always more open to work in research on subjects that were closely related to aeronautical systems. At Thales, we fully recognize that systems are critical and therefore face many more constraints and challenges. For example, if there is lightning, the plane cannot just crash or explode, it has to continue to fly. This always intrigued me because you have to think about how to create such very specific systems.

Karl: Personally, it was mostly the media that inspired me. In fact, in aerospace, the movie “Interstellar” fully captivated me. I went from someone who wanted to go into video games to someone who suddenly wanted to go into aerospace. With this new interest, I started closely following SpaceX, a company that also works in aeronautics. That’s what pushed me to enroll in university and get interested in this field.

Mia-Rita Elias, Aéro Montréal: Describe a typical day at Thales as well as what your work involves.

Marianne: I work on my computer a lot. I am developing a system that controls power, namely what will be supplied to the electrical components. Prior to this I was developing mapping systems and performing tests, runs and physical simulations to see if the behaviours we had in computer simulation were being respected on the map itself. For the rest of my internship, I am installing hardware in chips to imitate the same kind of behaviour in another similar system.

Karl: I work exclusively on the computer. I am working on tools that facilitate the development of software that will go into airplanes. I am updating a tool that is used at Thales. I fix problems that may emerge and improve it so that it is easier to use. I am also spending a lot of time learning the processes behind software engineering. As mentioned, I am studying computer engineering, so at school I am not exposed very much to anything related to development management. At Thales, in order to produce certified software, it is important to follow a pre-established process. My work is enabling me to put what I have learned in school into a more rigorous context.

Mia-Rita Elias, Aéro Montréal: Are you planning to work in the aerospace sector when you complete your studies?

Marianne: It’s a very big possibility. After seeing the systems and designs that I could work on here, I have found it much more interesting than what I would be doing in power engineering or electricity. Aerospace is a field that challenges me and pushes me to surpass myself.

Karl: I’m not sure, but I’d like to work in the aerospace industry once I graduate.

Mia-Rita Elias, Aéro Montréal: Would you recommend aerospace to other students?

Marianne: I would recommend it to people who want a good challenge, who are not looking to do simple things, and who are research oriented. This is a field that is fast paced. We are always trying to improve our systems and understand them. For example, why does a system work and what can we do better? So, always trying to go farther. I am someone who likes this kind of challenge, so I recommend it!

Karl: I would definitely recommend it. It’s more a passion than just a job. Obviously, it’s very appealing when you’re interested in airplanes and aerospace in general, but it can also be a highly rewarding area in terms of programming and software engineering. At school, the important thing is to understand the concepts. Most of the time when you develop something it’s never very important that it works one hundred percent. For example, we can often detect problems on applications on our cell phones, which are not critical. I have the impression that at school, they are not necessarily showing me how to properly develop an application but rather just the concepts and theory. At Thales, or in the aerospace field in general, there is not much room for error. So, I’m learning a lot more about being rigorous in development. Even compared to other IT areas, I am seeing many work methodologies that are being introduced in the aerospace industry that you’re not going to necessarily see in other IT areas.

To summarize their experience at Thales, the two interns affirm that they have learned a lot about the aerospace industry but also about the professional environment. Meetings, conferences, documentation, and learning in the field are very informative. In addition, Thales’ palpable energy, sense of being valued, and freedom fosters innovation and creativity, leaving room for young people to pitch their own ideas. In short, an interesting, continuing and rewarding challenge.


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