Federico Fierli works as a Training Officer at EUMETSAT. Although he hasn’t been with the organisation for very long, Federico has already been busy organising events for the year with his fellow trainers, acted as mentor at our Hackathon in Helsinki last year and become a familiar face on our social media channels, answering questions via our Facebook Live MOOC feedback sessions.
Today, Federico tells us what else life as a Training Officer entails…
Can you please tell us a bit more about your role?
Ultimately the Training Officers provide support to users of the satellite data we gather at both EUMETSAT and from the Copernicus Programme, ensuring they are making good use of it. Users can include just about anybody that is interested in using the data, ranging from students to business professionals and service providers to academia members.
The role is first and foremost about making people aware that this data exists and to build an environment in which they can properly use it. For this, I provide help and guidance upon which data will work best for the application they are using or would like to build. The training begins from data discovery and continues all the way to the creation of these nice applications.
Are there many training events each year?
Even though the year has just started, we already have around 4–5 events lined up worldwide. Recently, I took part in some large public events including an Atmosphere MOOC (massive open online course) which was designed to introduce participants to the world of atmospheric composition.
We also travelled to Helsinki to participate in a Hackathon last year — this was a competition involving small companies, startups and students who had three days to create solutions to reduce people’s exposure to air pollutants using atmospheric composition data. I acted as mentor to some of the participants and provided advice/help when they needed it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical schedule, my tasks change day-to-day depending on the priorities. I have very intense weekdays here in Darmstadt and try to do as much as possible before flying home at the weekends to spend time with my family.
My working day begins relatively early and one of the first things I do in the morning is have a coffee together with my team. I think this is important so that we can talk informally before we get into the numerous meetings we must have each day in order to manage our workloads and exchange ideas. You’ll also see me for several hours behind my computer preparing documents, reading, and organising training events which involves interacting with people worldwide via email or teleconference.
On top of this I travel a lot as part of the job in order to consult with the “rest of the world” and drive the events we are in charge of.
What are the most challenging/rewarding parts of your role?
The most challenging part is to make sure that all of the people I mentioned before make really good use of the satellite data sets and observations!
It’s easy these days to be able to download a satellite image from anywhere and it might seem like a trivial thing, but these observations are the result of decades of research and the passion of thousands of people worldwide and at EUMETSAT, who work on the cutting edge of many scientific or technological fields.
We tend to forget that satellites are one of the most technologically advanced and fascinating products built by mankind, and there is great potential behind that! I constantly need to research in order to stay updated, so that I’m able to understand the underlying science behind it and then find the best ways of bringing this information to the people and making them see the value of it, too.
What is most rewarding for me then is making sure that observations — real data and figures, are used to make decisions and to change life for the better. Especially in today’s society where we have fake news and false information — this data is invaluable and cannot be denied. Figures we derive from Earth observations are our new Rosetta Stone and they should be used to unambiguously understand our planet better and make plans for the future.
The Earth observation data we get from the atmosphere affects things on both a small and large scale. On the smaller scale, let’s think about air quality: you can decide each day if you want to go running or if you want to go outside depending on current air quality conditions and whether or not it’s good for you to be outside on a particular day. On a larger scale, meaning big decisions taken for the future of humankind, a great endeavour is to reduce the emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases — making plans for our collective lives and the future of our planet. Because of and thanks to the data we receive from satellite observations, we can achieve these things.
You mentioned before you’re from Italy — how does it compare to living in Darmstadt?
The language can be a barrier at first and the climate is not the same, but, it’s the heart of Europe and I’m happy and proud to have the possibility to freely travel and live within Europe. I really believe that Europe is a single country and after a few months the differences are quickly forgotten and not so big in the end.
What I like about living in Darmstadt is that it’s a very sustainable city, it’s easy to live here and hospitable towards a foreign guy like me arriving, so I would really recommend that everybody take more chances, get out of their comfort zone and be daring to move and to travel within Europe. Regardless of differences in climate, language or environment, this is a great experience — even 25 years after my Erasmus trip!
What inspired you to get into this field? Was it something you studied from a young age?
Not really 🙂 I studied theoretical physics but at a certain point during my studies, I began to question myself when I realised I couldn’t really relate quantum physics and particle physics to any visible or tangible phenomena, even though they are fundamental for our technology.
I took some time out and during a trip around the Mediterranean, I realised that I wanted to invest in something more tangible and visible with science, something that I can actually “see” like the clouds, oceans or atmosphere.
As I mentioned, quantum mechanics, mechanical statistics and mathematics are fundamental to atmospheric sciences, for example, when gases are not directly visible you need something called spectroscopy(which involves these things). However, satellite observations integrate all of that and make something intangible visible to us. In the end, I was successful in finding a working trajectory where I can make science “visible”, bringing it closer to as many people as possible and helping them in their everyday life too.
Thanks to Federico for his interesting take on what being a Training Officer involves! For more looks Inside EUMETSAT, stay updated by following us on Instagram.