Tania Gres interned with us last year as part of her studies. Her first time living in Germany, Tania’s growth both academically and personally was clear to see at the end of the three months – not only did she achieve her goals in terms of professional development, she was also able to have fun and make some good friends.
Meet Tania! (Please note, this internship took place in 2019 and therefore the interview was conducted at that time.)
What’s your official title?
My official title is intern on the “analysis of the importance of data timeliness”.
What team are you working in?
I’m working in the System Engineering and Projects (SEP) Division, inside the Technical and Scientific Support (TSS) department. TSS provide technical support; working on software either for operations purposes or for the data centre, as well as scientific support and they can also support the computer systems in the offices such as the intranet etc.
SEP is more focused on the ground segments and system engineering of EUMETSAT. I share an office with Daniel Lee, a Software and Data Formats Engineer who specialises in programming, software and data formats, which are all complicated topics.
Within the team, we deal with the EUMETSAT Advanced Retransmission Service (EARS) antennas for regional missions and third-party data services.
What does your role entail?
When I arrived, my supervisor suggested that, as I was only here for 3.5 months, I should spend the first month learning about what EUMETSAT is and what it does. Therefore, I just did a lot of research and tried to talk to as many people as possible, which was very different in comparison to my previous internship as they gave me specific tasks, whereas here, the format was not the same and allowed more freedom.
However I wanted to do something practical, so one day I asked my supervisor if I could do something for EUMETSAT. I wanted to be useful, so they allowed me to work on some specific tasks. I received a mission to work on some Metop data, specifically coming from the Advanced SCATterometer (ASCAT) instrument, and we found out that there was a problem with the processing of level-2 data (which was the last product sent to users). The problem occurred because of a lack in precision – the processing facility was not combining data coming from different stations corresponding to the same observations; we only had a subset of the whole data and that was not accurate.
Therefore, we worked with the centre processing this data to start combining the ground station data and they started doing that in October or November 2019. So, this is something I am pleased to say I contributed to.
Do you feel like you have learned many skills that you can take away with you?
I already had some technical skills but they have improved a lot. Daniel is dealing with the same programming I do at school, so during two months with him I’ve learned more than I did in three years of school. We used some special computing languages and environments, for example, Linux. When you do theoretical stuff in school, it’s so different in comparison to applying things in practice. I had some hands-on experience and I think that I improved my skills greatly because of this.
However, this is nothing compared to the social skills I gained. When I arrived here, it was so different compared to now. At first, I was scared of meeting people that I didn’t know, but now I’m much better! It’s something that I wasn’t able to do so easily before.
How many people are on your team?
There’s the supervisor, the head of the team and a few others that make up six people altogether at the weekly meetings and there are sometimes other people from other divisions joining us at the meetings.
What are the things you enjoyed most and what challenges did you find?
I would say that they are both linked.
During this internship, I was able to go out of the comfort zone that I built around myself – it was something I tried hard to do and every time I did it, I was very proud. This wasn’t just exclusive to EUMETSAT and affected my life outside of this too.
For example, I did a triathlon with some people here. Their team was missing someone and I thought it would be fun. I had a few weeks to train for that and it was hard but at the end, it was a really great achievement.
I also really enjoyed being part of the music club (EUMETSAT has a range of clubs that people can join based upon their interests). I played music with other people in a group, which was new to me as I have always played alone.
Did you have any challenges specifically related to your role?
I didn’t have any big problems as such and if I needed some help, people were just a phone call away.
It was “challenging” because it required some social skills. I had to meet, for example, the French delegate for the Scientific and Technical Group (STG)/Administrative and Finance Group (AFG) and that was impressive.
It was more of a social challenge I would say.
Yesterday, I also got the chance to meet the Director-General and that was also a good experience. I requested to meet him and I was really nervous but during the meeting it was really interesting.
What are your plans after EUMETSAT?
As I am in an engineering school in France, I will go back there because I still have one year left. We needed to do an internship for school between the 4th and 5th year, so that’s why I came here. Then I’ll return to Paris to finish my master’s and then I will have another six-month internship that I will need to complete in order to receive my diploma at the end.
Where will you do your next internship?
I will go to Airbus Defence and Space, working on digital businesses for some digital-transformation projects. I’ve always wanted to combine my love for space technologies and space systems (satellite data use) and my creativity and visual skills (by visual, I mean presenting and pitching some projects). It’s the first time I can have both at the same time, so I am looking forward to that.
I would then like to apply for a PhD next year. Being here taught me that many people did PhD’s in order to work in this field and that a PhD is useful for my professional career.
I’m really passionate about the space field so why not?
Do you have any advice for somebody still in school who might like to do their internship here? How did you find out about EUMETSAT?
Well my experience is perhaps not usual but my mum used to know somebody who currently works here, so I called them and they told me what EUMETSAT is and what it does and it sounded like a good fit as I was looking for a job in the space field.
They suggested I apply for one of the open internship positions, and I went onto the EUMETSAT website and went through the selection procedure.
I found exactly what I was looking for. I still have a lot to learn but I learned a great deal about what is possible in the space domain, especially in computing.
Also, if people are passionate about satellites and what they do then EUMETSAT isa good place to learn.
Is it your first time living in Germany? How did you like it?
Yes, it’s the first time. I was born in Germany but I’ve been living in France for most of my life.
I was attracted by EUMETSAT but Germany was a bit of a challenge because I speak only a little bit of German, however I saw it as a chance to improve it and discover another culture.
Germany was pretty great, switching from Paris to Darmstadt was the biggest change I ever had.
Paris is full of tourists, buildings, and people. When you go to school in the morning you take the underground, the subway or bus and you have to avoid people because there are so many.
However, here I cycle to work every morning and the only things I have to avoid are squirrels. There are trees everywhere and it’s very pretty. The city is really nice and it’s surrounded by nature.
Do you have any memorable moments from your time here?
I can’t choose just one! I would say one of the first moments I remember is the day I had a tour of the control centres with Phil (Harvey, Operations Analyst at EUMETSAT). That was so cool but also embarrassing because Phil was introducing me to everyone and I was nervous, however I cannot thank him enough for introducing me to people. I also got the opportunity to meet another intern here, who took me on a tour of Darmstadt to see what’s around. It was a great start to my short stay in the city.
As I mentioned, I also played a lot in the music room with other colleagues – it was the most fun I’ve had playing music.
I always tried to eat with new people, as everybody comes from different places so each time you talk to somebody you learn something new. It’s really interesting to discuss how they find life and how they got here.
All the time I spent together with Daniel discussing everything was also interesting.
What do you do when you are not at EUMETSAT?
I do a lot of gymnastics in France and so I wanted to find a club here to continue training and make some friends. At the university, I’m involved in a CubeSat group of students and this is where I met my friend Fabian. I wasn’t fully involved because I don’t go to school here but once I arrived I was able to meet him in person and he was able to introduce me to the group of people here, who were all super nice.
I often go out at the weekend to move a bit, sometimes taking a bus to see some friends in other German cities so I get to see a lot of places around. I also did a lot of things together with a friend from university.
One day we played guitar in a field at sunset and that was really cool. I don’t do many things by myself as I like to hang out with people.
Thank you to Tania for taking the time to talk to us and discuss her interesting internship! She has now left us and is already doing her next internship at Airbus Defence and Space – we hope to see her again in Darmstadt soon!
We’ll be back soon with another instalment of our Inside EUMETSAT series, in the meantime you can check out what we’re doing on our Instagram channel.