The idea of space, a symbol of endless curiosity, has always fascinated me, as I am sure it has for many others. It has especially inspired my first ever guest, my instructor UofT’s DEEP, Ali Nasseri. He is an aerospace engineer, a researcher, and the chair of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) in Support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications.
Ali discussed how passion and persistence led to him achieving his huge dream of being involved in the space community.
You’ve done many things in your career, so what is your favourite part about working in the space sector?
Being able to connect different fields and create a community through a passion for space is the beautiful thing about the space sector. At space conferences, there is always someone to talk to. The discussion can range from to biology, to business, or even to law. At school, these subjects seem to have no connection with each other, but working on a collective goal in space brings everything all together. A passion for space brings all these people together, and this passion never fails to be rubbed off onto Ali. And this passion is what motivates him to continue working hard and make things happen.
This can be taken out of the “space” context and still be relevant. If you surround yourself with people who share your passion — whether it be for space, for changing the world, or anything else — you are always going to be motivated to get stuff done together.
What is the coolest part about your career?
Aside from having the opportunity to work with incredibly interesting people, like David Saint-Jacques [who I am a huge fan of], Ali’s career allows him to shift between different fields. He has worked on various topics ranging from propulsion systems to magnetism. The different sectors help develop different skills that Ali applies to everything. Not being confined to working within a single field, and being able to draw from a wide variety of experiences is what allows Ali to continually grow as a person.
What can you learn from this? Having a wide variety of experiences under your belt is so important. What you learn in one field can be applied in another either directly or indirectly. Meeting new people is a great way of achieving this because you can learn from their experiences and meet even more people in their network.
What is the hardest part of shifting from one field to another?
Being able to effectively communicate with others in a new field is one of Ali’s challenges when he shifts jobs. Not only can there be a language barrier, but many times there is also a difference in communication styles. To be successful in anything, you need to be adaptable. No matter where you work, effectively communicating with people is necessary. You are going to need to learn their language (at least the basics) and their style of communication (including formalities, gestures, the amount of personal space given, etc…). You also have to be committed to constantly learning and applying new knowledge and skills to the job you work on.
If you are always trying to improve yourself, then overcoming obstacles will become second nature.
How did you find yourself being the co-chair of the SGAC? How has volunteering helped?
Ali’s passion for space led to him take up a volunteer position at the SGAC. There he was given the opportunity to meet new people and help work on a paper for the group. He took his volunteer role further by coordinating the project and then presenting it at a conference.
Because of his exemplary work, he was nominated to be the secretary of the SGAC. In this position, he organized many conferences, but he also enacted changes in the organization. Eventually, his hard work and initiative led him to become the chair of the SGAC.
- Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and develop new skills. Many organizations need volunteers, so helping out gets your name known within the organization.
- Hard work and initiative gets noticed and pays off. People will see that you lead change, and they will want you.
Do you have any regrets?
After studying hard to come to university in Canada, factors outside of his control prevented Ali from doing so. The unfortunate situation was very hard on him because he thought he missed a huge opportunity. Despite this, he continued to work hard, and he learned that overcoming this hurdle made him a stronger person.
Things are going to happen in life, and you may not always like them. However, these are the perfect opportunities to learn. Learn how to avoid it next time, learn how to overcome similar situations, learn how to deal with some consequences. Pushing through the adversities that are thrown at you will only make you a stronger, smarter person.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking at post-secondary options? How do we apply our passions to a career path?
Ali’s biggest tip is to follow your passions. If you are interested in what you study and work for, then you will be adamant about learning more. Ali’s passion lies in space; his passion isn’t engineering. Through engineering, he can work in the space sector, but he could also do so with business or law. He chose engineering because it lines up with both his passion and his skills, which are in mathematics. If you don’t do something you love, then you won’t want to develop the necessary skills, and you will be taking an opportunity away from someone you really wants it.
FOLLOW. YOUR. PASSIONS. A job isn’t a passion. What you do with your job is what you should be passionate about. If you follow your passions, your daily job will always be rewarding.
After you find your passions, you need to establish the skills you will need for your chosen path. It’s good to already have a grasp on these skills, but it’s okay if you’re not the best. The most significant thing is that you need to be (more than) willing to learn and develop them. If you aren’t, then you could be taking away an opportunity from someone who really wants it.
With passion and a willingness to learn, you will go far.
There is always a way to get to where you want. Paths can be changed, and detours can be made. Always working towards a goal and hurdling over barriers is what will drive you along.
Ultimately, hard work, passion, and persistence will get you far.
I hope you enjoyed my first podcast (and first post) 🙂 Sorry for being a little awkward and sick, but it’s a work in progress. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in a comment!