Alasdair Gow

Alasdair Gow

Name: Alasdair Gow
Job: Senior Space Systems Engineer, The UK Space Agency
Industry: Aeronautics
Class of: 2006
House: Moore

What do you do?

The UK Space Agency is an executive agency of the UK government, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Its aims are to inspire and lead the UK in space, to benefit our planet and its people. I sit within a team known as the Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE). We provide deep technical expertise to support the design and delivery of the UKSA’s project portfolio to maintain UK technical leadership in civil space activities. Our team provides technical insight, assessment and assurance capabilities to the UK Space Agency.

What this means is I get to work on a range of different projects that are beneficial to our planet and humanity. This ranges from providing advice to colleagues or researching topics through engagement with industry and academia. To providing oversight and assurance that taxpayer-funded space missions or technology developments are proceeding as planned. All of the projects are exciting and rewarding to work on. From supporting teams of students designing and building their first nanosatellite, studying how we can minimise the impact bright satellites have on the night sky, supporting work to generate clean energy from solar power stations in space, or helping oversee development of missions to remove space debris.

How did you get to where you are today?

From a young age, I have always been fascinated by space. After HSOG, I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, with a particular focus on Physics. After graduating, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, but my experience in software and web development allowed me to get a job in this sector.

From here, I moved back to Scotland to study my MSc in Space Mission Analysis & Design at the University of Glasgow. Unfortunately, the UK space sector was smaller in those days, and the UK Space Agency had only just been established. Once again, I found a software development role whilst seeking employment in the space sector. While in this role I learned something very important: I enjoyed the act of software development and data analysis, but I wasn’t particularly bought into the mission of the company. Ultimately, I found myself unfulfilled by the job I was doing.

Thankfully, I received a job offer from a company then known as Clyde Space. For the next three years, my role as a Spacecraft Sales Engineer for a nanosatellite manufacturer kept me busy. Coincidentally, it was just ten minutes down the road from HSOG! Not only was I preparing bids and proposals for new satellite designs, but also working with customers from all over the world to help them get the best performance out of their spacecraft subsystems. This was an interesting role, as it straddled between two different types of skillsets – business development and technical (spacecraft systems engineering). All in all, it gave me experience and contacts throughout the UK space industry.

In 2017, I moved to the UK Space Agency, initially working within policy roles liaising with industry and managing funding programmes. Eventually I found myself moving across to the Office of the Chief Engineer.

What is a standout memory of your time at The High School of Glasgow?

There are almost too many to choose from! Singing the Backstreet Boys as a warmup backstage during the School’s production of Guys and Dolls is an obvious highlight. Also lunchtimes with friends spent perennially walking round the school buildings, as well as the spectacular firework displays!

What one piece of advice would you give to current pupils and recent leavers as they look to their futures?

Sometimes it can take you a while to figure out what you want to do. Eventually, you may realise you want to change your career, which can be a daunting prospect. But that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to make a change if it will make you happier and more fulfilled.

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