When I Worked For A Rocket Scientist

When I Worked For A Rocket Scientist

I obtained my first real office job when I was 17. I worked for a rocket scientist. His name was strange—if you didn't know the guy, but read his name somewhere you'd possibly think he was a girl.

That Summer, I did nothing but analyze millions of datasets in Excel. This was an Excel nightmare. Thousands of new data lines were being spewed into the document every second. It was “the song that never ends," but was worse because instead of music it was lines of numbers.

I couldn’t fathom the end of the spreadsheet it would never come, and it made my eyeballs swell into the back of my head. My head hit the desk multiple times throughout the day.

Here I learned the power of failure, trial and error, rejection with the work I did never being good enough, and what it’s like to work for a boss who didn’t remember what he told you to do.

“Go make a spreadsheet that shows the cross section analysis between points A through ZZ and AAA through ZZZZ.”


2 weeks later…

“Here’s my spreadsheet, Mr Rocket Scientist.”

“What the hell is this? I didn’t ask for this!”


“No, no, no! What I want you to do is to go make a spreadsheet that shows the cross section analysis between points A through ZZ and AAA through ZZZZ.”


One day, while the rocket scientist boss was on a cruise in the Bahamas, a coworker moved into the same office as me. During lunch break he said, “Look at this.” When I turned around to look, it was a pornographic website. I immediately turned back round to my desk, shocked and with an incredibly lower opinion of my new office mate? So now what?

I waited.

As soon as my coworker left to inspect a fuel machine, I raced across the building and marched right into the VP’s office.

“Sorry to bother you, sir, but….”


He sprinted down the hall at record speeds, storming into my office. Sure enough, all the incriminating evidence was there on the man’s work computer.

The problem is, the perpetrator would know I was the one who blew the whistle. He had a history of anger management issues. So I told the VP that I’d leave for a little while then come back.

I went to my car to “get something” and when I returned the coworker was swearing up a storm (like Yosemite Sam after being bamboozled by Bugs Bunny). He stormed out of the building and I never saw him again after that day.

Not sure what the inspiring and relevant point of the story is, but I’m now a whiz in Excel and spreadsheets no longer intimidate me. Miles of datasets make me grind my teeth, but at least I know it’s manageable.

With the forgetful rocket scientist (he said he started his career by disarming bombs—what a combo), I learned how to stand up for myself and remind him of what he assigned me to do.

And with the lewd coworker, I knew that no matter what happened in my short office career, screening the people you hire strenuously up front will always pay for itself in the long run.

A few years later, I bumped into the forgetful rocket scientist who disarmed bombs. He said “You were the best intern I ever had! I’ve got a new position opening up, you want it?”

I smiled and replied, “Thanks for the kind words, but I’ve started my own startup now—at the end of the day, I just wasn’t cut out for office work.”

(photo via nasa's marshall space flight center)