Launching your career at EUMETSAT

EUMETSAT might not seem like the obvious choice for an internship, especially if you’re not involved in a scientific or technical background. However, there are many various roles in which you have the possibility to make a difference, as Matej discovered.

Matej sat down with us to discuss his three-month internship working within the Strategy, Communication and International Relations (SCIR) division.

Find out just what it’s like to work for a large organisation such as EUMETSAT, and how it’s been starting a new position during a worldwide pandemic…

Matej outside EUMETSAT HQ and in front of our replica Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite

Can you please introduce yourself and your role?

My name is Matej Siget. I come from Slovakia and for the last three months, I’ve been interning within the SCIR Division at EUMETSAT. My official title is ‘Intern on Strategy and International relations’.

I recently graduated from the Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, where I completed my masters in international affairs. After graduation, I really wanted to further pursue my studies and become an expert in space policy, as I felt the need for a specific specialisation within the field of international affairs. I was lucky enough to be admitted into one of the very few academic programmes of its kind and since January 2020, I’ve been pursuing a masters in International Science and Technology Policy, specialising in Space Policy, in Washington D.C., USA.

Can you tell us a bit about what the role entails; do you have set tasks?

I was given some tasks at the start, which have all taken various lengths of time to fulfil. The first task was to work on the update of the EUMETSAT strategy. It meant I had to analyse different documents from, for example, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) and try to find some connections to EUMETSAT and satellite data. I also worked on the analysis of socio-economic benefits from satellite data, which involved checking documentation issued by international organisations or NGOs.

The second task was to work on the Data Access for Western Balkan, Eastern European and Caucasian Countries (DAWBEE) platform. EUMETSAT provides DAWBEE stations to 11 countries’ NMHS, in order to help users make the best use of satellite data. The positive outcomes derived from international cooperation are one of EUMETSAT’s core policy principles and I’ve been trying to enhance this by identifying the most common issues the NHMS might be facing in regards to the stations, and so created an easy-to-use online platform aimed at connecting all DAWBEE users. Here, they can chat, ask/answer questions and use their experience to help others – it’s basically a platform for them to enhance their knowledge and skills just by helping each other.

The tool has already been launched and we are currently in the phase of user registration. As a bonus, on my last day, I will hold a webinar about the use of the platform, so I really hope my work will be beneficial to both EUMETSAT and the NHMS of DAWBEE countries.

The third task has taken the longest time and I’ve been working on this for over a month now. I have been writing a research paper on EUMETSAT’s cooperation with Russia because there was a study conducted by the European Space Policy Institute a few years ago on EUMETSAT’s relationship with NOAA, which was an interesting overview of the relationship’s history and showed exactly in which areas the cooperation happens.

Therefore, I am trying to do the same with Russia; unfortunately, the sources are very scarce, and I have been digging deep into the EUMETSAT archives, trying to find anything that might be relevant. I’ve also been meeting people from different divisions to talk to them as they might be more familiar with these topics or issues. This task was ultimately about doing some research, but the added value was meeting various people within the organisation and getting to know them/what they’re doing in addition to the research, so I got to work with many different people.

I was also able to make contact with external contacts when I worked on the second task. The DAWBEE stations use a software that was created by Mr Jan Kanak from the Slovak NHMS, so when I went home for a week, I was able to meet with him and he showed me how everything at the station worked. I also talked to experts from Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will be moderators of the forum once I leave; so you can see my internship indeed had a very “international relations” aspect to it.

So with tasks one and three, what will be the outcome of your work? Where will everything you’ve pulled together go/who will use it?

Regarding task number three, we’re still deciding if it will be used only for internal purposes or also shared online. At this stage, we are not sure how much of the information I obtained from various sources can be disclosed. I would love to see my results published, but it’s beyond my control now.

For the first task, the data collected will be used as part of the EUMETSAT strategy and I think that it might also be something that EUMETSAT will use in the future when they need to reference recent data regarding socio-economic losses caused by meteorological events.

Was this your first internship?

It was the first at an international organisation and the first that is space- and international-related. I’ve interned within governmental fields before, for example, the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Helsinki, Finland and the National Council of the Slovakia Republic.

What made you choose EUMETSAT for your internship and how did you get to hear about us?

I first heard of EUMETSAT when I wrote my master’s thesis at university. I wrote about space diplomacy and one of my case studies was Europe, so EUMETSAT was given as an example of how space diplomacy can work in real life (cooperation between countries, communication at an international level, etc.). Then, after I moved to the US and started my space policy studies, I heard about EUMETSAT again during the classes, as they were often comparing them to NOAA.

As I needed a relevant internship during the summer (before the Coronavirus pandemic began), I started searching and got in touch with EUMETSAT to ask about internships. They weren’t advertised on the website at that point, but I was told that they would publish soon and so I was probably the first one to apply! The position was directly related to my field of study (international affairs and space) so that was basically the only one I applied for and it worked out, luckily.

So you’re currently enrolled on a course in Washington D.C., what will happen after your internship ends? Will you return to your studies?

That’s a tricky question under these circumstances! My original plan was to go back to the US as I began the course in January this year, so I have just finished the first semester and have three more to go. Now, because of the Coronavirus, the classes are only available online, so I don’t see much point in returning to the US because the added value often lies in things that happen in person, like networking, events and getting to know my professors better. Without all that, I only have the online classes, which is extremely difficult for me to do anyway because the time difference means my classes will begin at 02:00 in the morning. So I’ll probably postpone the next semester, stay in Europe and figure out what I’m going to do in the meantime.

What were you most looking forward to doing before coming here? Has your experience met your expectations?

Getting to know the organisation was definitely one of the things I was looking forward to the most. I didn’t have any expectations regarding the tasks as I wasn’t quite sure what I would be doing, I knew I’d be working with a knowledge-sharing platform and working closely with eastern European countries as these are my fields of interest and I studied in Eastern Europe, but expectations? None really; I was looking forward to the experience for sure.

It was a great chance to put what I’m studying into practice and to also go out of my comfort zone – I got a bit lazy during my time in the US, so this has been a good experience. I feel like I’ve achieved everything I wanted to during my time here.

How do you think what you’ve learnt here will help you in the future?

First of all, I now have some understanding of how an international organisation works, because my goal is to stay in Europe and work within the field of European space policy, so that’s very important. When I tell people I’m working within the SCIR Division, and then I explain that EUMETSAT is an organisation responsible for operating meteorological satellites, there is always some confusion as to what I’m doing (as I’m not an engineer), and so I’m leaving with the feeling that experts in space policy, particularly in Europe, are certainly needed and after finishing my studies, I will have something to offer to the European space sector.

This is very important because it means I chose a useful topic to study. People were also asking me how I will find a job within the space sector if I’m not an engineer, so there is hope.

What are your future goals and plans, where do you see yourself in five years, for example?

If not pursuing my PhD (which is likely), then ideally staying in Europe and working either within the structures of the European Union or an international organisation located in Europe that does something with space. I always thought about working for the United Nations (UN) in the Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), but the office is fairly small and I can imagine it must be difficult to get a position within the UN. However, I’m doing everything I can in order to achieve something like that in the future.

What did you enjoy most about your time here and did you come across any challenges?

The period of time in which I’ve been doing the internship is challenging in itself! I haven’t had the opportunity to meet as many people in person as I would have liked because it has involved a lot of online working. It was challenging to start the role in ‘online mode’ and do everything remotely, even when I was at the office, the meetings were still online. Studying online is one thing, but actually working online is another.

The subject of meteorology was another challenge because when I arrived here, I had no prior knowledge of it. Theoretically, I knew about meteorological satellites and things like that, but was never involved in any scientific part of meteorology, so I was curious about how I would manage to become familiar with everything. I’m happy to say that everybody has been really helpful and now I definitely know a lot more about the subject than when I arrived.

Is it your first time living in Germany?

No, I lived in Heidelberg for one month. I’m always telling people that Germany is one of the few places in the world I’ve really enjoyed living as it has a little bit of everything, which for me as a European is nice. I’ve enjoyed other places I’ve lived in, but I think if you’re going to spend a long period of time somewhere and after weighing up the pros and cons, Germany is the ideal place, because as a foreigner I feel very comfortable here – even if you don’t speak German, people are very helpful.

Do you have any memorable moments during your time here?

The thing is, not much was happening during my time here! I remember the first time I came to the office, there were just two people in the canteen… It’s been memorable overall to be starting a new role at the same time as a worldwide pandemic.

I came here two weeks before the internship started because I had to go into quarantine after coming from the US and worked from home the first week, so I was at home for three weeks before people started returning to the office. I’m happy that everything started slowly getting back to ‘normal’ because it was helpful for me to be at the office, with not knowing the organisation so well.

EUMETSAT and studies aside, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like to travel as much as possible to discover new cultures and meet new people – even if I have just one free day, I like to go somewhere I’ve never been before. I like studying obviously and learning new things in general, and also some very cliché things like enjoying music.

I know it might sound funny coming from an adult, but I really enjoy LEGO and keep a very decent collection of sets – it’s almost like my own personal art collection. I also enjoy “regular” art and in the past, I used to paint and write poems. But having lots of other responsibilities means less free time, so I have turned into a passive fan; I love abstract art and jazz music. I’m also passionate about history and have even started my own genealogical research – thanks to digitalised archives, I was able to find my ancestors who were born back in the 17th century!

Do you have any advice for young people that might want to follow in your path and intern here?

First of all, it helps to know what you want to do in life. I always had a theory that things happen for a reason and something will come up, but you still need to have a direction and look for opportunities. For anyone that wants to work here, I would say do it, it’s worth it, you will enjoy your time and learn something new.

Space is an emerging and exciting field and even people like me who are involved in space, but not on the engineering/technical side, can make a difference. It’s a field where you have a good chance to make some impact on society.

A special thanks to Matej for giving us an interesting talk on his time here, and we wish him all the best during this uncertain time!

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About the Author

Natalie Lunt

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