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Rida Zainab - Consultant

I have been working at CGI as a Spacecraft Software Engineer for exactly 3 years this month. My main role involves working on complex scientific algorithms for mission critical software on-board ESA’s ExoMars rover. The main objective of this mission is to search for past/present life on Mars. This is made possible by using multiple instruments on-board the rover, including cameras and spectrometers. I have been involved in the design and implementation of image compression algorithms and a scientific algorithm that detects the regions of interest in the collected samples. Both of these data processing algorithms combined enable an efficient sample analysis of Martian soil and improve the usage of spacecraft’s telemetry downlink capacity.

I have always been interested in all things space since I was a child. Fortunately, my family moved to the UK a while back and I got a chance to pursue my passion. However, at that time I was not aware that I could be involved in the space sector without having a formal space education. During my A levels, a STEM ambassador visited my sixth form where she told us her story of how she changed her career 3 times to find the right fit for her - which was Nuclear Engineering. She also explained to us how every single unrelated job she had up until that point (even horse riding!) developed her skills and made her a good fit for her current role. Her story stuck with me over the years and even though I did not get to study my preferred degree in aerospace engineering due to financial reasons, I made a decision to stick with engineering as it would eventually lead me to my goal of working in the ever so glorious space sector – and I was right! I realised that all those hours I spent reading the research papers on different aspects of space, trying to land my rockets on Mun in Kerbal Space Program and of course my intensive engineering degree finally payed off and made me a better engineer.

I thought that if one person’s opinion and life story can have such a big impact on my decisions, I would love to be that person for someone else. This made me join the STEM ambassador program at my university and I have been a STEM ambassador ever since. My message to every young person I met has always been that if you are passionate about something, you will eventually find some twisted way to get involved in it. This could either happen right away for you or it might take some time, the important thing is to never lose hope. The rule I live by is that you can either watch it happen or be a part of it.