Rémy Grenier – Manager, Laboratories and Demonstration Infrastructures
- Quote: Enjoy it—time goes by fast and never stops.
- Education: DEC in physical instrumentation
- Job title: Manager, Laboratories and Demonstration Infrastructures
- Employer: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
- CSA projects: Launch base for stratospheric balloons in Timmins, Ontario; STRATOS; rovers; supervisor of the team of technicians and technologists, the laboratories and everything they contain.
What is unique about your job?
When I was a child, I dreamed of working at NASA (the Canadian Space Agency didn't exist then). When I heard that the CSA was being built, I got in touch with a contact to find out if there were going to be laboratories. I was told there would be. So for six years I sent them my résumé every six months until there was a job posting, which I finally got. My childhood dream has come true, and that's why I consider my job unique.
What are your tasks during a working day?
It's quite varied! Thanks to my many years of experience, I can help and, above all, guide my colleagues in accomplishing certain tasks in the laboratory, a place I don't get to as often since I became a manager. Because my team supports projects at the CSA, I attend many meetings to learn more about the details of the projects, the staff who must be involved and the infrastructures or tools required. In addition, my role is to develop and maintain all of the laboratory infrastructure and to oversee the design, manufacturing and testing of experimental prototypes. I am also in charge of the science and technology assets and am responsible for inventorying them. The latest stratospheric balloon campaign in Timmins kept me very busy. Preparations for these campaigns, which are in full swing in August–September, begin in the winter.
Which professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?
Before working at the CSA, I worked at the Université de Montréal, where I wrote scientific articles with physicists. Just before I left to join the CSA, I had come up with inventions for which I was about to file a patent application. These are projects that make me very proud. As for the projects I have carried out at the CSA, the ones that make me most proud are the QuickSat satellite and the stratospheric balloon base in Timmins, which was successfully built in one year (rather than the usual two to three years). On a personal level, I am proud to have climbed the ladder in the organization over time. In 20 years at the CSA, I went from laboratory technologist to supervisor and manager, and finally to demonstration infrastructures manager.
Who or what helped you the most throughout your career?
First of all, you have to believe in yourself, keep an open mind and constantly question yourself. I am competitive with myself, not with others. Having a corporate vision has helped me accomplish great things at the CSA. Working for the good of the CSA and not for the good of your own career will have a positive impact on your career. I had a particularly influential physics teacher who once told me, "
You don't need to memorize all these formulas. If you understand the physical phenomenon, the formulas will come easily to you." This advice has stayed with me and helped me a lot both in my studies and on a personal level. Another prominent figure is the first President of the CSA, Larkin Kerwin. I used his book on atomic physics in one of my university courses, and I did very well. When the library was named after him, he came to the CSA and I was able to get my book signed. Larkin Kerwin was very happy to see that I had kept his book and that it had been so memorable for me.
What advice would you give to a child or young adult?
You must always persevere! Especially in CEGEP, when the courses become more demanding, it takes a lot of effort to do well in your studies. My perseverance also paid off when I spent six years applying to the CSA to finally get the job of my dreams.
How do/did you reconcile work commitments and your family life?
The CSA is a good place to work, where employees can balance work and family. The bosses are flexible and understand that there are sometimes emergencies with the children and that we have to leave and postpone work. At the CSA, people are open-minded and allow for a flexible schedule.
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