Cool Job of the Week: Planetary Protection Officer

Is there anything cooler than defending Earth against alien invaders?

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What about getting paid to do the job?

That’s right: this job really exists, and it’s called the Planetary Protection Officer. According to an article from Business Insider, it’s a position within NASA, and it’s currently held by Catharine Conley (who has been the original PPO since 2006).

As this brief article from Fortune notes, however, the job is more concerned with defending Earth against disease-causing microbes than little green men, coneheads, chest-busters, or any other aliens Hollywood has conjured up.

It’s also a job concerned with protecting other planets – like Mars – against human contamination. Which, as you can imagine, is quite a huge task.

Are you up for the job?

If you’ve got the right qualifications, this gig is currently taking applications through August 14, 2017.

What kinds of experience does one need to have to be considered Planetary Protection Officer material? Here’s the short, but action-packed, list:

  1. An advanced degree in engineering, mathematics or physical science
  2. One year or more of experience as a GS-15 government employee (the top pay level for civilians)
  3. “Advanced knowledge” of planetary protection needs (here’s where binge watching every sci-fi movie ever made might come in handy…)
  4. “Demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance”
  5. “Demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions”

And, of course, since this is a government job, only U.S. citizens and nationals are eligible to apply.

Don’t worry if you’re not currently qualified for the gig – it’s quite a senior position, but it also runs for 3-year terms, with the possibility for an extension of an additional 2 years. That means you’ve got 3 to 5 years to build up that résumé and work experience to apply in 2020 or 2022!

Looking for more jobs at NASA?

Check out our “A is for Astronaut” post to learn more about the wonderful world of science in space.

Cool Job of the Week: Marketing Coordinator

I recently had a chance to speak with Kelly Johnson, Marketing Coordinator at Nubik. She told me a bit about the ins and outs of being a marketing coordinator, including some of the best (and worst) parts of the job. Here’s what she had to say!

Can you give us a brief explanation of your job?

As Marketing Coordinator, I plan and manage company events, manage our social media accounts, write web copy, send out emails and newsletters, and also take care of online ads and SEO.

What made you choose this job?

I just really love writing and have a knack for communicating written messages. I am well-spoken, but I much prefer sitting behind a screen and writing.

How long have you been in this position?

Almost 10 years now.

Did you need any specific college degree to get this job?

I didn’t. I have a degree in Linguistics. Over time, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I got hired at an online marketing agency. They taught me SEO and HTML and I just continued from there.

How would you describe a typical workday?

I work from home and we have a virtual office, so I take a shower, get dressed, grab breakfast, see my kids out the door, and then sit down in my home office and log into work. I work like anyone else would in a regular office. I go for lunch, manage my tasks, meet with coworkers and log out at the end of the day. Only difference is rather than a commute, I just walk out of a room in my house.

What do you like most about your job?

The part I like most, aside from working from home, is the fact I’m the “voice” of the company. When people come to our website or our social media accounts, it’s a first impression. My words and my message introduce them and help them make a decision to use our services.

What do you like least about your job?

There are often last minute issues that need addressing – especially when we have events. So work rushes can be stressful.

What personal qualities are most valuable for this kind of work?

To work from home and not have a boss breathing down your neck, you need to be disciplined and self-motivated. If you are someone who needs more support day to day, it’s not the best. When it comes to writing and marketing tasks, you have to meticulous and organized. I juggle many different tasks in a day – from content creation to event planning, there are a lot of moving parts. Being okay with constant change and actually loving it are important aptitudes.

Any advice for students interested in this kind of work?

Don’t just learn social media or just writing, learn how websites work, learn all the behind the scenes – the code, the CMS. You’ll be much more valuable.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Have fun and make it happen!

You can learn more about Kelly by following her on Twitter or Instagram @KBronJohn.

Cool Job of the Week: Puzzle Constructor

I recently had a chance to speak with Debbie Manber Kupfer, a freelance Puzzle Constructor who creates puzzles for Penny Press magazines and the Paws 4 Puzzles website. She told me a bit about the ins and outs of being a pro puzzler, including some of the best (and worst) parts of the job. Here’s what she had to say!

Among other things, Penny Press sponsors a monthly “Brain Boosters” contest – click to give this month’s puzzle a try.

Can you give us a brief explanation of your job?

I write all kinds of puzzles that are published in the various Penny Press titles that you can find in the newsstand or grocery store. My editor sends me requests on the kinds of puzzles she currently needs and I write them. There are word puzzles and logic puzzles of all kinds. There are some, like Frameworks and Double Trouble crosswords, that I create regularly, while others I only make occasionally. I also frequently write puzzles that require quotations and trivia and am always on the look out for a good quote, pun or interesting snippet.

In addition to the puzzles I send to Penny Press I also write custom puzzles for books, newsletters or presents and maintain my website, Paws 4 Puzzles.

What made you choose this job?

I’ve always loved puzzles ever since I was a child and rarely a day goes past when I don’t either solve or create one.

How long have you been working in this field?

20 years! I started off as a Puzzle Editor at Penny Press in Connecticut and then when I moved to St. Louis I continued working for them as a freelance constructor.

Did you need any specific college degree to get this job?

I have a BA degree and a background in editing. But the main thing you need for this work is a love of puzzles and words.

How would you describe a typical workday?

Send kiddo off to school. Make large mug of tea. Sit down with my current wishlist and decide which puzzle(s) I’m going to work on that day. Print out any grids I need and sometimes check my supply of puzzle books and test solve a similar puzzle, if this is not a regular puzzle I write all the time. Then I write the first puzzle – I usually start with the solutions, fitting them into the grid, and then write the clues. Then I test solve and for some tricky puzzles I’ll send the puzzle off to my trusty secret group on Facebook of puzzle enthusiasts who love to check my puzzles. Finally when they’re all done and typed up I email the finished puzzles to my editor at Penny Press.

What do you like most about your job?

I adore that I’m being paid for something I love and enjoy the flexibility of the work. I make my own hours, which was a godsend when the kids were small.

What do you like least about your job?

Occasionally I’ll get a request for a really boring kind of puzzle!

What personal qualities are most valuable for this kind of work?

Tenacity – sometimes you hit a really tough corner and you think that it’s impossible to fix, but you have to keep going in this line of work.

Any advice for students interested in this kind of work?

Solve, solve, solve – you can’t create puzzles until you understand how they work. Also, don’t give up if your puzzles are rejected at the beginning. Listen to the editors and follow their guidelines to the letter.

Anything else you’d like to add?

In addition to the puzzles I have in Penny Press magazines and on my website I also published a book of logic problems, Paws 4 Logic, together with my son Joey. The puzzles range from simple to diabolical, and the book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or directly from me at Paws 4 Puzzles.

You can learn more about Debbie and her puzzles on Facebook, Twitter, or her website, Paws 4 Puzzles.