As the E-Space engineering teams work on the upcoming, highly innovative satellite constellation from different locations around the world, one person at the center of it all is program manager David Levitt. An aerospace engineer by trade, David is now taking some of that knowledge and applying it to help coordinate efforts around the company.
Based out of the E-Space office in Saratoga, California, David is also doing a lot of systems engineering on top of his program management activities.
“There’s a lot going on and we all wear many hats around here,” he says. “My tools are budgets, schedules and scope, and so a lot of what I do is coordinating all the different subsystems alongside things like approving all the expenses as they come through.”
A graduate of UCLA, David says his passion has always been aerospace. He got a strong dose of it on his first job out of college working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). There, he was part of the team working on the Mars rovers as well as the Cassini spacecraft that went to Saturn. After leaving JPL, he worked in a few other industries like oil & gas, indoor agriculture and water treatment, but his goal was to get back to aerospace.
With a move to Orbit Fab as vice president of product management, he was part of a startup company aiming to create “gas stations in space” for refueling satellites. But when the company moved operations from San Francisco to Colorado, David wanted to remain in California. In addition, the launch and implementation of the technology was still a few years off.
At E-Space, he says the mission is more near-term.
“I was super excited when I heard about E-Space,” he says. “I really wanted to work on something happening today versus a project that’s not going to pay off for several more years. And the idea of connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices with 5G was really intriguing to me. I think that’s all highly relevant technology for today.”
For his work at E-Space, he says having a background in engineering is essential.
“The engineers we work with here, and really anywhere in aerospace, always appreciate a program manager with a technical background,” David says. “It’s definitely a bonus, and when I look to hire program managers, I favor candidates with a systems engineering background or some other specific technology expertise.”
To be successful in a program management position, he says, means having a lot of patience, being highly organized and having the desire to address larger issues and problems.
“As a program manager, you’re coordinating many different people with differing opinions and resources to solve one big problem.”
Which leads to another skillset that comes in handy, he says, is called “porpoising.”
“It’s the ability to dive deep into a technical area or a specific problem to help solve it, and then popping back up to review the broader situation.”
Work at E-Space, he says, has been made more enjoyable by the teams he gets to work with.
“E-Space has made a point of hiring highly experienced engineers who are generally veterans of their field,” he says. “That’s not always typical — for a lot of startups the focus is only on the short-term bottom line, resulting in inexperienced hires where management hopes they can figure it out.”
That’s not always a recipe for success, he says.
“It turns out that if you want to get highly innovative things done quickly and economically, you need a critical mass of highly experienced people coupled with team members that are newer to the job market but are hungry to learn. E-Space Founder and CEO Greg Wyler is really good at prioritizing that.”
While many people are still working remotely, David says he really enjoys coming into the office.
“It’s the most dynamic environment I’ve been in, and I’m having the most fun I’ve had at a company in a while,” he says. “The people I work with are highly skilled, talented and great fun out of the office.”
He says that includes weekly mountain bike rides with teammates, trips to a rock-climbing gym and happy hour get-togethers.
“It’s really a great balance at E-Space. We commit to the grind, then we unwind.”