Phaeton - Early Career Hire Development Program
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What is Phaeton?

There is a dilemma facing many recently graduated engineers and scientists: Technical project managers want to hire individuals with experience in other technical projects, but to get the necessary experience you must have worked on a technical project.

Participants The Phaeton Early Career Hire Development Program, or Phaeton for short, was created in early 2008 to provide a solution to this dilemma. Early career hires (ECHs) will have the opportunity to work on a project inside the Phaeton Program. These projects will provide a means to rapidly gain technical, "cultural," and networking experience at JPL. This experience in turn will help ECHs be hired on to JPL flight projects such as Mars Science Laboratory and Juno.

Phaeton will allow an ECH to rapidly gain hands-on experience in multiple subsystems of a project and gain exposure to multiple phases of a project cycle. To accommodate as many ECHs as possible, the Phaeton Program will have multiple projects in development at one time. Each project will be offset by one year to allow the distinct project phases for separate projects to overlap. This overlap will allow an ECH working on the assembly and test of a project to observe the proposal and preliminary design phases of a separate project.

Phaeton projects are not "paper engineering" projects. Each project will start at the proposal phase and will proceed past the design phase into assembly and test. Dependent on the type of project, the hardware built will either be rated for spaceflight or ready for actual flight on an aircraft, balloon, or sounding rocket.

Hands-on experience The ECHs who chooses to participate and are selected for Phaeton will have a six month to one year tours of duty with Phaeton. At the end of their tours of duty, ECHs will have improved their knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Personal behaviors: Leadership, communication, problem solving skills, systems and critical thinking
  • Knowledge of JPL processes: Ten systems engineering functions, flight project practices
  • JPL technical knowledge: Technical grasp at system level

The Phaeton Program is only open to JPL early career hires, employees that have graduated from a university program within the past three years with a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. Once at JPL, ECHs will have the opportunity to apply to become part of the Phaeton Program right away. If other duties are a higher priority when they first start, they can still apply to join the Phaeton Program any time in their first two years at the Lab. This way they can complete a tour of duty on a Phaeton project while they are an ECH.