New Altius Internship Program

Overview and Genesis

While Altius has offered internships off-and-on over the past 10 years of operations, with the Voyager acquisition and our improved financial situation, we’ve decided to launch a new and more formal internship program, patterned off of the internship program I helped start at my previous startup, Masten Space Systems. I really enjoyed helping be part of that process while I was there, and met some truly amazing people. In spite of being one of the smaller startups in the industry, you can find Masten alumni almost everywhere you turn. They’ve set a good example that we’d like to emulate at Altius.

Here are some key details for our new program:

  • This program will consist of three four-month internship cycles per year, a traditional “summer” cycle that runs from approximately May-August, a “fall” cycle that runs from September-December, and a “winter” cycle that runs from January-April. These were selected to line up approximately with typical college class schedules.
  • The first cycle is a little compressed due to a late start this year, but generally we’ll try to start taking applications for a cycle about five months before the cycle starts, keep the application period open for about a month and a half, and try to have interviews done and offers finalized at least two months before a cycle begins. More details on the schedule and specific dates can be found on our internships page.
  • All internship positions are full-time, paid positions. Historically the stipend has been around $3k/mo for an undergraduate or recent graduate, though we can sometimes go higher for people with more or more relevant experience. The goal is to be competitive with the kind of research jobs you might be able to get at a university.
  • The internships are open to people at literally any stage in their career: undergraduate students, recent graduates looking for experience, grad students or post-docs, people working towards or with an associates degree or some form of trade school, even people later in life looking for a chance to reboot their career or change industries.
  • While we’re most often looking to hire for technical positions such as mechanical, electrical, systems, or aerospace engineering, or physicists, this position is also open to anyone with an interest in space, who can convince us that we should hire you. That includes people with non-technical backgrounds in business, economics, law, even digital or fine arts, social sciences, etc.
  • We’ll typically try to offer at least two positions open per internship cycle. This may increase over time as we grow, but we’ll try to always have at least to slots people are competing for.
  • All interns will be assigned a full-time Altius employee as a mentor. They’ll help with providing feedback on work, making and following-up on assignments, and generally helping you get the most out of your internship.
  • The one limitation we have on who can apply is that since so much of what we’re doing is export controlled (either via ITAR or EAR), we currently can only offer internships to US citizens, green card holders, or other “US persons”. If you’re not a US Person, we can at least try to point you to other companies who don’t have the same restrictions.

More details on the program, including details on what we’re looking for in your application, and specific instructions on how to submit your application can be found on our internship page: here.

Free Tips and Advice

In addition to background and an overview of the program, I wanted to provide you with some application advice, both to spur creative juices, and hopefully to help avoid some comment mistakes we’ve seen.

  • Things we don’t care about: GPA. Standardized Test scores. Transcripts.
  • Things we do care about: Things that can help us see your ability to work through unstructured problems, that show your ability to synthesize what you’ve been learning in school outside of the classroom, things that show you have personal initiative, willing to make mistakes, and the ability to learn. The real world is messy, and engineering or business problems are rarely as clear cut as the examples in class. There are a wide range of things that can show your initiative and ability to solve problems, ranging from hobbies, research projects, side jobs, past work experience, etc. We care way more about those than we’ll ever care about grades. Show us you’re someone that loves learning, that has fun with creating things, that likes solving problems, and knows how to get help when you’re in over your head.
  • Just Read The Instructions: For internship cycles where we have a lot of applications, we may use how well people follow instructions as a weed-out filter. We may lose some good candidates that way, but some of the things we do are hazardous, so we’d prefer candidates who are conscientious about reading and following instructions.
  • It’s Less Busy in the Off Seasons: The traditional time for internships is during the summer months. Which also means that’s when you’re going to face the stiffest competition. Fall and Winter may mean that you have to take a semester off, but it’ll also mean that you can increase your odds of getting real world job experience. Especially if you’re coming from a non-engineering field, or from a non-traditional background, applying during one of the less popular cycles can improve your chances.
  • Internships Aren’t Just for the Young: It can often be hard to get a job in aerospace if you’ve already worked for a long-time outside of aerospace, especially if in a non-engineering position. One of the best “interns” we had during my time at Masten was in his mid-40s, and was looking to reboot his career and make the jump to aerospace. Having good aerospace experience on his resume made it possible for him to land a good job afterwards as an Air Force contractor helping run flight test operations for drones.
  • Part-Time Student Engineer Opportunities for Locals: In addition to the three full-time cycles mentioned above, we’ll often consider a part-time longer-term position for people living or studying locally. If you’re local, and interested in a part-time position during fall/winter in addition to applying for a full-time position, please let us know about your interest in the body of your email.
  • Portfolio Guidance: The point of the portfolio part of your application is to show us some of the things you’ve done. Pictures and videos can convey a lot more about what you’re able to do than just words on a resume. As mentioned before, while you can include stuff from class projects, the most powerful portfolio items are things that show personal initiative, and the ability to work through mess real-world problems. Here are a few specific examples I’ve seen over my years that helped convince me to hire people:
    • At Masten one of our first interns, showed off a trailer-towed trebuchet they had built with some friends in high-school. I think they also showed us some pictures of some custom mods they had made for their car.
    • Another Masten intern was big-time into cosplay. They could make costumes that looked almost as good as movie props.
    • One Altius intern had majored in digital fine arts. They used to build boats with their dad, and worked in the art department’s machine shop. They eventually got work for an artist who wanted to do animatronic art, and one of their pieces ended up in a famous art museum.
    • Research projects by their nature tend to have higher probabilities of failure, and require more creative problem solving, because you’re often trying something new. If you’ve been involved in research feel free to highlight it. Because you probably can’t fit a full paper in the page limit guidelines, a citation with a link to the paper, and some notes on what the paper is about, what you did, and what you learned (maybe with a picture or graph or something visual) would be really useful.
    • If you did something cool with your car, or at a maker space, or did some fun coding, or robotics projects, whatever. Just give us examples of stuff you’ve worked on that shows us what you’re capable of.
  • Coversheet Advice: The coversheet is where you try to sell us on why you’re excited to work with us, how you think you could contribute, and frankly why we should be excited to read the rest of your resume and invite you to interview with us.
    • You’re more likely to be able to convince us that we should interview you if you’ve done at least some homework on what we do, and put some thought into where you can fit in. It takes extra time, but it’s often easy for us to tell which candidates really care about the position vs ones where we’re just one company out of 20 they applied to.
    • Also, I’d advise against reusing cover letters for multiple companies. I’ve seen way too many times where people have copied and pasted cover letters together and accidentally left the wrong company’s name in, or something that doesn’t fit at all with the company. It takes extra time to write unique cover letters, but you’re way less likely to make such embarrassing mistakes. And as awesome as you may be it’s hard to unsee something like that once one of us has seen it.
  • Networking Helps: This is really hard in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse/Global Pandemic, but once things get back to something resembling normal, networking is one of the best things you can do for future internship opportunities. Try to talk with Altius people at conferences or other workshops. When you’re not just a random name but someone we’ve spoken with you’re both a) more likely to have been able to learn something specific about what we’re focused on and where you can fit in, and b) you’re also not just a random name, but someone we’ve had at least some interaction, which just by human nature increases your odds.
  • If You Don’t Ask the Answer Will Always Be No: Some of the best engineers (and even some of us startup CEOs) suffer from imposter syndrome. Don’t let fear of not being accepted keep you from trying. Trust me, there are a lot less qualified people than you who probably don’t share your fears. Submit anyway. And if you don’t get accepted, follow-up, and ask for feedback. We’ll try to be as helpful as we can. But we can’t help you if you don’t apply.
  • If In Doubt, Ask: If you’re confused at all about the application process or anything else, please ask. We probably won’t check the internships email address as frequently when we’re not in the middle of an open application period, but we’ll still try to check it periodically. It’s a lot better to ask what you think may be a dumb question than to make a dumb assumption.

Anyhow, that’s all of our advice for now, I may update this post with more advice if I can think of it. But good luck, we look forward to meeting and working with many of you in the coming years!

2 Responses