Anna-Lena Schell


Anna-Lena Schell


Instrumentation Engineer


Rocket Lab (New Zealand)




Technology and Bionics


Biomaterials Science (B.Sc.)

Date of the interview

July 2017 


You’re currently working as an Instrumentation Engineer at the company Rocket Lab in New Zealand. Tell me about your path you took to this career after graduation.

After graduating at Rhein-Waal I did a Research Masters at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute in New Zealand. A Research Masters takes one year and can be described as a miniature version of a PhD. My Masters was about developing a new medical device for improving women’s health. After finishing my Masters, I worked as a research assistant before taking a break to travel the world. I returned to New Zealand and started a job at Rocket Lab where I can use and upgrade the skills I learned at university.

Please describe your typical workday.

Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities for small satelites to low Earth orbit. It is an extremely busy and fast-pace company. I am one of the 20 avionics engineers and particularly responsible for the design, manufacture, calibration, and installation of the sensors on the rocket. This means that I spend a lot of time in the workshop and that I am interacting with lots of different teams within and outside the company.

What do you like most about your job?

My job is challenging, but allows me to work on one of the coolest projects there is with the most intelligent, capable, and passionate people in the country. I particularly enjoy the diversity of my job, the responsibility I take, and the opportunities to grow! And to be honest, the feeling of successfully launching a rocket is beyond description.

Do you plan on staying in New Zealand permanently?

My partner and I would like to experience working and living in a few different countries, but we think that New Zealand would be the perfect place to settle down and start a family – it’s a very beautiful and peaceful place.

Which important skills for this position did you acquire during/because of your studies?

Studying engineering at university set me up with a good skill-set. However, the most important thing I learned at university was to think for myself. No matter what you will do after university it will be a big advantage to know how to approach and solve a problem.

What would you recommend to our students who want to best prepare themselves for a career after graduation?

I would recommend them to be open minded! Do not only search for jobs in the field you graduated in! Moreover, gain as much practical experience as you can, since you will learn most things on the job. In my experience, employers want to see that you are capable to learn and that you are passionate about what you do – try to bring that across! And lastly, do not give up once you received some rejections. It happens to everyone! Stay positive! Dream big and work hard for it! The world is your oyster!

When I think back to my time as a student at Rhine-Waal University, I remember…

…all the different people I got to know and all the things we did together. How we had to evacuate the laboratory several times, did not understand anything except “boundary conditions” in “IT-Programming”, and celebrated each end of term. I think it was a very good time!