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How my engineering pathway courses helped me land a job at SpaceX

Published January 24, 2024

When Conor Cimo was at John Hersey High School, he never really knew just how far his engineering pathway courses would take him. Turns out, they took him all the way to space. 

Well… Sorta…

A 2014 JHHS graduate, Cimo is now a propulsion engineer at SpaceX. He recently reflected on how his time as a Husky helped him land a job at the company on the cutting edge of space technology.

“I was fortunate enough during my time there to take some engineering pathway courses for three of my four years,” Cimo said. “And those courses really gave me a really strong foundation that I then took into college, where I was able to build upon and eventually landed me a job at SpaceX, where I currently am one of the propulsion engineers in charge of sending the Dragon spacecraft to space.”

Cimo credits his engineering instructor, David Wietrzak, with instilling in him many of the fundamentals essential to working as an engineer.

“One of the things that I really appreciated from what Mr. Wietrzak taught us at Hersey was you work as a team,” Cimo said. “And especially as you go into college and definitely in the industry, you’re not accomplishing these things all alone. You have to be able to work with other people and to bounce ideas off of other people so the best idea can win or there’s a general good consensus moving forward with the project.”

Now many years removed from Hersey and several projects later, Cimo still finds himself relying on the same fundamental principles he absorbed in those pathway courses all those years ago, “The challenges are different, the people are different… We’re older (laughs). We’re still doing the same things we did at Hersey. We’re sitting in a circle, and we’re bouncing ideas off each other, and we’re trying to have a space where everybody can be heard so that you can get really good input and get the best thing possible.”

Although he learned a lot of skills from these courses that allowed him to succeed, this was not the only reason he was able to make it to SpaceX. He also emphasized the importance of sticking to what you love to do and recommended current high school students keep this in mind as they look to their future.

“Stick with it, it’s a great time, enjoy the ride,” Cimo said. “Whatever you end up doing, just make sure you’re putting your happiness and excitement first and you’ll get to do some awesome stuff with some awesome people.”

Conor Cimo poses with a student-built test rocket while studying at the University of Southern California.