INTERVIEWS

I Believe Blockchain Has Huge Application Potential In Aerospace Industry

Juraj Zamecnik, Aerospace

He has loved the kerosine smell since he can remember. Following the passion of his father, he fell in love with the aerospace industry and never let go.

Though he believes in seeing the first man land on Mars in his life, he knows he’ll be too old to join the party. But potential several steps on the surface of Moon is one of the things that make him get up every morning and do his job as Airbus Executive Assistant Operations in Defense and Space.

To help tackle the challenges that lie ahead in the aerospace industry, he decided to support an aerospace blockchain project to increase the efficiency of the overall business concept in near future. 

Enter Juraj Zamecnik.

Juraj Zamecnik, Executive Assistant Operations Airbus Defence and Space
Juraj Zamecnik, Executive Assistant Operations Airbus Defence and Space

Firstly, an obvious question: will our generation see a man landing on Mars? Are you personally also working on making it happen?

I strongly believe that our generation will see the first human steps on Mars. I think mankind will land on this planet sometime between 2030-2035. Myself working at Airbus Defense and Space, we contribute for example to the NASA’s ORION mission by building the so-called Service Module or developing Europe’s next Mars rover called ExoMars Rover.

What makes you believe that? There are skeptics saying it’s just a lot of hype around.

NASA’s programs like ORION are building very concrete technological steps to achieve this by setting up a permanent presence on Lunar surface/orbit which is a clear precursor for flights to Mars.

Moreover, there is an apparent political competition especially from China – see the recent landing of their rover at the dark side of the Moon – and this will drive the political backing of space programs like in the 50s and 60s. There are also more commercial business opportunities based on space technologies – from space tourism (e.g. VirginGalactic) to potential space mining (e.g. recent signature of the research project by ArianeGroup).

If there was a chance, do you want to be one of the first people on Mars?

I think I will be too old for going to Mars. But I would go for a couple of Moon steps 🙂

You are the only Slovak in Airbus on such high position acting as an Executive Assistant Operations in Defense and Space. What does your daily job look like? What are your roles and responsibilities?

As a note, I’m not the only Slovak at such position. Slovakia shall be proud of having, for example, Zuzana Hrnkova as the Head of Marketing of ATR.

At my current job, I am responsible for leading the office of Head of Operations covering areas of Manufacturing, Procurement, Quality and Program management and improvement. It involves supporting the daily job of an Executive Vice President including leading executive management meetings, leading transversal projects, and supporting various strategic initiatives.

This seems like more of a managerial role than an engineering one, though. You started off as an engineer, correct?

That’s right, I have joined Airbus in 2013 working in systems engineering domain for the Airbus Commercial Aircraft division. Before that, I spent more than a year as a nuclear systems engineer at EDF (French electricity utility company) and earlier I graduated from the University of Manchester as an aerospace engineer.

Do you miss in part the engineering work or you are very well comfortable as a manager?

I like engineering but being in a managerial role in Operations you still have to take care of lots of technical issues affecting aircraft in the Final Assembly Line for example. So there are enough exciting technical challenges available 🙂

However, it is great to have the opportunity to see the big pictures from a company-wide perspective. This is something you miss when concentrating only on operational or engineering aspects.

The NASA’s ORION Mission Capsule including the European Service Module which is manufactured for the Eaurpean Space Agency by Airbus Defence and Space in the plant of Bremen. (Source: Airbus)
The NASA’s ORION Mission Capsule including the European Service Module which is manufactured for the European Space Agency by Airbus Defence and Space in the plant of Bremen. (Source: Airbus)

Boys dream of becoming cowboys, policemen, astronauts. Was that same with you but different in the way that you followed this childhood dream? When and how the final decision was made to become an aerospace engineer?

I always wanted to be an astronaut 🙂

The roots of my interest in aviation are within my family and, in particular, with my father who spent his career in Air Traffic Management area. I remember taking part at, at the time, very well attended airshows in Bratislava, seeing the fighter jets performing incredible maneuvers. And I still love the smell of kerosene 😀

The final decision to become an aerospace engineer came in 2007 when I decided to join the University of Manchester to study just that. I started my studies in Slovakia in the IT domain, but you don’t get the kerosine smell 😉

So what steered you away from the astronaut path?

I believe I’m still on that path 😀

You mentioned you started your studies in IT in Slovakia. At 21 you left Slovakia to pursue the aerospace engineering career. What did the journey up to your current position at Airbus look like? What were the key milestones?

I did one year of IT studies at STU in Bratislava and then left for a four-year aerospace engineering degree in Manchester. As part of my studies, I have spent one year at the ISAE-ENSMA engineering school in France which allowed me to approach the very traditional French aeronautical engineering community.

After that, as a matter of chance, I got a graduate job as a nuclear systems engineer in a perceivably unrelated domain,  but it actually provided me with very sound engineering experience. That allowed me to join Airbus in Hamburg in 2013.

I spent there more than 4 years working as a system engineer mainly on A330, A350 and a bit on the A320 aircraft types covering processes from system design, testing to aircraft in-service support. It was an exciting time full of learning experiences and with good proximity to the final aircraft product. It is great to see the system operating during a flight test.

After that, I thought I would like to expand my experience and get to know other areas of Airbus, so I joined Airbus Defense and Space in Operations in late 2017.

It’s been some time since 2013, yet do you remember the hiring process for your first position at Airbus? How difficult was it?

It was actually quite fun. First I got an automated email from the Airbus HR database system where I had my CV. I never believed that any corporation actually looks at it. But it turns out it does 🙂

I applied for the proposed job, answered a couple of HR questions over the phone and got invited to a 2-day assessment center in Hamburg. If nothing else, I thought, at least I get to see a new city – which is beautiful by the way. Together with other candidates (around 20), we went through multiple group exercises as well as individual interviews covering technical but mostly soft-skills. And one month later I got the offer. So it was quite straight forward.

I recommend everyone interested in pursuing an exciting aerospace career to search for the jobs published online – they’re actually real, and you can really get that job.

 Ilustration of three major products related to the three Airbus divisions. From left to right, the Airbus Helicopters H160, Airbus A350, Airbus A400M (Source: Airbus)
Illustration of three major products related to the three Airbus divisions. From left to right, the Airbus Helicopters H160, Airbus A350, Airbus A400M (Source: Airbus)

Let’s take a bigger picture now in regards to the aerospace industry. Please, correct me if I am wrong, but one of the greatest challenges it faces today is the robustness and inefficiency, as well as dependability on governments and their financing. Is that true? What are some other challenges?

It may be partially true for the defense sector as the customers are obviously governments who may require some conditions when awarding the defense contracts. Typically if a country orders a larger number of fighter jets, it imposes so-called offset program to the prime contractor to ensure some part of the value is invested in their own country to develop some strategic competencies or simply to decrease unemployment.

This is of course usually not the industrial optimum. It is clear that in Europe, the main challenge is to make sure that the European countries collaborate much more closely when developing new defense programs. We see such clear ambition being developed between France and Germany for instance.

Recently, you have co-founded a project based on blockchain technology aiming at higher efficiency in the aerospace industry called 3IPK. Why blockchain and what is the main goal with the project?

Yes, I have decided to support the 3IPK aerospace blockchain project as I have been fascinated by the principles and industrial opportunities of blockchain technology once I understood what it actually is 😀

I believe blockchain has huge application potential in the aerospace industry which is characterized by very deep supply chains, complicated and demanding processes (necessary to ensure safety) which all generate substantial overhead costs.

As the competition in the aerospace and aviation industry is getting fiercer, there will be high pressure on increasing the efficiency of the overall business concept in the near future. Transparency, data security, and traceability will become key elements. And I understand blockchain offers just exactly that 🙂

What stage is 3IPK at?

3IPK has developed a functional demonstrator, and I’m excited to see when the team implements the first industrial proof-of-concept solution for one of the customers.

I hope that the 3IPK project which based on Bratislava will also partner with Slovak industry to bring this cutting-edge technology to the forefront demonstrating that good ideas with potentially wide industrial impact can come out also from the Slovak startup ecosystem.

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