By Sharyar Memon and  Ahmed Ahmed

Ryan Kortbeek is currently in the final year of his software engineering co-op undergraduate degree and is the Ground Station Software team lead at AlbertaSat. Ryan’s passion for space goes back to his childhood and stems from a visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The visit inspired an interest in how spacecrafts are designed and engineered to achieve such power and durability. Upon hearing about AlbertaSat during his 2nd year at the University of Alberta and eventually joining in 2019, Ryan saw a great opportunity to get involved, explore his passion for space, and contribute to the creation of a cubesat. As the Ground Station Software team lead, Ryan drafts requirements and specifications for the software required, manages the team members, maintains a product backlog, writes code, and participates in other development activities such as code reviews. Ryan spends around 3-6 hours per week performing these duties. Prior to becoming a team lead, he was a member of the Software team. In this role, Ryan contributed to a codebase for the UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) transceiver as well as ground station software. 

Ryan’s favourite memories of AlbertaSat do not involve any technical milestones. Instead, his favourite memories are the in-person meetings he attended prior to the pandemic. “They’re a great way to see the collaboration required to design and build a satellite in action!” He says the energy present in those meetings was always memorable and he is looking forward to things getting back to normal.

Ryan’s future goals include working as a software engineer for an aerospace, fintech, or biotech company, and possibly returning to school for an MBA or other graduate work. Ryan’s time with AlbertaSat has given him the opportunity to develop the problem solving skills that he hopes will prove useful in attaining those future plans. “Beginning a new task can be scary, especially when you have little experience in the area” he recalls from his early days with AlbertaSat, but Ryan is glad that he experienced the initial learning curve, as it gave him the opportunity to learn effective problem solving strategies as well as the value of collaboration. Ryan’s time with the team has also exposed him to the software development life cycle and the ability of (agile) methodologies to help stay organized and meet deadlines. Ryan’s experience with AlbertaSat has already helped him in the pursuit of his goals, specifically during the interview process for co-op positions. He remembers connecting with an interviewer from Huawei who had previously worked in the space industry – “the shared interest definitely didn’t hurt my chances!” Ryan impressed the interviewer and landed the internship, an outstanding feat, considering it was his first software engineering related co-op. In general, Ryan has found that the experience he has gained from AlbertaSat has gone a long way with potential employers. “Potential employers have emphasized the value of relevant extra-curricular activities such as AlbertaSat,” Ryan states. He is currently working as a Software Developer Student with PCL where he is utilising some of the skills he developed as a result of his experience with AlbertaSat.

When asked what advice he would give to new (and old) volunteers at AlbertaSat, Ryan reassured that help is always available from other team members and to not get discouraged if a task seems particularly difficult or overwhelming at first. Ryan draws this advice from the challenges he experienced during his time with AlbertaSat. Ryan recalled that when he first joined, gaining familiarity with the programming technologies, methodologies, and tools such as logic analyzers, that the Software team used, proved to be a steep learning curve. However, with support from other team members and by putting the time in, he found it was well worth it. 

Over the summer, Ryan plans on vacationing in Kelowna and Vancouver, along with some water skiing and windsurfing out at Sylvan Lake! When he is not going on adventures or writing cool pieces of code, Ryan enjoys pretty much all things active such as golf, windsurfing, and volleyball. Among his favourite TV shows are The Office and Game of Thrones. For the programming nerds out there (probably all the readers), Ryan loves Rust and is not too fond of Matlab due to its 1-based indexing (among other reasons). He found Rust’s strict compiler to be painful at first but once you get familiar with it, it makes life much easier.

Thank you Ryan for all the amazing work you have done so far for AlbertaSat! We expect you will one day play a pivotal role in the Canadian space industry as a software engineer.