ValiPeople | Toni Engelhardt

Andy Richards


Toni & Andy on Gather

Welcome to ValiPeople, a series that explores the thoughts and views of Valispacers and takes a deeper look at the people behind the product. We’ll post regular conversations based around a standard set of questions that asks different team members about work life and about, well, life in general.

This month, Andy from the marketing team spoke to Toni Engelhardt, a software engineer who was one of the first ever employees at Valispace.

Tell me a bit about yourself. 

So, I’m Toni, I’m German and I’m 33 years old. I studied in Munich and I have a background in space tech and physics. I came to Lisbon around four years ago after some detours in Hawaii and Australia. After graduating a master’s in Space Science and Technology, whilst looking for interesting things I started freelancing for a startup in Munich and built platforms for different industries and projects like connected health, automotive, social networking and this kind of stuff. I’m not only super into space tech, I’m interested in any kind of cutting edge tech. 

When did you join Valispace and why?

There was a space tech conference organised in Berlin so I went to their website, noticed Valispace and got in touch with Marco and it seemed my profile matched perfectly in terms of what they were looking for. I met the founders (Louise, Marco and Simon) in Berlin for a weekend four years ago to meet and do some coding challenges. After the meeting, I told them if they do it in Berlin or Lisbon, I’ll join, but if they do it In Bremen or Kent then they’d have to keep looking!

To be radically honest, I also moved here to shred some waves here in Lisbon! Valispace was a really good match because I was looking for a place where I can go to the ocean and surf, use the software skills that I have and also come back to space tech. Valispace offered a chance to do all three.

What has your experience of working remotely been like?

For me, it’s amazing, remote working has been really great. So instead of commuting for 20 minutes I’ll take walks right after work with my girlfriend. Even on lunch breaks sometimes I’ll take a walk to the river. It’s really nice to just get up, make a coffee and use the focus time in the morning to get some things done.

I think it would be way more boring or lonely if you were to work by yourself but there are two of us here and we have a lot of light and a lot of plants so it’s super nice. Also, I don’t feel very disconnected from the team. I mean, maybe I don’t interact with random people from other departments in the company, but the people I work with directly, I interact with a lot on Gather (our virtual office).

I’m more happy right now with the remote situation than being in the office. I think it’s easier to get focused because if you’re really busy and need to be focused on something, you can delay interactions with people until you are ready. 


Quickfire Quarantine Quiz

Do you wake up in plenty of time or 5 mins before work?

I start working when I wake up. It’s very important to get good sleep and it impacts our performance a lot so I try to wake up naturally without an alarm. I wake up when I wake up and that’s when I start working. 

Pyjamas all day or shower and dressed? 

It depends, it changes every day. Some days, I wake up and feel like having a shower and starting fresh. Other days, I feel like just working so I’ll just put on some clothes and shower in the lunch break. It’s completely random. 

How many coffees a day?

Two to three, I don’t drink more. I’m a super slow drinker, it will take me all morning to finish two coffees and then the entire afternoon to finish another. The max I drink is four. 

Cook more or takeaway more?

I have to say, at the moment it’s more takeaway. For lunch I always get takeaway at the mobile canteen that used to deliver to us in the old office. I’m trying to cook more, but sometimes I can get a bit lazy with it (and during quarantine it was even worse)

Work with music or silence? 

Always music. I need super meditative music so I listen to monotonal electronic music. I go to Google music and they usually have this playlist that they suggest based on what you listen to. 

Do you have a favourite thing about working at Valispace?

It’s more or less two things. The flexibility is great in that you can basically go according to your own schedule. I also really like that Valispace is used for really amazing projects that just make life better. 

How does it feel to make something that rocket scientists work on?

It’s like the only thing I can actually imagine working on. It’s fun, right? I also sometimes do some freelance projects on the side and I have never done projects that were just kind of…boring!? Like I would never work on an ecommerce project or something like that.

For me, whatever you are working on has to be fascinating. In these modern times I think there’s a lot of smart people that go to work in fintech or something that’s not really making the entirety of humanity better, right? People just try to make some money out of their skills. But I think it’s always important to do something that’s really cool, fascinating and that helps everyone. At Valispace, it’s good to see that people use the software to build satellites and develop the next generation of some kind of tech. 

Do you have an engineering background? Was it hard to relate to the end user when you first joined?

I did a bachelors in applied physics so I would say it’s more science background than engineering. I don’t think it helped me relate to the end user so much though. I understand the pains they face but I think most of the problems that we solve for them, you would only experience if you worked on them.

I have built actual hardware before so I know how it works from the entire design of a product. It was a measurement device to test photosensors, like a box that was testing super sensitive light sensors. I was there throughout the entire process from designing the thing and then interacting with electronics guys, mechanical guys etc to build the parts and assemble everything. So, I basically understood the product design flow on a small scale and I can empathise with engineers, but the people that use Valispace, they are dealing with thousands or hundreds of thousands of requirements, not like 20 or 100! 

The only thing you should probably have is some curiosity about engineering itself and technology. But, at least in the beginning, you don’t really need to understand how engineering flow works to be able to deliver value.
Toni on tips for developers wanting to work at Valispace 

Being a developer here means that lots of engineers need to be able to trust completely in the code that you write. Mistakes could have disastrous consequences. Does this change your way of working in any way?

I don’t think so. I mean, you think it would but the problem that these companies have is so severe that they put trust in new software that isn’t fully established yet. Instead of being worried about the software breaking, I think for us it’s more critical at the moment to really make sure that whatever customers try to do, that it’s possible with the software.

The customers will push the software to the edge, and that’s where we start fixing or optimizing. I think Valispace is walking this middle road where we try to deliver as much value and at the same time being as reliable and safe as possible. 

Tips for anyone that would like to join Valispace as a developer? (What about if they have no technical engineering experience)

I think if you don’t have a background in engineering, it’s not a big problem. From what I’ve seen, most people that work in software don’t actually have a background in engineering. I think if you can understand software engineering (which is one of the most complex things you can do at the moment) then you probably also have the right understanding of logic to understand what engineers do.

The only thing you should probably have is some curiosity about engineering itself and technology. But, at least in the beginning, you don’t really need to understand how engineering flow works to be able to deliver value.  

Finally, how do you switch off? 

It’s going to the beach and going surfing. I especially like to go in the off-season, like anywhere between autumn and spring. In the winter it’s nice to crack a few beers, surf a bit, have some good seafood and enjoy the sun.

I like hanging out in the parks here too but I feel that in the summer when there’s not a lot of swell in the ocean, I can definitely feel my stress levels build up. But if I get into the water like once or twice a week, then there’s really nothing that can stress me. Surfing is my way of balancing meditation, exercise and relaxation. 


Are you a software developer and curious to see how your code can help empower engineers to build the next generation of hardware and tech? Visit and send a spontaneous application today. 

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