Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager (10217)

At the SKAO we are coordinating a global effort to deliver one of the largest science facilities on the planet. The SKAO telescopes will be next-generation instruments that will help to answer key questions in astrophysics, drive technological innovation and support human capital development. 

More than a dozen partner countries and over a thousand scientists and engineers around the world are already on board, making the SKA project an international collaboration like no other, and one of the most ambitious science and engineering endeavours of the 21st century.

Headquartered in the UK, with telescope sites in Australia and South Africa, the SKAO will be one observatory operating two telescopes, an endeavour spanning three continents. Multinational by design, in early 2021 the SKAO became an intergovernmental organisation, one of only a select handful of science infrastructures to do so worldwide.

Our Global HQ is located near the buzzing city of Manchester at the historic Jodrell Bank Observatory, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Cheshire countryside. It is home to a rapidly expanding international team of more than a hundred, working in a highly collaborative and inclusive way, in coordination with SKAO teams in Australia and South Africa as part of a global astronomy and engineering community.

Being part of Team SKA means contributing to something extraordinary: a uniquely exciting project to advance human knowledge that will last for decades. In return, we offer a diverse multicultural working environment, 30 days annual leave plus public holidays, a generous pension scheme, visa and support with relocation (if applicable), regular social events, a family-friendly environment and much more. Come and join us!

Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager

An amazing opportunity for a talented and motivated Product Manager to support and guide the data processing software development for the construction of one of the largest science facilities on the planet.

Job Location
Cheshire, UK (Head Office)
Area / Department
Telescope Operations
Contract Type
GBP 50,000 - 60,000 pa depending on experience
Closing Date
Ref No

The Role

For managing the software development of the project, SKAO has adopted the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) for Lean-Agile development processes. The Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager will represent the interests and priorities of the SKA Operations team for the construction and operation of the SKA Telescopes. They will be responsible for ensuring that the SAFe® teams deliver value to the Observatory and its users by specifying and prioritising features and capabilities, as well as developing and maintaining the roadmap for data processing software products.

The Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager will be responsible for coordinating with stakeholders and development teams to define work and assess and accept work when it is complete. As such, the Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager will need to understand software development practices and technology.

The Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager will also be an expert focal point for the development teams, providing expertise and guidance to those teams in the domain of high-performance data processing software. The role, therefore, calls for an organised person who understands and/or is able to quickly acquire system knowledge of radio astronomy telescopes and their operation.

As a large and globally distributed project, the software is being developed by multiple teams across different time zones, and the Operations Scientist / SAFe® Product Manager will be working with development teams based in the UK, The Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

SKAO is committed to providing a flexible working environment meeting the requests of our Colleagues whilst also fulfilling the needs and objectives of the Observatory. We encourage open conversations during the interview and application process in relation to any specific requirements, and later with line managers to assess individual flexible working arrangements alongside the needs of the organisation and responsibilities and accountabilities of the specific role and team.
There may be occasions where this role requires the post holder to work across different time zones and, in line with SKAO policy, flexible working hours will be supported in agreement with the line manager.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

As a member of the Software Product Management team working with key internal and external SKAO stakeholders, the post holder will:

  • Work as part of the Data Processing Program Team delivering the data processing software products, in coordination with the larger software solution and the delivery of the SKA Telescopes. 
  • Collaborate with the Data Processing Software Architect and the Data Processing Release Train Engineer in managing the activities of the data processing agile release train. 
  • Contribute to the Product Management Team in the development and communication of the vision and roadmap for the SKA Observatory’s software development programme to all relevant stakeholders.
  • Contribute to the Operations group, engaging with the Science Operations and Data Operations teams to understand their priorities in the development of the roadmap.
  • Develop Features aligned with the vision and roadmap captured and managed in the Program Backlog.
  • Engage with the teams to define Backlog items. Clarify Backlog items and confirm their understanding within the development teams.
  • Define acceptance criteria for the work under their ownership and be responsible for accepting the results of the work carried out.
  • Be an expert stakeholder for the development teams with respect to issues regarding data processing software and systems.
  • Attend SAFe® Program Increment (PI) planning meetings (every 3 months) to prioritize and plan future work and report on work carried out.

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Postgraduate qualification in Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science or a closely related and relevant field, or equivalent experience in a professional scientific operational capacity.
  • Demonstrable understanding of radio astronomy data processing software techniques.
  • Experience in a similar role managing software development activities in a scientific environment, preferably in a (radio) astronomy setting, or equivalent.
  • Ability to resolve multifaceted and complex problems, develop coherent solutions and manage workloads and targets in a dynamic and collaborative environment.
  • Understanding of Agile processes, including the importance of customer focus and the minimisation of waste in business processes.
  • Ability to build effective working relationships and influence engineers and scientists from a variety of cultures.

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Experience in developing high-performance and memory-intensive software systems.
  • Agile certification (Scaled Agile Program Consultant, BCS Agile Practitioner certification, or similar).
  • Understanding of DevOps processes.
  • Project management experience in a software development environment.
  • Ability and willingness to occasionally travel nationally and internationally as required.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion Statement

SKA Observatory recognises that our diversity is a strength. We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong, and diverse perspectives and ideas thrive. As such, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are at the core of SKA Observatory’s agenda.

Our aim is to recruit and retain the most talented individuals, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, nationality or background.

Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and engineering; SKA Observatory welcomes and encourages female applicants. 

Where applicants with a disability need facilities or adjustments to enable them to participate in the recruitment process, these will be provided.

SKA Observatory welcome all candidates, especially those from member countries.

The “How to Apply” information contained within the SKA Observatory recruitment portal provides more detail regarding our application and selection approach.