W. M. Keck Observatory


Under the general supervision of the Operations Engineering Manager, the Senior Maintenance Engineer is responsible for leading the maintenance program for observatory facilities and infrastructure. 

Essential Functions

  • Lead the overall maintenance strategies and procedures for the observatory summit facilities, including but not limited to:
    • Ensuring that engineering best practices and the principles of reliability centered maintenance are used to monitor and plan maintenance.
    • Tracking faults and adjusting maintenance procedures and schedules accordingly.
    • Overseeing creation and documentation of new maintenance procedures as necessary.
    • Optimizing resource utilization for maintenance efforts.
    • Overseeing the retention and work of contracted maintenance effort where appropriate and necessary.
    • Developing metrics for the long term analysis of maintenance performance and strategies, maintaining records of these metrics and planning accordingly.
    • Performing statistical analyses of maintenance work as it relates to downtime, costs, failure modes, risks, etc.
    • Overseeing regular facility audits.
  • Partner with other observatory engineers to develop and maintain a facility wide risk matrix.
  • Work with observatory safety and supervisory staff to ensure maintenance tasks comply with health and safety regulations and overall observatory Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) culture. Read, understand and comply with all regularity procedures and facility safety programs.
  • Coordinate with technician supervisors to plan appropriate training for staff performing maintenance.
  • Lead, and participate with, other observatory personnel to ensure that the software used for planning and tracking maintenance tasks is reliable, capable, and performing as intended.
  • Bring enhanced engineering, scheduling, and project management principles to observatory efforts for auditing, sparing, upgrading, and replacing infrastructure.
  • Lead observatory efforts to perform via 5S or a similar system for maintaining facility order.

 Additional Responsibilities

  • Keep supervisor informed of progress, problems and concerns; provide status reports as required.
  • Drive WMKO vehicles as necessary to transport employees to and from the summit in a safe manner.
  • Perform other duties consistent with the scope of the position.

 Required Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science in Industrial, Mechanical, Manufacturing, or Electrical Engineering.
  • Three (3) years' relevant work experience in a scientific or technical operations work environment or three (3) years' relevant experience in an industrial environment with large machinery, including experience managing a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system.

 Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience working at an astronomical observatory.
  • Five (5) years' relevant work experience in a scientific or technical operations work environment or five (5) years' relevant experience in an industrial environment with large machinery such as:
    • Electrical drive systems.
    • Rotating machinery.
    • Dynamic structures.
    • Hydraulic systems.
    • Pneumatic systems.
    • Chillers, HVAC, or cryogenic coolant systems.
    • Lifting equipment.
    • Large optics.
    • Scientific instrumentation.
  • Experience writing and maintaining standard operating procedures.
  • Familiarity with complex and sensitive equipment.


  • Microsoft Office Proficiency.
  • Able to convey results and recommendations through clear technical writing and oral presentation
  • Experience performing failure mode and effects analyses (FMEAs) and hazard mitigation.
  • Experience managing industrial and automation safety systems.
  • Motivated, self-starter who can manage multiple projects and priorities within a fast paced environment.
  • Adept at troubleshooting and diagnosing problems with mechanical equipment with the ability to apply a resolution in a timely manner
  • Solve practical problems, clearly communicate tasks and needs, identify training for personnel
  • Capable of writing operating procedures, work requests, written records, etc.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of all facets of a technical operations work environment or an industrial environment with large machinery.

Certificates and Licenses

  • Valid driver's license and clean abstract.


To perform the job successfully, an individual should demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Communication: Ability to communicate effectively and concisely at all levels.
  • Interpersonal skills: Ability to build collaborative, effective relationships with staff.
  • Professionalism: Approaches others in a tactful manner; reacts well under pressure; treats others with respect and consideration; accepts responsibility for own actions; follows through on commitments.

 Other Requirements

  • Willingness to commit to WMKO core values: Safety, Integrity, Respect, Discovery and Service.
  • Willingness to commit to WMKO cultural values: Education/Learning, Communication, Teamwork, Rewarding Work Environment, Excellence, Community Involvement.
  • Willingness and ability to occasionally work nights and weekends.
  • Ability to pass a high altitude physical.
  • Ability to work at the Observatory (14,000 feet elevations).
  • Ability to work in a constant state of alertness

Physical Demands

These physical demands are representative of the physical requirements necessary for an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the physical demands that may be required.

  • Sit: Remain in the seated position.
  • Talk: Express or exchange ideas by means of the spoken word to impart oral information to clients or to the public and to convey detailed spoken instructions to other workers accurately, loudly, or quickly.
  • Vision: Color vision - Ability to identify and distinguish colors.
  • Hear: Perceive the nature of sounds at normal speaking levels with or without correction, and having the ability to receive detailed information though oral communication, and making fine discriminations in sound.
  • Stand: Remain on one's feet in an upright position at a workstation without moving about.
  • Walk: Move about on foot.
  • Lift: Raise or lower an object from one level to another (includes upward pulling) up to 75 pounds.
  • Carry: Transport an object, usually holding it in the hands or arms, or on the shoulder.
  • Push: Exert force upon an object so that the object moves away from the force (Includes slapping, striking, kicking and treadle actions).
  • Pull: Exert force upon an object so that the object moves toward the force (includes jerking).
  • Climb: Ascend or descend ladders, stairs, scaffolding, ramps, poles using feet and legs or hands and arms. Body agility is emphasized.
  • Balance: Maintain body equilibrium to prevent falling when walking, standing, crouching, or running on narrow, slippery, or erratically moving surfaces.
  • Stoop: Bend body downward and forward by bending spine at the waist, requiring full use of the lower extremities and back muscles.
  • Handle: Seize, hold, grasp, turn, or otherwise working with hand or hands. Fingers are involved only to the extent that they are an extension of the hand, such as to turn a switch or shift automobile gears.

Work Environment

This job operates in a professional office environment.  This role may use standard office equipment such as computers, telephones, photocopiers, filing cabinets and fax machines.

Environmental Conditions

These environmental conditions are representative of what an employee will encounter while performing the essential functions of the job. This is not a complete list of the environmental conditions that may be encountered.

  • Exposure to weather: Subject to extreme cold. Temperatures can be below 32 degrees for periods of more than one hour.  Consideration should be given to the effect of other environmental conditions such as wind and humidity.
  • Subject to Noise: There is sufficient noise to cause the worker to shout in order to be heard above the ambient noise level.
  • Subject to Hazards: Moving mechanical parts.
  • Subject to constrained spaces: Required to function in narrow aisles or passageways.

The above information on this job description has been designed to indicate the general nature and level of work performed by an employee in this classification.  It is not to be interpreted as a comprehensive inventory, or all duties, responsibilities, and qualifications of employees assigned to this job.  Management has the right to add to, revise, or delete information in this description.  Reasonable accommodations will be made to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of this position.

W. M. Keck Observatory
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