Advert. no. 2023_0069
Working at ESO

Are you interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment? Do you feel your profile matches our requirements? Learn more about our current vacancies and apply online. Read more..

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries.


ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor (home to ALMA and APEX), and the ESO Headquarters are located in Garching, near Munich, Germany.


At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory, and will host and operate the southern array of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, the world's largest and most sensitive high energy gamma-ray observatory. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, ESO is currently building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory.


For the design, manufacturing, installation, corrective maintenance, upgrade and operations support of these world-leading astronomical facilities, ESO requires outstanding engineering services, solutions, consultancy and support. To lead this vital service for the organisation, ESO is advertising for its Directorate of Engineering (DOE) at its Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany, the key position of:

Director of Engineering


Vacancy closed on 11/02/2024

Deadline 11/02/2024

Reporting to the Director General, the Director of Engineering is responsible for providing engineering resources, services, solutions and standards that satisfy the needs of the various organisational Programmes. In addition, you will be responsible for the oversight of the delivery of Information Technology services to the whole organisation.

You will be responsible for leading a multi-disciplinary team (currently 250 staff) of engineers, technicians and support staff, who provide the critical engineering effort and consultancy, through a matrix system, to ESO's Programmes and activities, aiming at designing, developing and operating ESO's world-leading telescopes and instruments, as well as defining the engineering standards for the entire organisation.

Your main business partners will be the Director of Programmes for the ELT construction Programme and the Instrumentation and Technology Development Programmes, the Director of Operations for corrective maintenance support of ESO's observatories, the Paranal Integrated Operations Programme, ALMA software and Operations software development, and the Director of Administration for the development of quality and information systems.

In your wider responsibility as one of ESO's senior managers you will contribute to the organisation's strategy and planning as part of the ESO Directors Team. You will also actively connect with your peers in ESO Member States and partner organisations to increase engagement in engineering areas.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Ensures the provision of engineering effort, services and solutions for the organisation's Programmes and activities, critically analysing the required engineering resources, and planning accordingly.
  • Defines, communicates and updates as needed the engineering standards that the organisation needs to maintain for the sustainable development and operation of its projects. In consultation with the Programme Managers, formulates ESO-wide systems engineering strategies.
  • Curates, organises and produces ESO standard engineering products.
  • Provides effective leadership of the engineering staff using a motivational and developmental approach.
  • Supports R&D activities of the engineering staff, both as a development tool as well as seeds for future technological developments;
  • Runs engineering studentship and fellowship programmes, aiming at reinforcing links with the Member States and partner Institutions, as well as making ESO an attractive employer for engineers.
  • Maintains and develops the Engineering laboratories and workshops at the ESO Headquarters.
  • Regularly reviews the current and future engineering needs and skills of the organisation, especially in view of existing and future Programmes, and develops strategies and plans to maintain ESO's engineering competencies.
  • Provides IT services to the entire organisation, operating and developing the IT infrastructure and delivering technical user support.
  • Formulates, oversees and updates cybersecurity strategy and planning and is responsible for their implementation.
  • Supports international relations activities and represents ESO in international forums of technical scope.
  • As part of the Directors Team, contributes to the development of ESO-wide organisational strategies, plans and policies, and takes a leading role on those related to engineering and IT aspects.

This role reports to:

The Director General.

Key Competences and Experience:

Essential competences and experience include:

  • Demonstrated extensive experience in managing engineering staff, preferably of multi-disciplinary nature (e.g., in optical, software, mechanical, electric/electronics, systems engineering, IT, etc);
  • Excellent leadership qualities and in particular people management skills, with an ability to inspire and develop staff at all levels;
  • Proven successful technical expertise in one or more engineering disciplines (including IT), as part of technically complex project development;
  • Demonstrable ability to establish and maintain constructive collaborations with peers and partner teams;
  • Political intelligence and influence, excellent interpersonal, communication and negotiation skills both with peers as well as with reporting colleagues in an international environment;
  • Evidence of delivering tasks to required standards on time, and optimising resources (people and budget);
  • Strategic mid- and long- term thinker, able to embrace the big picture and constructively suggest improvements that create positive change.

Desirable competences and experience, which are not mandatory but considered an asset:

  • Experience in similar roles in organisations developing or operating Research Infrastructures;
  • Management of project engineering resources in a matrixed organisation;
  • Experience of working in a multi-cultural and international context.

Education & Qualifications:

Master's degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, or bachelor's degree plus another technical qualification or bachelor's degree and equivalent practical experience.

Evidence of continuing professional development, e.g in leadership or management, will be an asset.

Language Skills:

The position requires an excellent command of the English language, both oral and written.

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary, comprehensive pension scheme and medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family.

Our Salary Structure

ESO's salary structure is based upon a range of career paths which reflect the nature and level of our jobs. Each career path is made up of two or three grades which are used to further reflect experience. Please follow this attached link for more details

ESO aims to support members of personnel in maintaining a good work-life balance ( between their professional and private life.

ESO is also committed to offering family-friendly support (, creating a work environment and policies which allow staff to balance their professional and private responsibilities through flexible and mobile working arrangements and financial support for families.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years and is subject to successful completion of a probation period. An appointment is furthermore offered subject to formal approval by ESO Council. There may be a possibility of extension(s) of this contract subject to individual performance, organisational requirements, and approval by Council, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For any further information, please visit ESO's conditions of employment ( Please note that the contract policy and in particular the regulations concerning fixed-term and indefinite contracts are currently under review which may lead to changes in the contractual conditions applicable to this position.

Duty Station:

Garching near Munich, Germany with regular trips expected to the ESO sites in Chile.

Career Path:

The Career Path applicable to Directors is Career Path VII, which covers three grades.


If you meet our criteria and are interested in working in areas of frontline science and technology and in a stimulating international environment, please visit for further details.

Applicants are invited to apply online at

Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and full Curriculum Vitae (CV). Also required are the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your work and willing to provide a reference letter upon request. Referees will not be approached without your consent.

If you want to know more practical details about the job, you can contact ESO's Director of Operations Andreas Kaufer, through

The deadline for applications is 11 February 2024.

Panel Interviews for shortlisted candidates are expected to be held around April/May 2024 in Garching near Munich. Applicants may be required to participate in assessment activities as part of the selection process.

The successful candidate is expected to formally take up office on 1 January 2025. To facilitate a hand-over from the current Director of Engineering, it is highly desirable that the successful candidate could start working at ESO 2-3 months before.

ESO Values

An important element in any successful employment relationship is harmony in values between an organisation and its people.

The ESO Values are:

ESO strives for excellence through innovation.

ESO provides outstanding services to its communities.

ESO fosters diversity & inclusion.

ESO believes in the key role of sustainability for its future.

Achieving the above are recognized as only possible on the basis of personal values and attitudes that we expect from our employees: respect, integrity, accountability, commitment, collaboration, and clear & open communication.

Applicants to any ESO role are asked to reflect on their affinity with these values and advised they may be asked about them if called for interview.


ESO has established diversity as an important value of the Organisation, is committed to providing an equal opportunities environment and is actively seeking to promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Please visit for further details.


No nationality is in principle excluded from employment at ESO, however, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of our Member States, host states and strategic partners: Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Chile, irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

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