SKA-Mid Telescope Director (10109)

At SKAO, we’re coordinating a global effort to deliver the largest science facility on the planet. The SKA will be a next-generation radio telescope 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 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, it will be one observatory, operating two telescopes, an endeavour spanning three continents. Multinational by design, SKAO will soon join only a handful of other science infrastructures in becoming an intergovernmental organisation.

Preparation by the SKA member countries to establish the SKA Observatory as an Inter-Governmental Organisation is well advanced; the SKA Observatory is expected to be established by early in 2021 and construction of SKA-Low in Western Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa is expected to begin later that year. The start of the ramp up of SKA Operations staff in Australia and in South Africa will also begin in 2021, and the transition of the observatory from the Construction Phase to the Operations Phase is planned for 2028.

SKA Operations in South Africa will be conducted in partnership with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). SKA Operations in Australia will be conducted in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The Observatory will also partner closely with a global network of SKA Regional Centres through which SKA users will access science data products and a suite of tools and resources to further analyse SKA data.

For more information on the SKA project visit (

The SKA Observatory offers a competitive salary and a generous pension and benefits package. As an employee of an Inter-Governmental Organisation, an appointee who is not a national of the country in which the role is based may be subject to personal Privileges and Immunities.

SKA-Mid Telescope Director

A unique opportunity for an inclusive and collaborative leader with a record of success in a high tech environment, to establish operations in South Africa for a complex, sizeable and ground-breaking scientific facility.

Job Location
South Africa with frequent international travel
Area / Department
Telescope Operations
Contract Type
Competitive salary with generous benefits
Closing Date
Ref No

The Role

We are seeking to fill two positions, one as Director of the SKA-Mid Telescope, the other as Director of SKA-Low. This advert is for the Director of the SKA-Mid Telescope.

The Director will establish and ultimately lead the operations of one of two SKA telescopes, a complex, high-tech, state-of-the art scientific facility, with staff and elements of the respective telescope systems located at a Science Operations Centre, an Engineering Operations Centre, a Science Processing Centre, and at the remote telescope site. The Telescope Director will have a high degree of autonomy, but the successful candidates will also be responsible for instilling a cohesive approach to Telescope operations, and will be an inclusive and collaborative leader.

Working initially as part of a small team based at the relevant SKA Science Operations Centre (SOC), the Telescope Director will lead a rapidly-growing cohort working at the SOC, the Engineering Operations Centre (EOC) and at the remote telescope site. The Telescope Director will be responsible for growing and implementing local operations activities according to the SKA Operations Plan, and will provide input to the continued evolution of the operational model of the Observatory as a whole.  

During the Construction Phase, currently expected to last until 2028, the Telescope Director will work closely with the relevant Site Construction Director to ensure coordination of all SKAO activities. This period of overlap between the ramp up of the operations team and the extensive multi-national construction project will extend over nearly a decade, and the role of the Telescope Directors will be to establish the operational entities, more or less from scratch, managing a complex environment and set of relationships and stakeholders.

The Telescope Director will report to the Director of Operations, and will be a member of the SKAO Executive Group and the broader Senior Leadership Team (SLT). Once the Observatory enters the Operations Phase, the Telescope Director will be the most senior representative of the Observatory in the relevant Telescope Host Country.

The Telescope Director will direct the operations activities of all SKA staff based in the relevant telescope Host Country – comprising employees of SKAO and of the relevant partner organisation (SARAO in the case of SKA-Mid). The Telescope Director will be responsible for all in-country SKA operations of the SKA-Mid Telescope, including the data flow and related systems, and will be accountable for their execution. The Telescope Director will be supported by a Telescope Deputy Director, who will be employed by the relevant partner organisation and will report to the Telescope Director. The Telescope Director and Telescope Deputy Director will be expected to work closely together.

The Telescope Director will work with the Director of Operations to ensure effective delivery of the SKA mission, the alignment of the operation of the relevant telescope with SKA Observatory policy and practice, and a high degree of consistency between the operations of the two SKA Telescopes. The Telescope Director will be a key player in ensuring the SKA Operations is consistent with the SKA ethos of One Observatory, Two Telescopes, Three Continents.

As a member of SKAO’s Executive Group, the Telescope Director will work closely with other senior SKA leaders to ensure a very close coupling between the Executive Group and telescope operations, will contribute to prioritisation and both strategic and operational planning of future development of the Observatory, and will be the key representative of Telescope Host Country issues at the Executive.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

Under the direction of the SKA Director of Operations, the SKA-Mid Telescope Director will:

  • Lead all elements of the operation of SKA-Mid in the Telescope Host Country;
  • Represent the SKA Observatory’s interests in the relevant Telescope Host Country, including cultivating and managing strategic relationships in South Africa and communicating the SKA’s vision, especially as they relate to Telescope Operations, on behalf of the Director of Operations and the Director-General;
  • Oversee the recruitment of the SKA-Mid operations team in South Africa;
  • Direct all SKA-Mid operations staff in South Africa;
  • Supervise the SKA-Mid Telescope Deputy Director;
  • Finalise and implement the SKAO Establishment and Delivery Plan as it relates to the operation of SKA-Mid, working with the Director of Operations to ensure consistency with SKA policies and procedures;
  • Work closely with the relevant SKA’s Telescope Host Country partner (SARAO) to ensure the safe, effective and efficient operation of SKA-Mid;
  • Foster a collaborative relationship between local business enabling staff and the function leads at GHQ, ensuring consistency of practice;
  • Work closely with the relevant SKA Site Construction Director during the SKA Construction Phase, especially in relation to the commissioning and early science of the telescope;
  • Facilitate the close interaction between the Observatory and the SKA Regional Centre in the relevant Telescope Host Country;
  • Assume responsibility for the setting of operational priorities and resource planning;
  • Assume responsibility for the budget and financial reporting for in-country telescope operations;
  • Provide regular information and status reports to the Director of Operations and Director-General as required.

The duties of the Telescope Director are not limited to the above and a flexible approach and ability to adapt to an evolving situation is required.

The role will be based at the relevant SOC (Cape Town). Regular travel between the SOC, EOC and remote telescope site in South Africa will be required. Periodic travel to the GHQ in the United Kingdom, and less frequent travel to the other Telescope Host Country (Australia) and elsewhere will also be expected.

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • A PhD in the astronomy, physics, engineering or a closely related field is expected; however, exceptional candidates with a first or other post-graduate degree in a relevant area as well as extensive appropriate experience will be considered.
  • Demonstrable experience of senior management and leadership within a high-technology environment;
  • A record of successful management of operations of large, high-tech facilities, including budgetary responsibility;
  • A demonstrated record of successful leadership and management of sizeable teams, promoting diversity and developing an inclusive, high-performing culture;
  • A track record of building strategic relationships, working collaboratively, delivering results through influence, and managing complex professional relationships, including across geographical and cultural boundaries;
    Experience of the transition from construction to operations;
    Strategic planning capability with substantial analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Experience in the operations of large-scale astronomical facilities;
  • Demonstrated experience in interacting with a broad community of users.

Equal Opportunities Statement 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are at the core the SKA's agenda and we are committed to being an equal opportunities employer. Our aim to is recruit and retain the most talented individuals, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or nationality. 
Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and engineering; SKA Organisation 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.