Monday, August 3, 2015

Comingling Business & Science? The Intersection of Scientist and NewSpace Industry Analyst

I've been putting my “newspace” business hat on lately. As a trained scientist, thinking in terms of business is not what I'm used to. Compared to pure scientific research, there are different priorities, different time scales, and different lingos. I'm fairly proficient in business-speak now that I've been trained and working around it for a number of years. I even served as a behind-the-scenes judge for the NewSpace Business Plan Competition a couple of years ago. I'm still sometimes surprised at how much I've been able to pick up from the business world.

I credit the majority of my training to NewSpace Global CEO Richard David (he goes by many names) who took me on as an industry analyst intern while I was still a planetary science graduate student. Richard's philosophy was that it was easier to train scientists and engineers to think as businesspeople than to train businesspeople to think technically in order to analyze a technical market. He readily took me on and trained me himself in what he colloquially called an MBA crash course.

The structure of NSG, at least at the time, was that the majority of the staff were part-time temporary interns. I was hired as an intern for the analyst team, but circumstances quickly changed. Just a couple of weeks after being hired, I assumed leadership of the analyst team under Richard who also acted as the Chief Analyst. In this role as lead analyst, I interviewed, hired, and trained new interns and supervised all current analyst interns.

The interns represented a variety of backgrounds and training and lived all over the world, so coordination was sometimes rather difficult. Training and supervising the interns while simultaneously still being trained by Richard helped me learn a tremendous amount of information in a short period of time. To use the old catchphrase, I was drinking water from a fire hose.

I was responsible for the overall movement in the aerospace and related industry analysis ranking list, the addition of new companies to the list, interviewing or coordinating interviews with the management of ranked companies, and accurately representing these ranked companies on the NSG website. I also wrote an analyst series for the NSG monthly newsletter and lead special projects such as the addition of new features on the NSG website and the deep-diving into a specific company or sub-industry. In a short period of time, this scientist was not only thinking like an industry analyst, I was an emerging voice.

NSG SpaceX tour, the launch pad - Oct. 2012

NSG SpaceX tour, the rocket - Oct. 2012

After approximately one year of working at NSG, Richard offered me a promotion to senior analyst. I had been working toward that promotion and earned it, but when the time came, I couldn't take it. I was still trying to finish my doctorate, I had started my full-time job at CASIS a few months prior, and I was running into more and more conflict of interest issues. I decided to step down from NSG after just over a year with the company. With me I took fond memories and years' worth of aerospace industry analysis training packed into a year.

Unfortunately, NSG and its management seems to have gone mum since I left. I haven't heard from him or seen him around locally, so I don't know how Richard and the company are fairing. I wish them all the best and hope to hear great things about NSG in the future!

As for myself, I'm becoming more and more drawn to the intersection of science and aerospace industry. I'm an analyst by nature, focused on how the details affect the big picture. I'm contemplating doing more with this side of my brain in the future. Now, when I put my “newspace” business hat on, it's thanks to Richard that I wear one.

Note: I no longer have any association with Richard David or Dick Rocket.

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