The summer of 2015 at Aztera has been quite an experience of growth for me.
I learned on the job, and gained a deeper understanding of the intricacies and fine details required to run a successful business. I helped acquire an Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS, company, which has turned out to be one of the most promising opportunities I have ever worked on. I visited an army base, Fort Huachuca, for the first time and took a classified tour of the world’s largest operational UAS training facilities.
Our CEO, Manny Teran, gave me the nickname "Oppenheimer" — which does not make sense, seeing as I am not a nuclear physicist, nor does the name Oppenheimer contain fewer syllables than Andrew — but I roll with it. I even had my own intern, which gave me the opportunity to be a leader and a mentor on my own projects.
Having the chance to help develop our new UAS company has been an absolute blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to actually work directly in the aerospace industry, something that was new for most of our team. This allowed me to apply my (albeit limited) engineering knowledge, in conjunction with developing a strategic business model, to transition our crazy-cool technologies out of purely military applications and into the commercial sector. I met and worked with some incredibly diverse and inspiring people during the company’s startup-survival mode so far, and I hope to meet many more during the rest of the journey.
Working at Aztera has also introduced me to a workplace environment full of strong community, friendship, jocularity and drive.
I often found myself laughing and joking with co-workers and superiors, an aspect many are not fortunate to have during their career. Every Thursday is something special. A different employee at Aztera brings in a home-cooked meal — or, if cooking is not their forte, they order from a restaurant — for the entire staff to eat for lunch. “Lunch Club,” as it is called, seemed like a funny idea to me before I started working this summer, but it has shown me how important it is to promote communal activities and a connected culture among employees within a workplace. If I am ever lucky enough to be at the helm of my own successful company, hopefully I can implement a similar culture.
The true value of my internship was not the paycheck, and not the resume bullet point — but I knew that going into the summer. The true value was my collection of business cards and my ever-expanding network. The true value was the opportunity to be involved in real, exciting, technological and often entrepreneurial business development. What I learned during this internship will loop directly back into, and fuel, my own motor as an aspiring entrepreneur.
As I look back on my summer, I am thankful for the opportunity I had, and I am excited for the future — a future that now holds many more opportunities than it would have had I just sat on a couch daydreaming all summer. Dreams are crucial to success, in my opinion. If you dream it, it will become a reality (within the limits of physics). However, a dream requires action, or else nothing will happen and it shall remain merely a thought, an imagination.
The best way to dream is to dream while doing. Take what you are learning and accomplishing in real time, while the passion is raw and adrenaline is high, and apply it to near-term and long-term goals. Then watch yourself stroll down the very path you imagined, on the way to your own predetermined definition of success and happiness.
My very own experiences are the ammunition behind these statements, and each step I take as I pursue my goals verifies that I should keep dreaming.
Luckily, I will continue to work at Aztera during the academic year as my undergraduate journey comes to an end. I will continue to help head the UAS business development efforts, with the opportunity to work on other promising new technologies as well. One step at a time, I will continue pursuing my dream of making an impact on society through starting my own private space company, and I cannot wait to see where my next opportunity emerges. I hope you have enjoyed reading my columns as much as I enjoyed writing them, and I suggest you take a step back and realize the full potential of your dreams as well.