A Space Talent Spotlight Series Interview with Aaron Zeeb, Partner at Safire Partners, former Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX, Senior Lead Recruiter at Google.
What have been your top career accomplishments so far?
The first is coming to California. I don't think this is as significant a factor as it used to be but the point is the same – you have to go where the opportunities are at. There's some risk involved, sure. But the upside is what is most important. Had I not moved west, I would have never had the chance to work at Google or SpaceX. At least not during those points of their growth curves.
Second, and probably the most impactful, was being at SpaceX when we launched Falcon 9 for the first time. Dragon Cargo was amazing as well but Falcon 9 was really the tipping point for the company. It proved we could do it. We really made our competitors take notice. Most importantly, I could feel the historical significance. Let me tell you, there is no better product launch than a rocket. :-)
Third is what we've been able to build at Safire. All of the organizations I've worked at previously were engineering companies. Recruiting wasn't their core product, it was a (critical) means to an end. At Safire, we've been able to take an engineering approach to recruiting. How do you take something as complex as recruiting, with so many undefined variables that are constantly shifting, and drive towards a repeatable and predictable outcome? You have to engineer a process that is research based, well-defined and flexible at the same time. In the 6 years I've been here now, we've executed 100s of executive-level searches from some of the top startups in the world. I've been fortunate to work with great Founders, Executives, Venture Capitalists, and Private Equity firms on the planet. It is really special.
What were the critical steps/choices that helped you get ahead?
Most critical was coming to California. You have to put yourself in the right situation if you want to succeed. Again, I don't think that requires everyone to come to California but you should absolutely follow the leaders within your industry of choice.
Next was surrounding myself with people smarter than me, WAY smarter than me. If you're the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with then you should make sure those 5 people are brilliant in some way (or many ways).
Of course all of that doesn't mean anything if you don't work hard. If you want to be great, you have to put in the work. 5 extra hours per week adds up to more than a year's worth of additional work over a decade. 15 hours extra per week is almost 4 years. If it takes 10,000 hours to master something, the faster you get there the quicker you will become great, assuming you're working smart.
Last is measuring success in 10 year increments. I've never had a 5 year plan that I've stuck to all that diligently. I just tried to make sure I was learning and growing every single day. Early in my career, I did get in trouble by constantly thinking I should be further along than I was at that exact time. I've since started measuring my careers in decades.
What part of your education had the most impact on your career?
Zero. Maybe not zero but the inputs-to-outputs of our education system isn't a favorable equation. Fortunately, I worked throughout college and didn't carry debt with me after graduation. Our education system has gotten ridiculously expensive and many (not all) of the skills you learn don't translate as directly to the real world, some are actually counterproductive.
What about your career have you enjoyed the most and least?
When you first get started in any field, your job is going to be monotonous. You're going to bring a ton of energy and excitement at first, only to realize that you're learning the basics and basics can get boring. By year 2 or 3 it becomes a slog. You'll want to quit, change careers, go back to school. Sometimes that might be the right decision. Most often, you just have to fight through that period until you come to the next level. Careers become interesting when you develop true expertise.
Where do you see the most promising career opportunities in the future?
I think Space, Education, Healthcare and Automation are the most interesting sectors.
From a career perspective, I think the most interesting (and promising) thing that will happen during our lifetime is a shift in the 9-5 mentality. The idea that you work at companies for 5-10 years from an office. This is more obvious now with COVID but it's bigger than just remote work. It's the idea that an individual's job can become a company and a career. This won't be the case for everyone but our model of work is changing more rapidly than we sometimes appreciate. Many of our parents (speaking of people in their 40s and later) had the same job their entire life. That would almost be absurd now.
What advice/resources would you share with the next generation following a similar career path?
I think I've covered most of this above. :)
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Life is short. Take risks. Follow your passions. Do something that you can look back upon with pride in the future, whatever that means to you.
The Space Talent Spotlight is our blog series focused on the leaders and builders at the intersection of space and tech.The Space Talent Spotlight is our blog series focused on the leaders and builders at the intersection of space and tech.