The space industry may appear to be difficult to become a part of from the outside. But once you have established contacts in it, you quickly realize that there are many opportunities to become engaged. Some people focus their efforts on networking initiatives to bring people into the industry and fuel the exchange of ideas. One such person is Anna Wieger, who is co-managing SGx, a flagship conference organized by the Space Generation Advisory Congress (SGAC). She tells us more about SGx, SGAC, and networking in the space community.
What is SGx and what is your role in it?
I’ve helped organize SGx for three years and am a co-manager this year alongside Payton Barnwell. SGx is a one-day event that brings together young professionals, industry experts, and government leaders to discuss pressing issues and innovative ideas in an exciting way. Our theme this year is The Power of Connection – a theme that felt appropriate both after so much isolation during the pandemic and because SGx is hosted during the SATELLITE conference. We have had some amazing speakers in the past, including Tory Bruno, CEO of the United Launch Alliance, and Ellen Stofan, who at the time was Director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We are extremely excited to for one of our past speakers – Sirisha Bandla – who will be on the Virgin Galactic flight on July 11th!
I first volunteered as speaker and sponsor coordinator for SGx2019 while I was getting my master’s degree in space policy. I now manage a team of five volunteers (including myself) and coordinate with our partners at SATELLITE on a regular basis. I devote several hours a week to promoting the event and helping my team of volunteers get speakers and sponsors lined up. In return, I have formed and been able to maintain a network through which I will be able to help many others along on their careers.
How does SGx fit in with SGAC more generally?
SGAC aims to represent university students and young space professionals to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia. SGx furthers that aim by creating a forum where leaders can engage with students and young professionals to inspire them in their careers. SGx is one of three flagship conferences organized by SGAC, but it is unique among them for being done in partnership with the Future Space Leaders Foundation and with Access Intelligence (the latter of which hosts SATELLITE). Just as with SGAC’s other events, SGx is designed to connect the speakers and the audience – so the event has a couple of coffee breaks built in for networking, and many of the speakers are happy to talk to attendees.
What advice do you have for folks who want to join space community organizations?
If you want to join a space community and you are currently a student, see if your college has an established club for astronomy, rocketry, or space exploration. You can also establish your own chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) or a similar student organization. If you’re under 35, apply to attend the Space Generation Congress or Space Generation Fusion Forum, both of which are multi-day SGAC events that foster close friendships. In general, keep an eye out for any space-related events in your area. Go in person if you can, and get coffee with just one person you meet. Ask that person for two more people to get coffee with, and before you know it, you’ll know more people than you thought you could. These people can also point you to more organizations, newsletters, and events.
The space community is much smaller than it seems from the outside. As a child growing up overseas and then as a young adult at a college not linked to the space industry, I imagined you had to literally be an astronaut to work on anything related to space, and I’d of course never met a real live astronaut. As it turns out, any job you can imagine probably exists in the space industry – social media manager, policy maker, photographer, lawyer, engineer. And it’s not so unusual to meet at least one astronaut.