In April 2018 I was presented with one of the first SGAC Pioneer Awards to recognize my efforts and contributions to the organization. As I was handed the pioneer pin—a golden wreath encircling the SGAC logo—I reflected on the fact that it had only taken me four years to get here. I say that not as a dismissal on the effort that it took to arrive at this point, but really on the sort of impact being a part of the SGAC community has had on my professional and personal growth.

For me, the journey began in 2013. I was freshly minted into my university’s engineering program and joined the campus nanosatellite team which competed in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge. While I always had vague ideas about maybe someday working in the space sector, the pathway from my prairie city to an actual career as a space engineer wasn’t obvious to me. This didn’t discourage my ambitions, and in fact made me even more restless about finding new opportunities.

Sometime in 2014 I would find out that the International Astronautical Congress was being held in Toronto, a city that was only a 2 hour flight away from me. One of the oldest and largest space conferences in the world? I’m there! The Space Generation Congress held right before didn’t grab my attention right away, but one of my friends from the university whom I looked up to and saw as a role model for my own space ambitions, encouraged me to attend. Even with his recommendation, I still hesitated to apply. I still wasn’t quite sure what it was. I think on the last day before applications were being closed, I decided to apply and just see what happens.

This was probably one of the best last minute decisions I’ve made in my life (and I make a lot of last minute decisions).

My application was accepted, and I was able to secure funding to attend, as well as funding for 4 other of my colleagues from the nanosatellite team to attend the IAC afterward. And then finally in late September, I was off for my first SGC.

I think the best way to describe the experience is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I felt like I had discovered a brand new planet for the first time, one that was inhabited by other young professionals and students, all of whom were equally excited, passionate, and ambitious as I was. It was incredible and amazing to see 120 people from all corners of the world come together to exchange ideas on the topics of space ethics, space policy, technology, and entrepreneurship. I met astronauts, representatives from space agencies, CEOs of space startups, space lawyers—I didn’t even know space law was a thing! Laws. For space? Absolutely wild.

I attended the IAC afterward and had a great time, but really, SGC shook my worldview up. I wanted my everyday life to be like what I experienced in Toronto. And so, I began applying to nearly every and any vacancy posted to get further involved. For anyone who has ever felt bad about their application being rejected by SGAC for a vacancy, mine was rejected so many times I really didn’t think I’d get my foot in the door. But then I did. I was accepted as a web editor for the SGAC, updating content on it’s website. This turned out to be a really great starting point because I was able to connect with nearly every project lead, team coordinator, event manager, RC, and NPoC to update content on the website. I got to know a lot of names through email, and the next time I attended an SGAC event it was all that more exciting to finally meet them in person.

In 2015 I was elevated to the role of Web Team Coordinator. Later that year I was accepted as an intern at the SGAC headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Here, I had even closer interactions with senior members of the space community, I attended a UNCOPUOS meeting, and helped with the SGC held in Israel that year.

I made more fun space friends.

I met more cool space people.

Doors started opening for me that I didn’t even know existed.

I was embolden to do things like reach out to the president of the Canadian Space Agency at the IAC in Israel to set up a meeting with Canadian students. This would lead to positive opportunities being created for Canadian students.

I was awarded the Space Generation Leadership Award to attend SGC and IAC in Mexico (2016).

I successfully applied to be the Space Generation Fusion Forum 2017 Deputy Manager.

I landed an internship at the CSA with the robotics team.

I was invited to be on the CSA’s astronaut final selection committee.

I continued on as Manager of the Space Generation Fusion Forum in 2018.

Five years ago I didn’t think or really know that a career in the space sector was possible or realistic for me. Sometimes you can see the Aurora Borealis from Winnipeg, and that’s about as close as space felt to me. Four years ago I opened emails about the results on my SGAC applications expecting more rejections. Three years ago I saw the inside of UNCOPUOS for the first time. Two years ago I saw Elon Musk’s presentation live at the IAC in Mexico. One year ago I gave input on who Canada’s next two astronauts should be. And today I just got home after debugging rover software on the Mars analogue terrain.

I’ve travelled across the world, made countless friends, developed an amazing network, and learned so much about the industry. It’s also been incredible to lead the charge on things like SGFF—nothing has been more satisfying than hearing about the positive experiences delegates had at the event my team and I organized, and working closely with SGAC partners to make it happen.

My pursuit of further involvement of SGAC was simple — I wanted my everyday life to feel like my first SGC. As someone who gets to play with rovers everyday as my summer job, I can definitely say I’ve succeeded in that goal.