3 Key Business Lessons I Learned from Working at Kennedy Space Center

10/27/2016 02:40 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2016
Jen DeVore Richter: Author, Speaker & Coach | Former Manager of Advertising and Consumer Research at Kennedy Space Center (19
Photos top and right Jen DeVore Richter | Photo bottom left Robert Zubrin
Jen DeVore Richter: Author, Speaker & Coach | Former Manager of Advertising and Consumer Research at Kennedy Space Center (1999-2002)

In the 1990s, the United States space program was in rapid-launch mode with the number of space shuttle launches double that of the 1980s. The country was in full swing, inspiring worldwide wonder in people all over the globe as we proved that man could handle long-duration space flight. The U.S. began to assemble the International Space Station and launched additional planetary missions.

All eyes were on Kennedy Space Center, the home base of space exploration and launch site of 135 space shuttle missions. Soon, Hollywood appeared on the scene to shoot movies and hold premieres for films ranging from Veggie Tales in Space to Armageddon.

My ‘90s Career Mission: Space

At the time, I was fresh out of college looking to make an impact on the world. One evening after coming home from my job as Special Events/Development Manager for a non-profit, I happened to catch a behind-the-scenes look at Kennedy Space Center from an E! News feature with Armageddon star Ben Affleck. The Kennedy Space Center was getting ready for the premier of Armageddon and I was amazed at what I saw! No, I wasn’t gazing into the eyes of a movie star; I was entranced by the sheer size of the rockets in his background and captivated by the story of US space flight. In that moment, I made it my personal mission to get a job at Kennedy Space Center.

Coming from a military family, you could say this stuff is in my DNA. But up until that point, I truthfully hadn’t given much thought to flying, space, or related topics. While watching that feature, my eyes opened to the US space program and I was forever changed into a self-proclaimed space geek.

Landing My Dream Job at Kennedy Space Center

It took me a year, but I eventually landed my dream job as the Manager of Advertising and Consumer Research at Kennedy Space Center. I managed a multi-million dollar marketing budget, worked with a top-notch advertising agency producing national TV commercial, and was in the “big leagues” of my career. While my day-to-day job duties were cool and would leave most in my profession green with envy, the biggest benefit was being surrounded by inspiring people who were truly making an impact for humanity. I worked with incredible people, such as one of the first humans to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, and the last man on the moon, Gene Cernan. I had lunch with Mars exploration leader and legend, Robert Zubrin, and worked special events and book signings with Wally Schirra.

There were the other brushes with celebrity, such as the time I almost spilled my Coke on Fabio at a space shuttle launch or when Clarence Clemons hung out in our office. But the greatest impacts were left on me by the space explorers and the team of professionals I worked with everyday who had the single mission of showing and telling the world about America’s space program and how it impacted their everyday lives. It truly was an honor to serve with them.

As I reflect on my time there some 20 years later, there are three key concepts that have been impressed upon me that I use in my business and work still today.

3 Key Business Lessons I Learned from Working at Kennedy Space Center

1. Your dreams aren’t big enough.

While young children often dream of becoming an astronaut when they grow up, they eventually give up on that dream because it doesn’t seem practical or achievable. I can tell you that any dream is practical and achievable. Being someone amazing like an astronaut is a goal that is reached everyday by regular people just like you and me. They just believed they could and worked harder. Set your sights higher and make your dreams bigger.

2. Pay attention to detail.

Check the small stuff and make every detail count. Whether you’re launching a rocket or launching a business, success is in the details. Most people don’t pay attention to the little details in their business, but those who do will stand out. At NASA, it takes millions of parts in a system to make a rocket launch. If one of those items isn’t on point, the entire system fails. Think about the millions of parts of your business and work everyday to improving the quality of each one.

3. Don’t be a quitter.

Being at the top of your game is challenging; representing the US space program is an honor. It requires dedication and a mindset of excellence. When the US was launching space shuttles frequently, our team would be up for days working launches and hosting visitors and VIP guests. The long hours were worth it because we knew we were playing a small part in a bigger mission.

Running a successful business is hard and requires the same mindset. When the days are long and the weekends short, don’t give up. In spite of the challenges and setbacks explorers faced in space travel, they never gave up. Put in the time to reap the rewards.

Having the honor of working at Kennedy Space Center during the height of America’s space program is an experience I treasure to this day 20 years later. It was a moment in time that will go down in history books and the lessons I learned there have forever changed me. I am so proud to be an American and will be a lifelong supporter of the US space program. Next stop? Mars!

You can find more insights from Jen DeVore Richter on building a purpose-filled business, entrepreneurial life, and small business marketing at www.jendevore.rocks

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