On May 31, 2020, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a historic milestone for commercial spaceflight, the first manned launch from American soil in nearly a decade. Then on the morning of June 13, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 Starlink broadband satellites into space. This mission, called Starlink-8, is just one of dozens of planned launches aiming to provide high-speed satellite Internet (up to 1 gigabit/second) to rural areas both within the US and around the world!
Without a doubt, these are incredible feats and there are many more ahead. However, without the proper financing to make these projects possible, they may not have happened at all. Luckily for us, we have an insider in the SpaceX Finance department who can help us better understand the importance of finance in the New Space Age.
San Antonio native and 2018 Canfield BHP alum Hans Uy caught up with us a few days after the historic commercial mission to the ISS and shared some great insights and advice. Hans shows us how to shoot for the stars as he turns his passions and dreams into real-world success.
Shortly after graduating, Hans moved to New York to pursue a career in investment banking with Evercore for just over a year and a half, focusing on healthcare mergers and acquisitions. While busy with his Wall Street career, Hans found the time to write for his blog Astronomical Returns, a website dedicated to all things outer space from a finance major’s perspective. Now having landed his dream job with the SpaceX Finance team, Hans currently finds himself in sunny LA:
“My background and all of my education were in finance, but ever since I was a little kid, my life passion has always been space. Growing up, my room was totally decorated with artworks of rocketships and all the planets in the solar system. Somehow, I’ve amassed a ton of random knowledge and fun facts about space, and I wanted to blend my two interests: space and finance. I first did that by starting ‘Astronomical Returns’, and now I do it at SpaceX. Space exploration is such an important pursuit, one worth dedicating my career to. It’s been quite the journey, but it’s fantastic.”
Though we find rocket launches to space fascinating, one of the most interesting parts about them is the cutting-edge technology that is developed and produced to make these rockets work. We reap the benefits of these technological advancements every day in our modern lives (remember Teflon?). Hans explains why this is an important field of investment:
“So much of our computer technology, our communication systems, our understanding of our physiology comes from research and exploration done from the space program. I think it’s something that people don’t pay nearly enough attention to and that they should. That’s the base part of why I like space.”
Hans elaborates further and explains where his interests in finance and space intersect:
“On the flip side of that is the finance aspect. When people think of space exploration, they often think of the Apollo moon landings or rocket launches on YouTube. But I think the interesting part is where the finance industry comes in and how space companies are doing more of the innovation, filling in a role traditionally held by governments. It’s a burgeoning field of disruptors like SpaceX and many others as well, and I’m so excited to see whether these companies can make money out and about the cosmos. The fusion of the two fields is super interesting for me, it’s something I wish more people knew about. As I like to say, the best rocket fuel is cash”.
Down here on Earth, Hans’ duties at SpaceX Finance resemble a corporate finance position where financial planning and analysis are the main drivers of the job, a big change from the duties Hans performed at Evercore.
“Though they’re both finance, Evercore involved capital markets and mergers and acquisitions, whereas what I do at SpaceX is highly operations-focused and cost analysis heavy. Every engineering division at SpaceX is covered by someone on the Finance team, and for the divisions I’m responsible for, each month I analyze their expenditures, perform all the accounting and operational forecasting behind them, and report that spend to the relevant parties—whether that be the engineering heads or the people in the purchasing and supply chain teams.”
Hans understands that his skills developed during his time at Canfield BHP contributed to his current success, and there is one class that particularly stood out for him:
“MIS301 with Professor Konana, no doubt about it. He was one of the best professors I had during my time at UT. Everything that he taught me five years ago, I’m using now constantly. At SpaceX, I live and die by pivot tables and database queries, so I’m quite glad I paid attention in his class. Beyond that, I liked how vocal and opinionated Professor Konana was—I vividly remember him telling us ‘a lot of people want to go into finance, but finance is nothing without operations, right? Society needs real innovation to drive economic growth.’ That’s part of the reason why I was excited to move from Wall Street to SpaceX, to hopefully be a part of the innovation in an industry I care about. His words have certainly rung true”.
Hans had these words of advice for our underclassmen: “the sooner you realize what your passion is and what you want to dedicate your career to, the better. That way, you can set yourself on the right path”. To that end, he encouraged McCombs students to branch outside of the business school to meet students in other fields like engineering or liberal arts and broaden their horizons. Hans explained that finding fulfillment in your career isn’t about chasing the most “prestigious” field or the biggest paycheck. “Instead, I think that people will be much happier and better served pursuing a career where they can offer a unique contribution to the world.”
If you’d like to learn more about the intersection of finance and space exploration, feel free to visit Hans’ blog, Astronomical Returns. There you’ll find a wealth of space knowledge as well as fun facts like how Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon and a UT alum, turned down the offer to fly the Space Shuttle and retired from NASA because he wanted to pursue his own life passion: painting! He felt that as the only artist to have ever visited the moon, he owed it to the world to depict what he saw on the lunar landscape. Hans cites Bean as an inspirational role model for his own career path.