Yearly Archives: 2014

Launch into 2015 like a lean startup 1

Let’s look at the new year as an opportunity for a new start in your career. And think of yourself as the owner or pilot of your own career. After all, if you aren’t in charge of it, who is?!

What I’m really recommending is to think and act like an entrepreneur—even if you are (and want to be) an employee in another company.

If this argument is too abrupt or controversial for you, I hope you’ll stick around. At least for this post, because I’m going to give you a powerful tool that many entrepreneurs and startups are using to be successful in their highly uncertain, competitive, and fast-changing environments. If you think about it, that describes the environment for everyone today, right? Even employees. Even you I bet. So let’s talk about The Lean Startup and how you can use it to set some meaningful goals in 2015 and make valuable progress no matter what your particular situation or goals.

Is it possible to use the lean startup in aerospace? You bet! I used this approach for several projects in my aerospace career and setting. I’ve seen this approach used in other aerospace programs too. Yes, even in a major aerospace corporation it can be used, effectively. That’s because any new project is really a startup, even when it exists in a large organization.

It’s best if I don’t give you details about my aerospace examples. Not for public consumption, you know. But I can understand if you are skeptical or curious. How about another example of using TLS approach in a big, old, bureaucratic organization? Here is a presentation from a public school teacher describing how she used it in her classroom. If you are a teacher (or a parent of a child in school) you need to watch this video especially!

Diane Tavenner – Lean Startup Conference 2012

The Lean Startup approach has been made popular and famous by Eric Ries. He is the author of the book The Lean Startup, which I highly highly recommend. I’ll link to his website at the end of this blog post. There is too much to explain and describe in a single blog post. But here is one key element that I recommend you use when setting goals for 2015.

One central aspect of TLS is cycling through a Build > Measure > Learn loop. This has similarity to the PDCA loop of Lean and 6 sigma (Plan Do Check Act). But here’s the twist and powerful insight: when in the planning phase, you reverse the cycle!

First ask, what do you want or need to LEARN in 2015?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to MEASURE in order to accomplish that learning?

Then ask yourself, what do I need to BUILD (or DO) in order to gain those measurements?

And that provides you the action plan for yourself in the New Year.

Let’s work through an example.

Suppose you want to get an entry-level job in an aerospace company. Reframe this as something you need to learn: how can someone (someone like me) get an entry-level job in an aerospace company?

Now you need to figure out what measurements are needed in order to gain that learning. Here are some possibilities:

  • how many entry-level jobs are there?
  • How many entry-level jobs are made available in certain parameters (timeframe, company, geography, etc.)
  • How have other current entry-level engineers obtained their jobs? (what measurements can I learn from them?)
  • What attributes do aerospace managers look for in entry-level engineers?

There might be other measurements—do the thinking for yourself. I’m just giving you a start.

When you have your list of measurements, from these it should be fairly obvious what actions you need to take or things you need to “build” in order to gain those measurements.

For instance, to learn what the total pool of entry-level jobs is in your city, you’ll need to gather some employer and employment statistics. If you can’t find this out reliably from online searches, you may have to (gasp) call some people or search them out first.

If you want to learn how current engineers have obtained their jobs, you just might have to meet or talk with some of them, won’t you?

If you’ve read my book, this will be a familiar tip to you: one of the best ways to find and interact with the people who can help you with this learning is to find and join a professional society (or more) that hold events in your city. AIAA, AUVSI, SAE, SWE, ASME, AHS…now that you know what measurements you are looking for, you will have a conscious and strategic plan behind your pursuits.

Be sure to remember your people skills and professionalism while you are in pursuit of this learning! Everything in your process should be a part of your learning in fact. Many times when I’ve met someone and tried to learn something about them or from them, I failed or messed up. So I told myself, “well, that didn’t go very well. What can I learn from it? How can I do better the next time?” Sometimes it involved contacting them one more time for an apology, if I got the impression that we had a misunderstanding.

More often (and this is an important thing), I would always follow up with them soon to thank them for talking with me, and express my thanks for meeting them.

It’s also good to keep the focus on them. Instead of asking “can you help me find a job?” you can ask “do you have any needs (or know of any) where someone with my skills and interests would be a benefit?”

If you want more suggestions and examples of how I got better at this, read Tip #10 in my book “How To Be A Rocket Scientist” – appreciate and work on the soft skills.

Through it all, keep the Learn > Measure > Build/Do cycle in mind. If what you are doing isn’t tied directly to gaining a measurement for something that you need to learn in your career pursuit, check yourself and where you are spending your time and energy.

Do you know already what you want to learn in 2015? Share it in a comment below if you are willing to share it. Or if you would like a private master-mind group to work on this plan together, send me a note (after you’ve subscribed to this blog if you haven’t done that yet).

In the comments below I’ll share some of my goals to learn in 2015. Thanks for reading and sharing in the aerospace journey with me. Upward and onward!


The official website of The Lean Startup:

The book on Amazon with recommendations for others on the topic: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Setting goals for 2015: Start with WHY

Attention fellow aerospace travelers!  It’s time to start thinking and talking about goals for 2015.  Don’t fear–this is going to be fun and exciting.  The first step will be to get our heads and hearts around WHY this matters.  Why do you need to set goals for the new year?  Why should you care?

My response is, because WE NEED YOU.  You have strengths, passions, and a position in society that are completely unique to you.  There are things that can be done–people who can be impacted–that only you can do.  It will require initiative, courage, and leadership on your part.

Not sure you’ll be able to find that within yourself?  I can assure you it’s in there.  It just needs a powerful enough reason to activate it.  That’s why we need to start with the WHY.  Watch this TEDx talk from Simon Sinek and then write down your reasons why you need to set some goals for yourself in 2015.  I’ll write next about a powerful tool and process to make progress on those goals, whatever they are.

Start with why – how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound

Simon Sinek TED talk

Simon Sinek TED talk

You can buy his best-selling book on Amazon here: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


Paperback available this week

Happy Monday everyone!  Perhaps you are in a holiday or vacation so it feels more like a Saturday to you.  I’m happy to report that the paperback version of How To Be a Rocket Scientist will be available on Amazon in 3-5 business days from yesterday (according to the people at CreateSpace).  So far every […]

The paperback countdown continues

The adventure and learning process into DIY book publishing continues…here is some learning and information to share.  Whether you are interested in getting the paperback version of “How To Be a Rocket Scientist” or writing and publishing your own paperback book someday, this should be good info for you. I’m using Amazon as my primary […]

Fun Friday: quadrotor laser light dance show

What can you create when you combine 16 quadrotors with theater and multimedia production crew?  Watch and enjoy this performance of “Meet Your Creator” from the 2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The number of quadrotor air show videos on the web are starting to overtake the videos from traditional airshows.  When do you think we’ll see this new type of airshow become a regular and official form of attraction?  This night time performance of 49 quadcopters in an Austrian plaza would justify a respectable admission price in my opinion.  I know I would pay to see and hear this in person.

Of course, a money-making venture with quadrotors (or any UAV) in the US is restricted now without approval from the FAA, as you will learn from the “Know before your fly” campaign which I wrote about in my earlier post here.  But other countries have different conditions.  And it’s only a matter of time before we will have a very healthy and vibrant (and income-producing) community of UAV entrepeneurs in the US.  UAVs with outdoor concerts would be a fun and lucractive niche for some future aerospace professionals out there.  Could you be one of them?  Maybe someone in your classroom, school, or family?  Watch and enjoy the shows that have been done by others and then imagine what you would love to do or see.


How To Be a Rocket Scientist paperback coming soon

Dear readers, if you are anticipating or waiting for the availability of a paperback version of “How To Be a Rocket Scientist,” that day will be here soon.  My goal was set to tomorrow (Christmas, 12/25/14) but I’ve had to delay it a few days.  The full cover design and internal editing for quality and […]

Know this before you fly your new gift UAV 3

Time for another PSA (Public Service Announcement) and success tip for all eager rocket scientists!  The FAA, AUVSI, AMA, and Small UAV Coalition have created a program called “Know Before You Fly” for all of you personal UAV owners and pilots out there. If you want to stay an amateur or a hobbiest, you might […]

2014 Year in Review with The Space Show 3

If you would rather listen to a recap and discussion of the year’s major topics in space flight rather than read about them (or you just can’t get enough of the topic), the December 22nd, 2014 issue of The Space Show is available now here for download. The guest with Dr. David Livingston was Tom […]

Aerospace 2014 Year in Review from AIAA

As we head toward the finish/start line for another big lap around our sun, let’s highlight some great resources that provide a recap of major aerospace accomplishments, developments, and disappointments from 2014. Recently I got my December issue of the magazine Aerospace America from AIAA (the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics).  This is their […]

Fun Friday: smart art that makes you laugh

For this Fun Friday post, I am happy to share the artwork of Gaping Void, created by Hugh MacLeod.  This has brought many laughs and smiles to myself and coworkers, plus motivation and focus.  And I’ll tell you how it played a role in transforming a company culture. Art is an essential part of human […]