I don’t know about you, but when I was little and my parents used to ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up at some point I said I wanted to be an astronaut. While those dreams for me never came to fruition they might for Dave Rokeach, a 2nd Year MBA student at Duke University (Fuqua) Dave currently serves as the Business Director of Time Capsule to Mars, a student non-profit organization committed to launching a spacecraft to Mars by 2019. I had the chance to talk to Dave about his work with TC2M, and here is what he had to say.
MBASchooled: Dave, thanks for taking the time to chat. Tell us, what is Time Capsule to Mars, and how did it get started?
Dave: Time Capsule to Mars (TC2M) is a completely student-led non-profit mission that is designing, building, launching, and landing a spacecraft on the surface of Mars by 2019. The spacecraft’s cargo will be a digital library of pictures, videos, and messages crowdsourced by people from every corner of the Earth, collectively creating a “Snapshot of Humanity” to be recovered by future human explorers to Mars. A Duke undergraduate engineering student, Emily Briere, started this project last year as a way to both push the boundaries of space exploration and inspire young people from around the world to engage with STEM, space, and exploration. This is a mission of firsts: we will be the first private-funded interplanetary mission, the first student-led interplanetary mission, and the first spacecraft to test various technologies in interplanetary travel.
MBASchooled: What piqued your interest in TC2M and how did you get involved?
Dave: I still joke that I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up. I’ve always been passionate about space and exploration, and this was an opportunity I absolutely could not pass up. Before attending business school, I was a policy adviser to a US Congressman who served on the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. One of my responsibilities was to advise him on all work in that Committee, which, as the name implies, has sole jurisdiction over US space policy. This experience, coupled with my ongoing business education, made me feel like I could positively contribute to the role. I came on board as a First Year student when the former Business Director – Jon Tidd – approached me about it, and I took over for him when he graduated.
MBASchooled: What are some short and long-term goals for TC2M?
Dave: In the short term, we plan to raise $250k to fund our operational expenses, and develop a fellowship supported by corporate sponsors to pay for the student research and development costs associated with the project.
In the long term, we want to collect a truly representative sample of humanity, and that presents us with both challenges and opportunities. To accomplish this goal, we will roll out a major multi-channel marketing effort to reach diverse global audiences.
MBASchooled: Currently, you’re the TC2M Business Director. What responsibilities come with this role?
Dave:I lead the entire business team for TC2M, which is based out of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. We lead the project’s marketing, branding, and fundraising activities. My role is to develop and execute our overall strategy in those areas, and interface with the technical teams, advisers, and corporate sponsors.
MBASchooled: In what way(s) has this opportunity helped you develop as an MBA student?
After two years of business school, I’ve found that my most valuable learning came through experiential opportunities. Serving as the Business Director for TC2M has been very much like running a startup. It’s invigorating, frustrating, exciting, and a incredible learning experience. All the things we talk about in MBA classes around leading, communicating, and building and executing strategy all come into much clearer focus when applied to a real world situation. In particular, this project has helped me learn how to coordinate across a truly nationwide and even global organization.
MBASchooled: What has been your favorite experience thus far from working with TC2M?
Dave: I was fortunate enough to be a featured speaker at the National Student Space Conference organized by the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) outside of London in February. Getting the chance to interact with so many passionate young people who are committed to space exploration was really inspiring.
Dave speaking at the UKSEDS Conference in London, England (Source: Time Capsule To Mars)
MBASchooled: What’s your experience been like working with students outside of the Fuqua MBA Program (or outside of Duke?)
Dave: TC2M has really prepared me to lead teams of diverse individuals who have very different skillsets, responsibilities, and backgrounds. One moment I’ll be on a call with our Lead Systems Engineer at the Florida Institute of Technology, the next I’ll be chatting with our design team from the Savannah College of Art & Design, and later I’ll be working with one of our advisers who’s a former project manager at NASA. The project is a real world example of a diverse workplace – even greater than you’ll see at any business school since most of us share certain personality traits and professional interests. These types of experiences are invaluable for the development of strong leadership and communication skills.
MBASchooled: If people are interested in learning more or want to support TC2M, where should they go to get more information?
Dave: Check out our website at www.timecapsuletomars.com or our Twitter and Facebook pages. Sign up to be a “Crewmember” for updates and prizes, and don’t forget to upload your photo to our capsule! You might not be able to walk on Mars yourself during your lifetime, but we’re giving you the opportunity to leave your footprint.