In 2012, Coen Janssen landed an internship at the newly-formed NATO Communications and Information Agency.
Fast-forward five years, the Dutch national is now the Managing Director of a start-up company he co-founded with fellow whiz kid Maarten Engelen and satellite communications professional Ernst Peter Hovinga. And he's not even 30 years old yet. Here's what Coen had to say about his experience working for the NCI Agency and how it shaped his career choices.
Valuable, practical experience
As an aerospace engineering and entrepreneurship student, I was invited to speak at the 2012 NATO Network Enabled Capability Conference on nanosatellites and the future of military operations.
There, I had the opportunity to meet many senior executives in the technology and defense Industry including Mr David Burton, former Chief Technology Officer of the NCI Agency, and the General Manager, Mr Koen Gijsbers, who happily accepted my application for an internship which was a mandatory part of my Master's programme.
During my internship, I had the privilege to look into innovation management and the organizational changes that were taking place at the time at the Agency. The amount of responsibility that was given to me from the start, and the help I received from colleagues and mentors such as Dr Paul Howland - the Agency's Chief of Command and Control Services - made a great impact on my professional career.
Although I've always made career choices based on my interests rather than thinking about building the perfect CV, NATO is a great name to be able to mention during interviews and business conversations. But the real impact came from the experience I obtained and the people I encountered during my time at the Agency.
I went on to work at XCOR, a commercial space company, Deutsche Bank, and after a quick stint at a strategic consultancy firm, I was approached by a venture capital advisory firm to consider investing in the new commercial aerospace market. Together with several professional investors, we founded a small investment firm and did several investments in the new space industry.
Eventually, we thought it was time to create our own company. And we saw a niche market in the area of satellite communications, without too much global competition so we decided to work out the initial business plan and build a team around it. Over a year later, we launched Magnitude Space. We now have over ten staff members and we have raised our first funds.