Andrzej Antoszkiewicz, Sc’02, MSc’05, wanted to be an astronaut from the time he was about eight years old. Although he never made it into the space program, his passion scored him a co-op placement at the Canadian Space Agency when he was just 15. That first job taught him the importance of getting the details right and demonstrating you can be counted on. These early lessons guided a career that includes organizing summits for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, getting the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) ready for its 2022 World Cup, and now serving as deputy head of human resources for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He was also recently named one of the world’s top 100 executive MBA graduates by the prestigious Poets & Quants for Executives, an online publication specializing in higher education.
My high school had a co-op program, and I was really interested in space, so I decided to start writing to the minister of Industry, who oversaw space activities, to get a foot in the door of the astronaut program. I think the minister’s staff realized I was going to exhaust them with my endless letters suggesting co-op placements and my services as a future astronaut. Their solution was to offer me an internship at the Canadian Space Agency’s David Florida Laboratory. I was their first-ever high school co-op student – it was usually undergraduate or graduate students – and they didn’t initially know quite what to do with me. Essentially, an edict from the minister’s office dropped this 15-year-old kid into a co-op program at the Canadian Space Agency – a program that didn’t actually exist.
But because I was the only kid there, everybody gave me the time of day and I was able to spend a lot of time with the engineers working on RADARSAT and the MSATs, both keystone programs for the Canadian Space Agency. This helped me understand how individual design decisions come together in complex systems to achieve remarkable outcomes. It not only prepared me for both the micro and the macro ways of thinking, it also instilled the idea that there’s no such thing as important and unimportant pieces. This is especially true in a satellite, but if you think of our society, workplaces, and organizations, they’re all quite complex with lots of moving pieces. I think good leaders understand that all these pieces have their part to play.
In the end, success is all about learning and building relationships and trust, an important lesson I learned in my time at the David Florida Laboratory. When I first started there, I would be accompanied by at least two people anytime I went near the clean rooms. I’m sure they thought, “This kid will just get peanut butter all over the satellites,” but over time this attitude changed.
Just before I left, the engineers actually let me put my fingerprint on a satellite panel because that fingerprint would go up into space. It was their way of saying “Welcome to the astronaut club” – and that’s a really nice memory to have.