Astronaut Leroy Chiao is a veteran of four space missions, recently acting as Commander of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space - over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks). He served as a member of the White House appointed Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.
Dr. Chiao left NASA in 2005 and is involved in entrepreneurial business ventures and works in the US, China, Japan and Russia. He is a director of Excalibur Almaz, a private manned spaceflight company. In addition, he is a director of InNexus, a biotechnology/pharmaceutical development company. Active as a consultant and public speaker, he also serves as the Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute User Panel, which is attached to the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Chiao is a director of Challenger Center and of the Committee of 100. He is also an advisor and spokesman for the Heinlein Prize Trust.
Question: What's the biggest career mistake you've ever made?
Leroy Chiao: The biggest career mistake I ever made. Wow, you've got me on that. Let's see, well you know, probably some mistakes I made that I was glad happened in the context that it did was, when I was studying engineering, I did an engineering co-op job, which basically means that you go out while you're still a student and you spend several months working with a company and things like that. And I did that with IBM and I ended up going up to Burlington, Vermont and had a great experience doing it, but I learned my mistakes there and fortunately for me, I made my mistakes there in my co-op jobs instead of while I was out as a profession and working in the workforce. And to me, my mistakes made were learning how to work with different groups of people. I mean, I went to school at Berkeley, which is a pretty diverse group, but working in a professional setting, I hadn't really done that before and learning about office politics, learning about interactions between different people and I made a lot of mistakes there during my time as a young person. I was 19 or 20 at the time. So, I would say those were my biggest career mistakes, but fortunately they were made in the context of an engineering co-op program and not in a professional field.
Recorded on December 16, 2009