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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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The Pitfalls of Office Politics

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

Before becoming an astronaut, Leroy Chiao made some classic mistakes working as a young engineer, but he’s glad he learned his lesson early.

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