As the People & Talent team lead at E-Space, Sarah McKenzie oversees the human resources and talent acquisition (TA) functions at the company— and a whole lot more. While Sarah’s plate may be full with a variety of responsibilities, the New Zealand native says they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I came to E-Space because I wanted an opportunity to work in a fast-moving, young organization where everyone is wearing many hats,” Sarah says. “I also love the startup environment where we’re building everything up from scratch.”
An appreciation for a more free-thinking and less bureaucratic company is something E-Space looks for in all of its hires. But just because it’s a startup doesn’t mean the basics of running a business go by the boards.
“It’s important when we talk to prospective team members that they understand that, while there are fewer silos and layers of bureaucracy than you’d find at a larger company, we still must have in place processes and guardrails that work for the organization as well as our employees.”
Another thing Sarah and the TA team try to impress upon prospective hires is how a startup organization differs from others.
“We like to gauge their tolerance and ability to work with some ambiguity, because that’s what you’ll get with any startup, including ours,” Sarah says. “You’re choosing to work at an organization that isn’t that structured yet, but maybe you’re also wanting some of that certainty and structure. There’s a natural tradeoff they need to understand between being with a new company doing exciting things for the first time and how that company will be different from what they may have experienced elsewhere.”
Understanding the role of a people team
With decades of experience in human resources and talent acquisition, Sarah has grown to appreciate the delicate role those in these positions play in any organization.
“It’s a balance, and many people, especially those early in their career, may not understand it,” Sarah says. “We sit in a middle ground where we build programs that support the company strategy, leadership and the employee.”
“There’s a facilitation aspect about getting the best for all sides, and that’s a daily challenge I really enjoy. The goal is to optimize the conditions under which we all can be successful.”
Finding great team members for E-Space
As a longtime human resource and talent acquisition professional, Sarah came to E-Space with experience in financial services, technology and aviation companies. When it comes to finding team members who are a good fit for the company, Sarah says that tech knowledge and experience in aerospace and defense comes in handy.
“When people think of engineering jobs in technology, they immediately think of software,” Sarah notes. “But at E-Space we’ve got a robust mix between software engineers and those on the hardware side — such as mechanical and electrical engineers. These are people who work on the physical satellite, and these are very different disciplines.”
Hardware engineers, Sarah says, are less likely to be in front of a computer screen most of the day like their software counterparts, so reaching them can be a little more challenging. For the TA team, appreciating these differences can go a long way toward hiring success.
As one of the few non-engineers at E-Space, Sarah says working in the U.S. for a global company is a great fit. An international citizen since leaving New Zealand in 2010, Sarah spent two years in Singapore and another two years in Hong Kong before finding a home in Florida and becoming a U.S. citizen.
“New Zealand can be tough if you want to work for a global company since it’s in a different hemisphere and a different time zone. At E-Space, I love getting to work with people in France, Germany, India, UK, the UAE and here in the States.”
And Sarah also appreciates the novelty and game-changing nature of what E-Space is doing.
“It’s genuinely different than what anyone else in the industry is working on, and it also will have a much broader reach than most other constellations that have only one specific function,” Sarah says. “I really enjoy working for a company that’s doing something exciting, and being part of the team working to get us there is extremely rewarding. I may not be hands-on designing or building satellites, but I love the opportunity to provide support to the team and contribute to an environment that helps them be successful.”