July 18, 2019
Student Spotlight: Engineer Uses Business Skills at Blue Origin
Zack Havanec has been able to put his Tepper MBA education into practice as a business strategy intern at space industry leader Blue Origin.
Prior to joining the Tepper School of Business as an MBA student, Zack Havanec was a manufacturing engineer at helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, now a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. After a few years in the role, he had the opportunity to lead a team on an engineering project. “I really enjoyed leading the group and being able to provide some guidance to others,” he said. “But at the same time, I realized I didn’t have the necessary business background or acumen to make some higher-level decisions. I saw that as a path that I definitely wanted to head down in the future.”
Havanec began investigating MBA programs to build his business skills. “I wanted to try to switch into another industry,” he said. “Helicopters are some of the most complicated pieces of machinery built by humans. I really enjoyed helicopters, but it’s not something I was truly passionate about.” He considered either clean energy technology or the burgeoning space industry, led by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
With clubs like Students at Tepper for Astronautics Rockets & Space and the Energy and Clean Tech Club, as well as the Energy Business MBA Track, “Tepper quickly rose to the top of the list,” Havanec said. “It really seemed like it fit both possible paths that I was going down.”
STARS would become a key resource for Havanec as he pursued internships for this summer, eventually helping him to secure a role as a Business Development and Strategy Intern at Blue Origin.
Havanec traveled with STARS on its fall trek to Seattle, where he had the opportunity to visit Blue Origin’s headquarters. The students were able to tour its factory space and meet with employees and human resources representatives. “I really got insight into what the company is doing,” he said. “I really felt like it would be a great fit for me. That amplified my desire to work here.”
In December, STARS held its second Space Innovation Challenge Case Competition, which invited students from across Carnegie Mellon to pitch solutions to space-themed problems. Blue Origin was invited to send a judge and maintained a strong interest in the challenge and in the students who participated, including Havanec.
Almost immediately following the competition, Havanec applied to Blue Origin for an internship opportunity. The company invited him to participate in a phone interview with the hiring manager, which ultimately led to an internship offer.
Havanec is working on developing a business case for Blue Moon, Blue Origin’s lunar lander project that Bezos announced in May. His work involves conducting a competitive analysis and investigating market segmentation and pricing strategy to determine the best ways for Blue Origin to bring the lander to market.
“This is really my first work experience that is more business oriented,” Havanec said. “For me, it’s been an amazing learning experience, going from engineering to strategy. Engineering is very detail oriented and focused on hard numbers. Strategy is much more conceptual.”
Part of his role has included financial analysis, a new skill for Havanec. He noted that the opportunity to apply this knowledge at a company has been valuable practice, particularly where Blue Origin’s preferences diverge from his classroom experience. “It’s good to see where those are similar and where they differ, why those differences are there, and how they affect the outcome when you do this kind of financial analysis,” he said.
Havanec is still pursuing career paths either in the space industry or in clean energy. He will complete the Energy Business MBA Track this year, along with finance and strategy concentrations, and begin recruiting for full-time roles when he returns to Tepper this fall. “Getting insight into what is being done at a company like Blue Origin that’s growing so rapidly and has so many question marks would be very useful to any career going forward,” he said.