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I worked at SpaceX. It was the most ruthlessly efficient company I've ever worked for.

Jamie Killin   

I worked at SpaceX. It was the most ruthlessly efficient company I've ever worked for.
  • Vincent Peters worked in military compliance when he was poached to work at SpaceX.
  • He said the work culture was ruthlessly efficient and you could see Musk on the office floor.

This is an as-told-to essay based on a transcribed conversation with Vincent Peters, founder of Inheritance AI and former SpaceX employee discussing his career path and experience at SpaceX. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I graduated from West Point in 2005 at 23. Shortly before graduating, I was diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma. So I graduated on medical leave, couldn't be deployed, and continued on medical leave for another six months before being discharged.

Because I didn't have any internships or corporate experience, it took me a while to transition into the workforce. Once I did, I went on to work in many different industries.

The beginning of my corporate career

I got a contractor job with the Federal Aviation Administration through a friend and gained experience doing business administration, research, and development.

From there, I got work more aligned with my degree in systems engineering and technology as a security project manager at Freddie Mac. I stayed in banking but moved into working on compliance and risk management.

I then left the banking industry to partner with one of my best friends from West Point, who owned a tech company, 2 Twelve Solutions. We worked in "authority to operate," certifying what technology can be used for US Government military missions. We got the opportunity to pitch our services to SpaceX.

I was introduced to people on the SpaceX Mission team, and ultimately, they asked me to interview with them for a job at SpaceX. After a long process with multiple conversations, they offered me a job doing information compliance and assurance.

At first, I said no, but after their counteroffer, I had to tell my friend, "I love you, but I'm going to go work for SpaceX." I started in November 2018. My primary role was showing government clients that SpaceX was compliant.

My first project was the Commercial Crew program where astronauts needed to be returned to the International Space Station by US space capabilities. SpaceX was one of the companies awarded that contract. I was brought on to engage with NASA and show SpaceX was compliant. From there, I supported some of the Department of Defense customers and the beginning of the Artemis program to return to the moon.

What it's like working at SpaceX

SpaceX is the most efficient company I've ever worked for. Instead of having a manager and a list of tasks, I was asked to sit in on meetings and add value to projects aligned with my interests or expertise.

I thought I would get fired every day during the first six months. There was no one there to tell you what to do. In the military, there was a change of command. At SpaceX, you ask yourself, "How do we do this thing? How do we do it safely? How do we do it so that it's a good value for our customers?" Then you figure it out.

There were no boundaries in my role as long as I was adding value to whatever I was working on. For example, someone would ask if I was interested in flight software, and if I were, I'd be invited to attend those meetings.

The directive was if I was in a meeting and it was adding value to what I did daily, stay, or if I was adding value based on my expertise, stay — but if neither of those things were happening, you should get up and respectfully walk out.

In one instance, a government customer came in with a 50-slide deck. Six slides into the presentation, 75% of the room had walked out. I had to tell him that if he didn't get to the point, I'd be the only person left in the room — and only because I had to walk him out. He skipped ahead to his last five slides. That kind of environment makes you much more efficient.

Also, everyone is accessible. You're all in cubicles, including Elon and the COO, Gwynne Shotwell. You can look up, be seen, and say to people, "Hey, I need this." It's very open and makes collaborating and getting to know people easy. The only fixed offices are for people who often need to have confidential conversations — like the head of human resources and the CFO.

Working on Starlink

I quickly found that once you're in the circle of trust within Elon Musk's companies, you get a job more easily at another company in the portfolio. For example, someone who started around the same time as me at SpaceX is running IT at X now — the culture is just to do whatever is required.

That mentality is how I started working on Starlink.

The Starlink team had several questions from the Canadian communications regulators. They wanted to know how SpaceX was handling Starlink customer data and the configuration of some Starlink ground systems that were built and maintained by SpaceX. With my background in government work and compliance, it felt like a natural fit for me to step in.

In 2020, I asked to help and was allowed to work on their projects in addition to my work at SpaceX.

The work is rigorous, but people are very accepting

SpaceX was probably the most accepting work culture I've ever participated in.

There also wasn't a lot of value placed on where people went to school. Some of the most intelligent people I worked with there were high school graduates.

Regardless of your background or credentials, it's a place where you have to be able to hold yourself accountable. It's assumed that you should know what you should be doing.

If you're looking for a boss to hold your hand and tell you what you need to do and how to do it, you will be disappointed working with Elon. But if you're looking for a boss who trusts in your decision-making, you'll thrive.

I ultimately left in February 2022 because I felt I was no longer learning. While SpaceX was one of my best work experiences, there seemed to be a high turnover rate where people would leave between their first and second years. After my third year, I was one of the most senior in my group, and there weren't many people to learn from.

My time at SpaceX has helped me run my own company

From there, I started my new project, Inheritance Art, in early 2022. We're working on various projects — from crypto to large language model services and even creating our own AI models. I'm enjoying the challenge, but I still look back fondly on my time at SpaceX.

Working at SpaceX taught me how to hire and manage people efficiently — I was never a fan of middle management, and my experience there showed me how to run an organization without it. Space X is a flat organization, and it works well that way.

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