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Founder Spotlight: Launching a Startup and Leading Out of This World Innovation

Sophie Blaine

Marketing Specialist - 01 Apr, 2021

How SpaceRyde Founder and COO Saharnaz Safari rises to the challenges of space exploration

Saharnaz Safari is the Founder and COO of Spaceryde, a company that develops aerospace technology and built the first taxi to bring satellites and cargo to space. Saharnaz has an innate talent for identifying problems and collaborating on innovative solutions, making her contributions to this space venture invaluable.

How Saharnaz pivoted her career and paved her way in the Canadian space industry

Saharnaz began her studies in sciences and went off to take her master's in analytical chemistry, with a hope to transcend into the medical community. Along her journey, she decided to pivot her studies and look for deeper fulfillment in her career. She went on to take her MBA at UC Berkeley, and there, she realized it was time to step outside of the box and pave her way. Saharnaz learned that you don't need specific education or experience to work in a particular industry if you want to contribute.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to contribute to space exploration or a physician to contribute to public health. You can pave your own way towards any career or industry you set your mind to."

Aerospace engineering requires a high level of risk assessment, which was a big part of her education in the health sector. Pioneering a rocket launch in Canada is glamorous, but more importantly, it is accessing the safety and logistics of doing so. Saharnaz owns her talent for complex problem solving and can design flawless procedures for previously uncracked, ciphering problems.

Saharnaz uses her superpower for solving critical, comprehensive problems

Saharnaz saw an opportunity at SpaceRyde to utilize her unique skill set: finding the most efficient way to solve problems. She recognized her strengths are best suited for an early-stage start-up. Saharnaz has found the most fulfilling part of her job is resolving these complex problems and finding innovative solutions by analyzing every corner of the issue.

Towards the end of 2018, Spaceryde was gearing up to launch the first balloon rocket carrier into space and encountered a difficult roadblock, the permit to launch. Saharnaz took this challenge by storm, and even though permits for rocket launch had not been issued in Canada before, she persevered and jumped through hoops to convey her vision. Saharnaz spearheaded this venture with very little knowledge on achieving a permit, but her perseverance prevailed, and the rocket launched in 2018.

"I think the most important thing about me is that I don't give up. I always try different solutions in parallel until I have explored all angles of a problem."

spaceryde-team photo

In her experience advocating for space exploration, Saharnaz discovered the best way to tell her story was to reach the people at the top, and interest will transcend to those at the bottom. Women like Saharnaz play a crucial role in space innovation, yet the perception that space is a male-dominated field has not changed. In her experience, she is often assumed to be a man and hopes to undo that perception. 

"But until the day that we have an equal number of women, to men in all high powered positions for at least a decade, that thinking doesn't change."

Saharnaz shares how she adjusted to a distributed workforce

Saharnaz never backs down from a challenge, which is very evident in how she approaches work — quickly recognizing roadblocks and taking a methodical approach to project management. When SpaceRyde moved to remote work, Saharnaz brought creative solutions to her company and created a safe working environment.

Being in the same physical space is very important to SpaceRyde because they need to make quick decisions and move fast. Saharnaz recognized this as a priority and took the additional responsibility to solve the apparent challenge, leading a strategy for health and safety. In navigating this unfamiliar territory, Saharnaz honed her talent for exploring all sides of a problem and developed specific procedures that allowed SpaceRyde to continue its launch in October of 2020.

Luck or Hard Work: To which do you attribute your success?

"We all have those lucky breaks; it's about being in the right mental and physical mind to catch them and ride on them."

Both. Saharnaz believes that without hard work, it doesn't matter how much luck you encounter if you don't know what to do with it. It's essential to recognize that luck happens to everyone, but you have to be ready to do something about it and sweat if you want to turn your luck into success.