Excellence in Action

Lars Hoffman, MBA ’15

Photo of Lars Hoffman

Lars Hoffman, MBA ’15 is SpaceX’s Senior Director of Government Sales. In this role, he leads strategy, business development and sales for national security programs that provide critical space-based capabilities.

Lars was instrumental to SpaceX earning national security certification for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch systems and he has captured Government contracts totaling more than $600 million.

Lars joined SpaceX in 2014, after a distinguished career in the United States Air Force, including two tours in the Pentagon.

Lars holds advanced engineering degrees from the United States Air Force Academy, the Air Force Institute of Technology and the United States Air Force Test Pilot School. He also earned national security degrees from MIT, Air University and National Defense University and an MBA from UCLA.

Interviewed by Monique Beals • July 2, 2018

Please describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.

In 2013, I was finishing my 26-year career in the Air Force when I started the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. The UCLA Anderson EMBA program helped me make a smooth transition from my military career to my corporate career at SpaceX, where I am Senior Director of Government Sales.

What inspired you to choose this career path?

I grew up at Edwards Air Force Base, about 2 hours north of Los Angeles. As a kid growing up, I was lucky enough to watch the Space Shuttle land at Edwards many times, and I became fascinated with space flight and space exploration. I even interned at NASA my senior year of high school.

During my Air Force flying career, I qualified as Test Pilot and I applied to become an astronaut with the Space Shuttle program. Unfortunately, it was the same year as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, so NASA was not hiring new astronauts. I kept flying as a Test Pilot, and during the last two years of my career, I ran the United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards.

As I approached the end of my Air Force career, I knew I wanted to transition to a company in the space industry. I was very fortunate to make that transition into SpaceX, one of the most dynamic companies in business today and certainly pushing the envelope in space technology and space exploration.

How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?

I built the academic foundation of my corporate success in the Anderson classroom. Our EMBA instructors were excellent. I also learned a lot from my 70 EMBA classmates about corporate cultures and corporate thinking in our classroom discussions and conversations outside of the classroom.

Finally, I participated in the career counseling program at Anderson, where we met over lunch and learned about different topics, like how to write a good resume’, how to build a strong LinkedIn profile, how to be effective in interviews, and how to negotiate your salary. Those sessions helped prepare me for my transition from a military career to a corporate career.

In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?

I keep up with my UCLA EMBA classmates and UCLA alumni network and I have made myself a resource for people who are interested in SpaceX or the space industry. The UCLA alumni network is one of the reasons I attended Anderson and I find the network to be a very valuable resource.

What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?

One of my greatest career challenges was transitioning from the Air Force organizational culture, which is very structured and hierarchical, to a company with a very flat and fluid organization. To overcome this challenge, I tried to be very observant during my first few months and I asked for feedback from my colleagues. I have made the transition to this new organizational culture, while leveraging my experiences in the Air Force to help me communicate effectively with my Air Force customers.

Did you find that you had transferable skills between the military and corporate America?

Yes, I feel like I have been able to transfer many skills from my military career to my corporate career. In my case, my customers are the Air Force and the Intelligence community, so many of the skills that I developed in the Air Force are transferable to my current role at SpaceX.

What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in your industry?

You have to immerse yourself in whatever industry you want to work in and keep up with the daily developments. The space industry, especially, is very dynamic these days. I spend the first hour of every morning reviewing and understanding the space industry news that came out the previous night. I get all kinds of news feeds and anything that has to do with my industry. The learning never stops.

How do you participate and support in the UCLA community now?

I have had a couple of opportunities over the past four years to support the UCLA community, like this interview. I am happy to share my story of transition if it helps other Anderson students, especially those who are still serving in the military and are preparing to make their transition from the military.

What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?

UCLA is a great school and the Anderson Executive MBA program is a great program. They are both highly rated and are well deserving of those ratings. I am very proud to tell people I am a UCLA Anderson graduate and a member of the distinguished Anderson alumni.

And finally, what’s next?

I have really enjoyed my first four years at SpaceX and the future is very exciting. I love working with the people I work with and the incredible projects we work on every day. The company has very ambitious goals, and I would like to continue contributing to them.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Monique Beals is a Communications major and UCLA College Honors student from Memphis, Tennessee. She has previously interned at the Office of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Orange County Register, and Tegna Inc. She has also worked as an Urban Fellow for the City of Memphis. At UCLA, Monique has been involved as Marketing Director of the Community Service Commission in addition to working as a Student Recruiting Assistant for UCLA Athletics. After graduating from UCLA, Monique intends to pursue a career in journalism or law.

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