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A Deep Dive into Space: A Conversation with Luis Campudoni About His Cross-Agency Apollo Leadership Experience

April Article-3

A few weeks ago, WDHB brought senior staff of United States government agencies into the history of NASA’s Apollo Program, connecting lessons of the past to a vast range of today’s leadership development challenges. After the program, WDHB’s Client Engagement Manager, Robin Speno, conducted a insightful interview with one of our participants, Luis Campudoni. Luis is a Senior Executive with the U.S. Small Business Administration and an avid fan of space.

Luis: (referring to his Star Wars storm troopers zoom background) I always say, I’ve got to bring my troops with me!

Robin: I love that. So, you’re a bit of a space nerd, are you?

Luis: Yeah, actually. That’s partly why I took part in this Leadership Experience. Where I am in my career right now, I’d like to pivot towards the space industry specifically. More than a hobby or a passion, I want to use my experience as a leader on the front lines to serve citizens in a new capacity.

Robin: That’s very interesting! What perfect timing, then, for you to go to the Apollo Leadership Experience. What were the highlights of your experience?

Luis: It was both very interactive and very personal. You know, I saw the different participants coming from backgrounds with a very specific space and operational domain. We were shown things that even those people didn’t know about. It was fresh content. We also weren’t just sitting in the classroom 100% of the time. With the discussions we had on-site, the kid inside of me that dreams about space started coming back online. I began thinking, “Wow, I remember hearing about this in the news. I’m looking at this rocket right here, and wow, I’m hearing a former astronaut talk about his experiences too.” Nowadays, it is so difficult to disconnect from work and focus on the present moment. This program made it easy for me to say to all my direct reporters, “I trust that you guys have the front lines, so don’t bother me. This is where I want to be.”

Robin: It’s great to hear you had such a personal connection to the experience. Were there any activities or discussions that you felt translated to your present-day challenges?

Luis: I want to say, I felt this in every activity during the day. It didn’t matter what type of conversation we were having, or whether the focus was Kennedy or Neil Armstrong, every step of the experience translated into a leadership challenge we are facing in the present. But that’s just how WDHB built the program, right?

Robin: Right! Everything ties back to leadership. Thank you for seeing the intention behind the design.

Luis: I will say, going to the Astronaut Memorial Grove was the best way to make it personal, you know?

Robin: Definitely. Was it the story of the memorial’s creation that moved you? 

Luis: Yes. I’ve often dealt with the front lines and people’s lives, so I’d see people coming out of destroyed homes just after hurricanes and natural disasters. Agency workers must internalize – whether you’re in the back end or the front line of your mission – what we do still impacts US citizens out there. Everything we do matters, just like it does for the people at NASA.

Robin: That’s a great takeaway. I can see why the parallels between NASA and these agencies had such a profound impact on you! Did you make a commitment to take some of these lessons with you?

Luis: We did have a conversation about personal commitments during the debrief session, which connected to what we learned during the experience. We also outlined step-by-step how we are being challenged to apply these lessons back at our agencies. I also told stories of what I experienced to about five or six of my division directors. Now, they want to sign up for this program in the future!

Robin: I’m really excited to hear that! It sounds like you really enjoyed the Apollo Leadership Experience because of the connections to history, where NASA is today and where they’re planning to go in the future. Furthermore, you appreciated the unique way of learning and realized its direct impact to your leadership and organization.

Luis: It’s a unique way to learn – the way WDHB does it. You must speak about the history to understand the connection to the leadership lessons. That way, the leadership piece becomes more personal. If I could say anything bad about the program, it would be that it was too short. (laughs) I could have stayed a whole week deep diving into these stories.

We warmly thank our client, Luis Campudoni, for the time and opportunity to hear his exciting takeaways from the Cross-Agency Apollo Leadership Experience. We also thank our partners, Dave (NASA Historian) and Sheila (Facilitator), for elevating this program with their insights and leadership.

To find out more about the themes of this program, or to co-design a leadership solution together, please contact us at wdhb.com/contact.

Contacts

Robin Speno

Client Engagement Manager, WDHB

[email protected]

Keri Bennington

Head of Global Client Solutions, WDHB

[email protected]

Author

Robin Speno

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