In Defense of Positioning

My passion is positioning companies for success, specifically technology companies, and I’m writing a book about the process I developed to do this. I like to think of it as Trout and Ries 2.0. It’s a how-to manual for articulating what your company actually does and why it matters. It’s called Mothers, Mechanics and Missionaries: The Only Way to Position Your Company for Competitive Advantage. It is based on a framework that identifies corporate DNA and then helps articulate a unique position in the marketplace that your company can own. Identifying the ideal market position and articulating it in a compelling way is the end goal, but the process to get there takes into account the “DNA” of your company and illuminates positioning paths that align with it. Positioning without this alignment results in inauthentic descriptions of your company and deteriorates in a matter of months. It is the alignment of your corporate DNA and your leadership team that makes for a sticky positioning statement that attracts customers and enables you to explain how you fulfill their needs. We call this “Getting to A-Ha.”

Several weeks ago I explained the framework to the CEO of a well-funded and most-likely-to-succeed startup. Let’s call him “Steve.” Steve was looking for a new way to talk about his company as he expands his product features and seeks to attain more customers. He was intrigued. So intrigued, in fact, that he went back the mount where he recounted my thesis to his VC seeking guidance for his own positioning problem. Mr. VC wasn’t buying it. He told him that as the CEO of a startup, he couldn’t afford to focus on one or another “DNA type.” He had to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. In effect, what he told the CEO is, “You have to be all things to all people.” Not easy to do and in fact, the antithesis of positioning. Great positioning is about sacrifice. And more importantly, it is about the discipline of sacrifice. Great venture capital is about picking the passionate founder who can also lead, about timing product-market fit and about identifying resources (like positioning) that can help turn ideas into businesses.

Here’s what I told Steve.

I developed a “corporate DNA” framework for positioning about 15 years ago to help tech companies get to a credible and compelling description of their market position (positioning statement). Credible because it has to ring true and compelling because it has to be differentiated from competitors and exciting to customers. Many marketing types figure this out in the privacy of their own creative brains and come up with something that sounds very good at first pass—frankly, that’s what I used to do. However, I learned that this approach doesn’t work as well with technology companies. First, very little evidence for the new position is apparent and engineers like evidence. Second, leadership team members usually don’t align with the new position because they haven’t participated in its development. Consequently, the solutions that come from this exercise don’t last very long. So I decided to develop a process—or more accurately, reverse engineer my own process, to determine exactly how I was developing “positionings” for clients. That’s when the “Corporate DNA Framework” was born.

It is a framework to aid in the determination of the best possible description of a market position. It is a bit like “personal medicine” for marketing. We look at the DNA of a company and help determine a positioning statement that aligns with the corporate body because when it is aligned, it is easier to execute and has a better chance of success. This framework relies on an intimate understanding of the company, its product and its leadership (DNA) as well as the competitive environment. 

The construct is relatively simple and it focuses on the dominant DNA of the three types of companies identified in the thesis: a customer-oriented company (think Zappos), a product-oriented company (think Uber) or a concept-oriented company (think Salesforce). I call these Mothers, Mechanics and Missionaries. Each of these companies organizes itself a bit differently, focuses on different success metrics and hires different kinds of people. They each express themselves according to their DNA.

And it turns out that each type has available to it two positioning directions. Mothers can position themselves around customer segmentation (like Garmin) or customer experience (like Lyft). Mechanics can position themselves around features (like Microsoft) or value (like Huawei) and Missionaries can position themselves around the Next Big Thing (23andMe) or cult of personality (Hampton Creek).

It is important to note that recessive genes play a huge role here too. Just because Zappos is a customer-oriented company doesn’t mean it ignores the product. Just because Uber focuses on the product doesn’t mean it abdicates responsibility to customers. And so on. The framework simply enables companies to develop brands that are consistent with who they are and what they trying to do. None of this precludes the prime directive of walking and chewing gum at the same time. But it’s the companies that know what they’re made of, structure themselves accordingly and exploit the hell out of that while shoring up their recessive areas to meet market needs that typically win. 

By the time I developed this framework, I had already done hundreds of these positioning exercises and since then, hundreds more with a perceptible increase in clients Getting to A-Ha! at the end with the added benefit (perhaps even more important) of an aligned leadership team on direction. This is because a good positioning statement is a compelling description of the corporate strategy and this exercise forces alignment on strategy. Once the company’s role and relevance are stated simply, it is easily understood by management and becomes a filter for ongoing business decisions like acquisitions, partnerships, management and personnel.

As a marketing person, I believe understanding a company’s corporate DNA type is critical. It not only articulates a unique role and relevance in the market, it also aligns management teams and provides differentiated descriptors for analysts and press, not to mention new hires. This exercise also helps to inform whether a new category should be created. All in all, positioning is an exercise of strategy that when done correctly cements the foundation of a company and informs all marketing, sales and HR initiatives. It is an act of sacrifice that ensures a long and healthy life.

Get to A-Ha! with your positioning too. 

Andy Joins GrowthPlay's Board of Directors

Our Founder Andy Cunningham has joined GrowthPlay's Board. GrowthPlay is a sales effectiveness firm that partners with its clients to grow revenue. 

"I'm very excited to join the GrowthPlay Board. This company is uniquely positioned to address a massive marketplace need for better and more effective sales. I look forward to assisting Dan Weinfurter and the leadership team in their ongoing merging of brands, sales effectiveness collaborations, and overall growth," says Andy.

GrowthPlay brings together a powerful combination of sales performance offerings that align and enable customer organizations to achieve their revenue goals. The company focuses on consulting, training and technology solutions to elevate sales performance and drive profitable growth. Bringing together sales industry leaders - Force Management, Chally Group, Incite Sales, Akina and Law Leaders Lab – GrowthPlay provides a tailored approach and a breadth of offerings that activate change at both the organizational and individual levels and deliver lasting, measurable results.

You can read the full press release here. 

Restructuring is not just about Organization

Written by Principal Henry Hwong: 

Having worked with and for several organizations that have undergone major restructuring, I’ve seen the same post-restructuring challenge that seems to linger long after the actual change has occurred. There is a certain slowness that the organization continues to feel, even though there was a lot of work to streamline the organization. You would think that fewer people would make for accelerated decision-making and alignment afterwards — that’s the reason for the reorganization, right?

But that’s not the case. Why is that?

A big part of the problem is that during a restructuring, the only focus is on the immediate cost, which usually means how many people can we eliminate and combine into a smaller number of organizations. What often is missed is the fact that the processes remain the same long after the people have gone. When I’m talking about process, I’m speaking of strategic planning, product R&D, procurement, time and expense policies, etc. Of course, processes are important in that they help a company scale, and usually fast growing companies don’t have enough process.

However, there is a right level of process for each size organization. The number and complexity of processes in a company should be aligned with the scale of the organization. When a company restructures for the main purposes of cost, 9 times out of 10, the processes are left with fewer people that struggle to maintain the integrity of the process that was designed for a larger company. Decision-making gets even slower — and before you know it, the remaining managers want to hire back those holes in the organization.

It leads to an ongoing cycle of layoffs, followed by a small number of hires, which leads to another round of layoffs because the efficiency gains aren’t there. It is painfully obvious with companies that have undergone a major reduction in staff in a relatively short period of time (over 30% in less than five years).

So, if you’re going to have to make your organization more lean, you also should look at simplifying your processes.

You can follow Henry on Twitter here

“Smarter” Procurement?

By Principal Henry Hwong

McKinsey recently put out an article to urge more partnering between procurement and marketing when it comes to spend. Having spent many years in procurement technology with many battle scars trying to get into marketing, I have one thing to say:

Uh, what?

Putting aside the oil-and-water aspect of the procurement and marketing relationship, in general, procurement processes work well when things are very well defined. Sourcing, in essence, is about aggregating spend into categories of common items and services to have a better negotiation position with suppliers. That’s what’s being touted in this article.

However, we are still in the early days of digital transformation and marketing technology (martech) adoption. Even marketing automation, the grandaddy of martech, still has less than 50% adoption. The ground is still moving under marketing, from an agency, technology and process perspective. The last thing they need, in essence, is a slow moving, resource intensive process while everything is still evolving quickly.

Yet, the article touts that “continual transformation” is the reason why we need these deep, detailed processes. What? Something doesn’t compute.

It’s nice that they were able to get a 10% reduction in agency spend and 20% reduction in media, but what it doesn’t state the internal resource effort needed in both marketing and procurement to undergo a five month agency review. Think about that. Five months of people itemizing agency spend. Meanwhile, in this uncertain state, I wouldn’t be surprised if marketing campaigns were also impacted during this process.

If procurement wants to work with marketing, epic deep dive processes and only focusing on spend reduction as the result won’t cut it. This article tells me that thought leaders in procurement still don’t get it.

Sounds like procurement needs a dose of agility. Agile Procurement. Now that’s an interesting idea.

You can follow Henry on Twitter here

Founder Andy Cunningham Chats with Lee Caraher about PR and Marketing

Founder Andy Cunningham sits down with Lee Caraher of Double Forte to chat about her career path. Andy shares her journey from working with Steve Jobs to the founding of Cunningham Collective. Furthermore, Andy shares her unique perspective on the transformation of the PR industry and today's critical importance of solid positioning. Listen in to learn about the true art of positioning, best-practices in marketing strategy, and how to scale a career in PR. 

Key snippets: 

  • "When it comes to service businesses, the idea is to give them the best possible experience"
  • "There are only really three types of companies in the world: customer, product, and concept. Respectively, I call them mothers, mechanics, and missionaries"
  • "My favorite question in PR: what does that really mean?"

Inside Our Latest DoubleX Panel, Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space

On March 29, 2016, Cunningham Collective partnered with First Republic Bank and GSVlabs to bring together six female leaders in the space industry for an evening of panel discussion and networking. More than two hundred attendees listened as the panelists shared their inspiring personal stories and perspectives working in the space industry.

Check out the video below to see some of the highlights from the panel and learn more about the DoubleX vision from Cunningham Collective founder Andy Cunningham. 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Women in Space, Where No Man Has Gone Before

By Ewa Zwonarz

‘What we think as impossible is something that hasn’t yet happened,’ said Loretta Whitesides, the Founding Astronaut at Virgin Galactic to an audience of over two hundred attendees who gathered at GSVLabs in Redwood City on the evening of March 29, 2016 to hear six women panelists share their perspectives.

The event was organized by DoubleX, an organization founded by Andy Cunningham of  Cunningham Collective, with the mission to make gender in technology a non-issue. The audience included business leaders as well as high school students and retired space enthusiasts, all sharing the affinity for an industry that has stimulated innovation as well as imagination.

Tamaira Ross, Configuration Design Engineer at Blue Origins said that we are at a remarkable time in space development. ‘With the increased commercialization of space exploration opening to wider number of people, the issue remains: how can we make it less expensive and more available?’

For the teams at Planet Labs, getting to orbit more cheaply, has been on the forefront of thought. Erika Reinhardt, the Director of Product Engineering at Planet shared that there are lots of exciting things in progress – from commercialization, to designing renewable systems and components.

 

DIVERSITY & DESIGN

An important theme weaving through the discussions pointed at the fact that designing systems that work in space, can help us create solutions on our home planet. ‘Space teaches us how to solve really hard problems. If we can tackle them out there and succeed, we will be successful here on earth,’ said Tamaira. She added that it is important to consider technical diversity across genders and sizes if we are to accommodate millions of people who might one day soon find themselves working in space.

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger, a Retired Astronaut from NASA and one of only fifty-nine women to ever enter earth’s orbit, is no stranger to the importance of design. When using a bathroom during her 2010 mission on the space shuttle, she got nervous when things did not work with the necessary precision. ‘I was worried that things would…overflow,’ she said. ‘But thankfully I was the only one concerned. The others minds were focused on the right thing – the spacewalk.’

Dottie added that thanks to more women joining the space crew, accommodations in space have improved in the recent years. In fact, the latest class of NASA astronauts is half women! The diversity is crucial when working on space related projects, and that doesn’t only include gender.

Dr. Ioana Cozmuta, PhD, Microgravity Lead, Space Portal at NASA Ames Research Center said of her department, ‘We speak so many languages! Scientists begin with data and end with conclusions. Engineers do the reverse. Businessmen think of business first trying to find the fastest and leanest way to do something.’ She added that problems get solved when there is a balance of perspectives.

For Ali Guarneros Luna, Senior Engineer at NASA Ames Research Center balance comes from her regular interactions with people at Pottery Barn Kids, where she continues to work part time. ‘After spending much time in the company of scientists and engineers, it’s nice to connect with regular people,’ she said to the roaring audience.

 

SPACE MOTHERS

Ali’s story of raising four children while working to put herself through school did not pass without an applause. In order to get her degree and begin working at NASA, she needed to create a strong support system. ‘I’d bring my kids to school with me sometimes. I’d sit in the back listening to the lecture while my child was with me.’

Ali shared that NASA was supportive of her occasionally bringing her children to work. ‘It was important to show them what I do so that they knew where I was when I was not with them.’ The message she waned to pass to her children was: ‘If I could do it, so can you! Nothing is impossible. All you need is the right mindset.’

According to Dr. Ioana, having kids has been a best growth experience ever. ‘I could not get a Ph.D. in child rearing. Not even a manual. I had to figure it out myself.’ The mother of two daughters believes that being the best parent means supporting her children in becoming who they want to become. ‘They should choose what makes them happy.’

Dr. Ioana added that Bay Area could greatly benefit from creating a better support system for young mothers. ‘Back in Romania I had a whole neighborhood to ask for help. It was like having an extended family,’ she said, adding that here in the US it can be a challenge for young mothers who do not want to take the time off to raise their children in order not to be judged for not working as hard as men.

Dottie shared that if she could go back in time, she would ask for more support. ‘I got pregnant while I was in the midst of my space training. Women in the office who had been through it offered cribs, clothes and lots of advice. But the training was hard and I was hesitant to ask for help, which I should’ve done. After hours of underwater training in a spacesuit, I’d go to a meeting room to debrief. By then, I was so full of milk it was painful. I should’ve taken a break to pump, but I didn’t. I suffered through it.’

Loretta offered another perspective on motherhood while working in space. Admitting to having type-A overachiever personality, she said her identity crashed when after taking time off to raise her two children, ‘mommy brain’ took over her normally sharp acumen. ‘My self-confidence really suffered. But I learned something really important as a result – that I am not my job title, I am not what I do, I am so much more than that!’

 

MORSELS OF ADVICE

‘Our world is not perfect, which is great because there are so many opportunities for everyone to step in and improve it,’ said Dr. Ioana when asked about what advice she’d give her 22-year-old self. ‘I’d tell myself to take life one day at a time, because a succession of happy days leads to a happy life.’

Dottie would encourage herself to re-read Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go and know that amongst the adventures and thrill, there will be moment of slump and waiting. ‘And those are ok! Because they are places we all must know before up, up again we go.’

Erika, the youngest of the panelists, said that ‘a whopping two years ago,’ she’d tell herself that we are where we are for a good reason. ‘If you find yourself doubting, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. We all have these moments. It’s what makes us normal.’

Ali would tell herself to be patient and enjoy life’s moments to the fullest. ‘I would tell myself not be so afraid and to learn from my mistakes. They made me who I am.’

Tamaira would save herself many frustrations having known that she can’t always control other people’s behavior or decisions. ‘Sometimes a dream we have has to wait because we lack the support. But we are always free to choose how we respond to a situation.’

Quoting Sting, Loretta’s advice is to always ‘be yourself no matter what they say.’ Looking back, she said, at all the moments of personal achievement, she finally realized that success is not something to be attained. Once a goal is attained, a mountain climbed, there is nothing to be found on top. ‘I’d be back to my normal self in a few days. True success is having no distance between who I am inside and who I am known for in the world,’ she said to the cheering audience.

Another thing working in space has taught Loretta more about living on earth. Knowing that somewhere out there we might not see a cloud spontaneously form or breathe the way we do here, this awareness makes her more present and grateful. ‘There are over 1,800 planets discovered. But not one is are like ours. This one is pretty awesome.’

To read the panelist’s full bios, click here.

For more about Ewa, click here.

DoubleX Presents Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space: Meet the Panelists

 
 
 
 
 
 

On Tuesday, March 29th, Cunningham Collective, GSVlabs and First Republic Bank will host a panel discussion that brings together six female leaders in the space industry: "Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space," at GSVlabs in Redwood City, CA from 6:00 to 8:30pm. You can learn more about the panel and RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/where-no-man-has-gone-before-women-in-space-tickets-22863429132

With so much exciting activity going on in the space industry – from technological advancements like reusable rockets and commercial opportunities to travel to space – to a surge in public interest (and tech investment!), space exploration is once again at the forefront of our minds and imaginations.  
 
And with all of these new developments, more women than ever are playing crucial roles in the advancement of the space industry. In fact, the latest class of NASA astronauts is half women! At this event, we’ll hear from some successful women – including a former astronaut and leaders from Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Planet Blue and NASA Ames Research Center who have helped to break new ground in the industry. Below are the stories behind each of the talented women who will be sharing their perspectives with us on Tuesday: 

Dr. Ioana Cozmuta, PhD
MICROGRAVITY LEAD, SPACE PORTAL

AT NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER

Dr. Ioana Cozmuta is the Industry Innovation and Microgravity Lead at the Space Portal, NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Through her skill set she provides fair broker vetting of a wide portfolio of technologies. She informs, connects and advocates in support of the commercial success of space technologies to help build a robust economy in Earth’s orbits and create meaningful partnerships for success of NASA missions. Some say that Ioana is one of the most knowledgeable experts on microgravity research and applications in the world today. Ioana grew up in Communist Romania, an upbringing that has led her to be an intrinsically curious person; she always wondered what was happening on the other side of the curtain. This curiosity ultimately led her to leave Romania, earn a PhD in Physics at Groningen University, the Netherlands and eventually move to the United States to study Computational Chemistry at California Institute of Technology turning from an experimentalist into a “computationalist”. Through her work at Stanford Genome Technology Center she joined NASA Ames Research Center for Nanotechnology entering, without realizing, the aerospace industry. She was the first to bring computational chemistry methods in the field of Reentry Systems (first chair of the prestigious Gordon Research Conferences on Atmospheric Reentry Physics), developed and implemented fundamental models for gas-surface interactions and material response providing technical leadership to missions such as Stardust and Mars Science Laboratory. Ioana is a featured TedEx "Future Spoiler” speaker (Our Kind Future Through the Eyes of Space), has over 70 publications and numerous talks in the US and abroad. She enjoys mentoring students, writing poetry and raising her two daughters, Amelia (11 yr) and Alexandra (8 yr). 

FUN FACT: Dr. Cozmuta’s describes her path to a career in space as serendipitous. She realized she wanted to be in the aerospace industry after taking her first plane flight. She thought that the flight attendant’s job was too difficult and became a physicist instead.

@IoanaNASA

 

Ali Guarneros Luna
SENIOR ENGINEER
AT NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER

Ali Guarneros Luna is an Aerospace and Systems Engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. Ali’s fascination with space began early on. As a young girl growing up in Mexico City, Ali read about the space shuttle missions in her mother’s encyclopedias and knew she wanted to study Aerospace Engineering. At the age of 14, Ali and her family immigrated to California. After graduating from high school still mastering the English language, she attended San Jose City College where she obtained an A.S. degree and then transferred to San Jose State University (SJSU), Department of Engineering. Throughout this time, Ali worked two jobs to support her family (including her four children and two younger brothers and one sister) and her tuition. Ali graduated from SJSU with a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and began her career as an intern with NASA with the Center's Chief of Technology. Now, six years after joining NASA as an intern, Ali is one of the few engineers to be considered an expert on the International Space Station (ISS) and is working to develop hardware for a mission to Mars. Ali admires Jodie Foster’s character in Contact for her fearlessness breaking through gender barriers and considers the women in her family and her professors to be her role models.  

FUN FACT: In addition to her full-time role at NASA Ames Research Center, Ali retains a part-time position at Pottery Barn Kids because she enjoys the balance of perspectives it brings to her life.

@Ali_AKZAYAKATL

 

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger
RETIRED ASTRONAUT
NASA

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger is a retired space shuttle astronaut for NASA. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Whitman College, Dottie received her teaching certification from Central Washington University and went on to teach for five years at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, WA. Her dreams of going to space began in 1990 at Space Camp and were activated one afternoon in the classroom when one of her students asked how astronauts use the bathroom in space. While researching the answer, Dottie discovered there was a program at NASA for teachers who want to become astronauts. She was selected by NASA as a mission specialist in May 2004 and underwent astronaut training while pregnant, finishing the program as a new mother. After completing this initial training, Dottie qualified for technical assignments within the Astronaut Office and future flight assignment. After several years of training, she was assigned to the STS-131 crew, an International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission, and flew as Mission Specialist 2 (also known as the flight engineer). She also served as a robotic arm operator, the Intra-vehicular crew member (the inside coordinator of the spacewalks), and a transfer crew member (helping move six tons of hardware and equipment). The mission lasted fifteen days. After her space flight, Dottie commanded the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) in the Aquarius Reef Habitat off the Florida coast. The underwater mission sought to develop techniques for working at an asteroid, while working under a 100-second time delay. Today, Dottie is pursuing her Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Washington and lives in the Seattle area with her family.  

FUN FACT: Dottie has logged more than 362 hours in space and in April 2010, Dottie made history for being part of a crew with the most female astronauts ever to fly into space at the same time.

@astrodot

 

Erika Reinhardt
DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT ENGINEERING
PLANET LABS

Erika Reinhardt is the Director of Product Engineering at Planet Labs, where she leads the data pipeline and platform teams. Erika is a self-described “engineering and data nerd.” The daughter of an astrophysicist and an architect, she grew up moving between college towns and having scientists over for dinner. While she enjoyed learning physics and other sciences, she felt she could have a more immediate impact in the engineering world. She found that projects that combined software and hardware — from medical devices to robots — were particularly engaging, and that satellites and space-related systems fit right in. Erika joined Planet Labs in 2012 and was one of the first 15 employees at the company. Today the company is made up of more than 330 people and of these, Erika oversees a team of 40. Prior to taking on her role as Director of Product Engineering, Erika worked on the mission control, manufacturing tools, data processing, and platform teams at Planet. Erika earned her undergraduate degree from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering.

FUN FACT: Erika's husband is the one in the family who studied aerospace in school, and is a huge space geek, but is not currently working in the space industry. 

@embrein

 

Tamaira Ross
CONFIGURATION DESIGN ENGINEER

BLUE ORIGIN

Growing up, Tamaira Ross loved playing with Legos; she was always building things. She never paid attention to the picture on the package and everything she developed inevitably became a spaceship. Today, she designs and configures real-life spaceships. She is a configuration design engineer at Blue Origin, a commercial launch company dedicated to opening human access to space. Prior to joining Blue Origin, she was a Technical Fellow in Boeing Defense, Space & Security where she led the preliminary vehicle design and rapid development of several aircraft and spacecraft programs. Tamaira holds a B.S. and a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She also attended the University of Washington where she obtained a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Technology Management MBA. She has ten patents, two of which have been built and tested as working prototypes. Tamaira has taught classes on multi-disciplinary design, wireless power transmission, and engineering design methodology. She is also an affiliate instructor in the Industrial & Systems Engineering department at the University of Washington where she teaches graduate classes in technical leadership. She is the recipient of the Purdue University Outstanding Aerospace Engineer award, the Purdue Alumnus 2010 "40 under 40" award, and the Society of Women Engineers 2010 Emerging Leader in Product Research, Design & Engineering award.

FUN FACT: Tamaira says one of the things she loves about working with people in the space industry is that they are really aspirational. She and her colleagues are able to look at the big picture, which is good because putting people in space is not a small undertaking. 

 

Loretta Whitesides
FOUNDING ASTRONAUT

VIRGIN GALACTIC

Loretta Whitesides is a Founder Astronaut and Consultant at Virgin Galactic. As a child, Loretta always dreamed of being Princess Leia when she grew up. Today, she has more than five hours of weightless time in a 727 aircraft as a Flight Director for Zero-G Corporation and she and her husband George T. Whitesides are slated to be among the first to take a sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Loretta was trained as an astrobiologist at Stanford and Caltech and she has journeyed to the Canadian Arctic to study plant life in extreme environments and to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean with “Titanic” director James Cameron to film a 3D IMAX documentary, “Aliens of the Deep.” Loretta loves connecting people, translating between scientists, engineers and non-technical people, and reminding people that the impossible is just something that hasn't happened yet. She has two children (aged 3 and 5) and continues her work in the space community training the next generation of leaders, blogging and speaking about space, and working on her book on the impact of human space exploration on societal evolution.

FUN FACT: Loretta decided to pursue a career in space because she wanted to make the Earth better. Her dream is to make a model city in space that the whole world could look to it to see what was possible for humanity.

@lorettahidalgo