Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: Systima Applied sciences’ Taylor Banks is a ‘house addict’ hooked on what lies forward

Taylor Banks, inspiring the next generation of space lovers, with his son Cyler. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Banks)

Taylor Banks is a self-confessed space addict.

The CFO for Kirkland, Wash.-based Systima Technologies, Inc., manufacturers of systems and components for the space and defense industries, always had an interest in math and science and he found the right synergy in working for companies focused on the great beyond.

Taylor Banks. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Banks)

Our latest Geek of the Week got his undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Washington and went back for his MBA at the Foster School of Business. His first job out of school was in accounting for Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, where he discovered his passion for space. He has also spent time at Relativity Space and XCOR Aerospace.

“As we are upon the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, I have taken time to reflect on the thousands of individuals who helped lay the foundation for our current space ambitions,” Banks said. “It is truly remarkable what was able to be accomplished 50 years ago and it gives me great hope and pride in helping our nation return to the moon and eventually beyond to Mars.

“With the support of both private and public organizations, the next 10 years will be historic as we venture out to other celestial bodies once again,” he added.

Banks recently moved back to his hometown of Woodinville, Wash., with his wife Katie and 13-month-old son Cyler. When he’s not working or spending time with family he enjoys playing, coaching and watching sports. He’s coached various levels of basketball from fifth grade all the way to high school varsity. He’s also into movies and great food.

Banks likes to frequent startup pitch competitions and stay involved with both the Foster School and the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the UW.

“I learning about companies and their goals in the space and defense industry and helping entrepreneurs get their traction in starting their own successful ventures,” he said.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Taylor Banks:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I am the CFO at Systima Technologies, Inc. where we focus on developing space and defense technologies. After you witness your first rocket launch or test, it is easy to understand why anyone would want to be in this industry. Space is our next frontier and supporting many companies and their goals of reaching out into our solar system and galaxy is truly inspiring. For the defense industry, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing we are supporting our service members. Providing state-of-the-art defense technologies to our service members is extremely fulfilling and makes going into work every morning the highest of honors.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Space travel and exploration will be the “next Internet” in the long run, but can also be profitable for companies in the short run. It doesn’t take VC funding or a billionaire to make an impact in the space and defense industry. If you focus on your technology and providing customers with the best pricing, schedule, and customer service, you will always have a chance be successful. Space is hard and is not for the faint of heart. However, the rewards and self fulfillment of launching technologies beyond our planet are truly worth the effort.

Taylor Banks, right, and his brother Ryder pose with a model for NASA’s Space Launch System. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Banks)

Where do you find your inspiration? I find my inspiration in providing business tools and best practices to those individuals with game changing ideas in the space and defense industry. My passion is the space/defense industry and my tool to impact it is my understanding and comprehension of finance, business, and entrepreneurship. While I also have many mentors and idols, impacting the industry I love is where I draw inspiration in my professional career.

More personally, my family has also been a major source of inspiration. My grandfather worked on many space applications as a university faculty member, private enterprises, and eventually with NASA. He supported many technologies currently in orbit and was a chief scientist for technologies aboard STS-3. Looking back on my early childhood, it is easy to see that many of my space industry inspirations came from him and his work in the industry.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Email. I am extremely focused on customer satisfaction and making sure our partners are supported in every possible way. Email is the best way I know how to stay up to date on my customer’s needs and can track how to best support them. Even when I am on vacation I am constantly reviewing action items and questions to ensure success across our entire value chain (although not always appreciated by my wife).

Taylor Banks keeps a neat desk at home — and some space-themed inspiration nearby. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Banks)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? At our facility we are developing next generation space and defense technologies in support of our service members and space exploration aspirations. These technologies support launch vehicles, rockets, UAVs, and many other space and defense systems. I am constantly surrounded by brilliant people, exciting tests, and a culture of openness, responsiveness, and excellence.

At home I have created my second workspace with a special space theme. My workspace is always organized without clutter to help keep focus on the tasks at hand. I love the Microsoft Surface products and the flexibility for travel and docking station hookups making working from work and home a quick transition.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Have a checklist/to-do list, whether it be your email, a notepad, or other product. Write down your action items and accomplish them! Personally, my email inbox is my to-do list and I delete emails out of my inbox if they do not require direct actions.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Spock … at least that is who my wife compares me to most often.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time Machine. Oh what it would be like to watch the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … work to develop space/defense technologies focused around providing lower cost, quicker turn, and higher quality solutions. I can’t say I have an idea myself, but I am happy to find someone who does and help them make that dream into a reality.

I once waited in line for … Seattle Supersonics tickets during their last season in Seattle. #bringbackoursonics

Your role models: My father and grandfather. Their work in the fields of science and space have inspired me to also pursue this passion. Their contributions in the space and medical industries make me want to wake up and help contribute to our society every day.

More professionally, I frequently look to Jeff Bezos and his work at both Blue Origin and Amazon. I admire Jeff’s obsession with customer experience (which is well known) and his way of distilling down problems to their simplest forms to come up with logical answers. From a business standpoint, his focus on long-term alignment between customer and shareholder interests is something all companies and leaders should aim for. Focus on yourself and obsess over customers, not your competitors.

Greatest game in history: “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” I would love to see this game remastered and released on a new platform.

Best gadget ever: Golf course tracking apps.

First computer: Some early Apple computer in 1997 that I only used to play a handful of games on.

Current phone: Needs an upgrade but I can’t stomach spending $1,000+ on a new one and the new phones are the size of tablets, they can’t even fit in your pocket!

Favorite app: LinkedIn.

Most important technology of 2019: Private space flight. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are hoping to launch people into space and SpaceX and Boeing have critical test flights for their spacecraft that will eventually take people to the ISS. It should be an exciting end to 2019!

Most important technology of 2021: Affordable access to space — New Glenn, Vulcan, OmegA, Falcon Heavy/BRF, SLS. It would be great to see the groundwork laid in 2021 for sending humans to the moon shortly after that. After that, going to Mars will be “Apollo 11” of our era.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Immerse yourself in the space industry. While it doesn’t often hit the mainstream media like tech and mobile app companies, it is the next frontier for our nation and humankind. Find where you can add value and take a risk on being part of human exploration of our solar system and galaxy!

LinkedIn: Taylor Banks

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