In-Focus Podcast

Building the Base episode 5: Kirsten Bartok Touw, Co-Founder, New Vista Capital

Building The Base Podcast Title Card 313w

Kirsten Bartok Touw is Co-Founder of New Vista Capital and Managing Partner of AirFinance. She is an active early-stage investor in new and emerging advanced air mobility (AAM) technologies. Bartok Touw shares her perspectives on sourcing investments in AI, machine learning, autonomy, vertical take-off and landing aircraft, and battery technology. The discussion explores Kirsten’s pathway from politics to investment banking to entrepreneurship, building relationships, and the intersection of AAM and finance.

Podcast Transcript

Introduction
Welcome to building the base. A unique discussion focused on shaping our future national security industrial base during this pivotal time in our nation’s history.

for over 40 years, the nonprofit organization business executives for national security, or BENS for short, has brought senior executives and best business practices from across our country together to address our nation’s most pressing security challenges. The band’s mission is more important now than ever before.

BENS is embarking on a historic project gathering the best ideas and minds together to define the future industrial base that the United States will need to remain secure and prosperous for our future. And now you have the chance to be a part of it.
It’s a daunting task, a task the United States has not had to do at this scale since World War Two.
Hear from top entrepreneurs and leaders from high tech, financial, industrial, and public sectors as they share their ideas and perspectives about how we can all work better together to ensure our national security and prosperity.

But it’s also a historic opportunity and opportunity to leverage new technologies, new business models, new ideas, and new voices to improve our country for the decades to come.

We are excited to have you here with us to begin today’s episode, your host is longtime BENS member and leader of the band’s Technology and Innovation Council, Lauren Bedula, and former chief weapons buyer and Innovator for a special operator’s sailors and marines. And now Ben’s distinguished fellow Hondo Geurts.

Lauren Bedula
Welcome back to building the base. We’re really on a roll here. I’m Lauren Badulla. And I’m here with my co-host Hondo, Geurts, and very excited to have with us today Kirsten Bartok Touw who l just an impressive investor and executive in aerospace defense in space, and so interested in hearing Kirsten’s perspective on a lot of the issues that we’ve discussed so far. And really why we launched this podcast.

Hondo Geurts
Yeah, awesome. Good to have you here. Kirsten So. So, a lot of us in, in the industry know you. But I would say not everybody out here in the audience knows you. And what we’d like to always start with the kind of, what’s your story? How did you get here, we were convincing a little on the start of growing up in certain places? So, what brought you from living in Maine here to being kind of one of the leaders in aviation finance and now in venture capital and, and now helping the Defense Department

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I’ll probably give away my age by telling you how long that story is. But it interesting probably starts in DC and maybe ends in DC, which is interesting. So, I am for me, proud. Mainer. Love main always said it, whether you’re left or right. And main doesn’t really matter. Everyone’s kind of in the middle agrees and so, I always liked that place. So, I kind of started in politics early on was a page here, worked on the Hill a bunch of years, and then realize what you’d appreciate. I always tell people to start things off young and really, I didn’t want to do politics. I wasn’t political, I was really someone who like to get things done. So, if you’re a person who like to get things done, what do you do? And what does it seem like? You follow? Follow some trends? Where do people go so that time I was at the University, of Pennsylvania was on Wall Street, and everyone was going there? And I said, you know, as a lot of us had. That’s interesting. Let me go give that a try. And of getting a job at Goldman Sachs and loved it. And the interesting part is I really liked the global and macro nature of what we were doing. I’d been a political scientist, an undergrad in economics. And it really combined the two sections, both worked in investment banking, and capital markets, and got to do a lot of global work with governments. And at that time, you can see it’s funny how you’re young and you don’t have the context. But I was working with a lot of governments who are buying Fannie Mae and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bonds, because they needed more yield and treasuries. At that time, you didn’t understand the context of why everyone was buying reserve, the reserve currencies, and how important essential that was to national securities, we’ll get back to today. But did so after Goldman went to business school, went out west to Stanford caught the bug, I think on technology, and really said at that point, this is even cooler, this is what’s gonna change the world. I don’t think we had, I can also say I came from a time where we were doing dial up and it just barely started work before, we had the internet for head email, which is always embarrassing to say, but you go out to California, and it’s just like everyone is they can make it happen. They can make it happen at a young age. There’s an absolute utter belief in being able to accomplish it and you don’t have there aren’t barriers or impediments in your way. And I think once you see your peers starting to do amazing things that young ages, you feel confident that you can do the same sort of thing. So, I immediately kind of dived into technology. And my first job out of business school was a venture capitalist at a firm called Hammertoe quest that the three horsemen, the young investment banks, who were really doing all the technology deals, and we had a technology fund for focused on internet software telecommunications. And it was a great time to be there, I will the heyday of what it was back in 99 2000. But then like today, we also witnessed a crash, and kind of everyone pulled away. So, I stayed in investing. Continue that for a while. And but one of the other learners about Silicon Valley, which I think will resonate to you guys, is that people are doers. And sometimes people who invest money, I will say it a negative word, we can take a derogatory word. So, I want to say parasites, but, you know, they, they are an important part of the cycle, but they aren’t necessarily the doers. And there is a true drive and respect out there to go and do things and run things. So, I had the opportunity through the fund I was working at to go work at a company in aerospace and defense and think Honda has heard me say this before, I didn’t know a piston from a turbine at the time. And we

Kirsten Bartok Touw
we got it invested in this company, it was part 135 And part 145. It was a maintenance charter facility dealer, and I was busy person always go Okay, boys back focus on the numbers, because the numbers are all that matters. And in the end, it did. Because you can’t run a business if you’re just running through cash flow, and you’re not making money. But I also you know, I also soon became a believer in that side of the world. And that that small change would kind of direct the rest of my career and where it was going. And I always say that kind of bring this full circle is that I always I view myself as the intersection between technology Silicon Valley aerospace and defense. You know, I so we built this company called XO jet, which was a charter company, a really innovative kind of business jet airline. We ended up selling it to TPG, I left there ended up working for a company called Hawker Beechcraft, which had trainers for the military at that point. And a business line of business jets worked there for a couple of years traveling the world worked with China really broke us into Asia spent a lot of time there actually. Interesting. This will be another intro, which we’re trying to sell ourselves to a Vic and Kai Agha. So that was a real learning session for how to do jayvees Over there. And, and then we go later, but the entrepreneurial side came back to me. So, I then started a company called Air finance, which was basically bringing the commercial aerospace financing kind of thought process of asset finance to the business jet space. And while there, you So, always kind of bring these different parts of your world started to see the change in aerospace going on, we were having autonomy, AI and machine learning. Electrification was coming in electric vehicles, new innovative sources of fuel, climate tech, and watch that starting to weep into aerospace, and all my friends and these companies were starting up and they really weren’t at that time filled with, they were more Silicon Valley people than aerospace and defense folks. And I became one of those people that could connect both worlds. So, I started actively investing in the sector. And then brought in really my aerospace to help trying to bridge that gap between those two worlds, because you needed the Silicon Valley guys to bring ideas and innovation, but they also needed to be grounded. In reality, we all understand certification and how the world gets regulated in what you need to roll out that wasn’t going to change. So that kind of fast forward brings me today, I still do a lot of work on the financing side, we now do a venture capital arm, which Honda was involved with was called New Vista capital, I partnered with Travis Nelson and Dennis Muhlenberg and a bunch of other amazing executives, Honda being one of them. And we formed a team basically, to go out after emerging technologies and aerospace and defense, both on the venture side and the spec side. So, I was talking to you, we have a new intern like you guys do. And I was joking with him, like, you’re gonna love this just as much as because we have a passion, we have a mission, it’s really cool. Like, we truly believe we’re at the beginning of a precipice of the next 20 years that are gonna look revolutionarily different both on the defense side and the aerospace. And, and we get to be mission driven. We’re doing important things for our country in the world.

Lauren Bedula
Wow. You talk about passion, and doers and mission. And that’s something that has just really been a theme in all of our conversations to date. But something that I find so compelling that you talk about is connecting different worlds, right. And there are so many companies that are trying to figure out how do I, whether it’s Silicon Valley are different innovation hubs, but really from the high-tech sector, how do I connect with this community in the defense world, which culturally can be so different, and trying to navigate that issue, I think is top of mind for more and more companies nowadays. And so, I’m curious, what’s your outlook on the connectivity between these two communities? Is it possible for them to work together? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Kirsten Bartok Touw
What a good note, it’s growing. I remember sitting down three or four years ago, and we were based in Silicon Valley at the time before moving to DC. And we were talking about how to, you know, are there how do we get aligned their possibilities that the government will buy some of the stuff in and you’re out there and you just have no idea? It seems like this huge morass is enigma. And then we had the opportunity to relocate here a couple of years ago and do you realize that it works exactly like Silicon Valley does, in fact, it’s about relationships and connectivity and understanding each other, and knowing how to work, not work, but how to maneuver within a structure and a system. And that is why we all are students of structures and systems. But it is important to kind of connect those two organizations and I see it growing. You know, I love the fact that I’m seeing more and more of our country service men and women come out and want to do technology, and they’re using their skill sets. And unlike years ago, they believe they can start up a new company, and they can be entrepreneurs. And you see on the other side, that they are valued by kind of the Silicon Valley people who’ve grown up because they the Silicon Valley, people, at least on a good part, they understand their limitations. They say, I don’t understand you see, we don’t know how to work with it, please help us. So, they both of those groups need each other and exciting to do we’re just at the beginning of I think how that is going to evolve and grow. That’s awesome.

Hondo Geurts
So, we talked a little bit about interns. And so, I’m going to do an intern crazy. Ivan on you. And I asked the interns here with us today, you know, here’s his amazing person, amazing background, what question would you ask her and the consensus was, you’ve been very successful at failing, and how have you become as a venture capitalist, you’ve got to be comfortable that not everything’s going to work out exactly like you planned, and you don’t have a 20-year, exact path and things will fail. And you will have us, you know, a.com crash or whatever, how have your kind of mentally and then, you know, systematically gotten comfortable with failure as a as a core part of the business process.

Kirsten Bartok Touw
It’s a great question. Hondo. And culturally, you know, I can I can step outside of that, because I grew up on the East Coast, people on the East Coast are not okay with failure, like you go from one job to the next, and you can’t have a break. People on the West Coast are like failure is a part of it, you’re going to learn, you’re going to be better for it. We hope you don’t have to go through it. But it is part of the process. And it’s also part of the process to take a break. Like these are marathons, you’re sprinting in that marathon. So, you should take a break, and you will make better decisions, if you are period on the beach, which you know, the consultants call it. So, I think that that is it is cultural, I was reading something that I came across from business school that said, can entrepreneurship be learned. And I do believe that as the case I think inherently some people are more risk prone and risk adverse. But on the other hand, I learned how to be risky, I learned how to be in enjoy that that adrenaline and be okay with it. I’ll also say one of my first bosses taught me this and it goes back to what I just said is, I was talking to him as an investor. And certainly, in venture and private equity, one of the things you learn is, it’s a painful experience, but how things fail. So, when you do documents, when you when you negotiate things, when you have all these terms, you put in a document for a venture round, you will only understand why those are important when you go through a failure of a company. And that’s an important part of anyone learning. So, I want people if I hope open tend five to 10 years, people on the East Coast respect failure more because it is part of the process. Lastly, I do encourage people to start at a big firm, I think culture matters a lot. And that in sometimes I would say the first organization that you work for is always the place in which you’ll feel safest and most comfortable. And you’ll replicate that later in your life. And I do think that sometimes it’s good to have some sort of organizational control some structure to it for the first few years, let’s say out of college, your first job, and then you can go to the more amorphous, less structure organization that startups are.

Hondo Geurts
Now Wow, that’s, that’s, that’s a great perspective. And it’s funny, because in the DOD, we often talk about, we need to be more risk taking. But then a lot of folks look at the military and go, wow, all they do is risky things. And so, you know, getting his cultural alignments really, really, I think, an interesting opportunity for us.

Lauren Bedula
It reminds me of a quote I just heard a few weeks ago, success is a lousy teacher. And I think even just to your point about East Coast versus West Coast, this isn’t just the US government. There’s almost as this divide New York, DC, but I love that because the point is you really learn and grow from failures. So, wanting to pivot to the economic outlook, we’re at this almost spooky time with growing inflation. I’m curious for your take in what’s to come, both in terms of the financial marketplaces, but also how will this impact DoD ability to do business with startups who will be very sensitive of burn rates and time to market?

It’s a great question. It’ll take the two parts. We had a slight debate about this internally. And I, I do believe it’s going to be a long, tough year and a half or two on the startup side. And I don’t say that in terms of this is the debate, nothing fundamentally has changed. Technology is still going to grow. We all still absolutely believe in that. Direct, say, the rate of acceleration and the direction, but valuations got out of hand, and people got a little ahead of their skis, in terms of what they were asking for. And in the future, why that matter is because the people who are investing do have to make money. So, if you’re investing at a very high valuation, and you can’t find it, an ability to exit at a much higher, valuations are going to come down, and people are going to get more cautious. And they’re also going to recognize that it’s going to weed out. So, while we do have a lot of money going into new startups, they are going to be more cautious about who they invest in, and how those companies break out from what they’re competing against. So not so it’ll be harder to raise capital. I believe that the DoD is going to become more and more important part of the ecosystem, and it is a part of the ecosystem. And I think this, we’re in Ukraine, and the way we’re seeing governments lean in, and the importance of these new technologies and how warfare is being fought is, is instrumental in in leading that, you know, let’s just go if we go to the non-kinetic or long, let’s talk about Earth observation, we’ve been talking for years about how important the commercial side of Earth observation was going to be. And now we’re seeing its usage in directing people resources, intelligence reconnaissance, it is changed Modern Warfare and how we conduct things, nothing can be done in secret anymore, it is SAR gets more prevalent as hyperspectral is we’re able to use other things be beyond optical, you know, and though those analytics, and we just said, I get a little worried because it’s gonna be a you’re not gonna be able to hide the real trackers everywhere. But on the other sense, it is changing how modern warfare will be fought. And then you get the second part to the drone, the light attack, the things that you can lose the non-kinetic low-cost drones that you’re not afraid of using and warfare are gaining intelligence on. And low-cost so what we’re showing is that we need to evolve faster in a greater pace rapidity, and to your point earlier, not being afraid of losing those. So, Hunter, you and I have talked a lot about the acquisition process and the pace at which that occurs. And you know, you put an N, I’m always going to use the wrong word, the RFQ out, and it’s got, you know, it’s got requirements that were extremely five years out, but then they change. And we modernize, and we need to work at a faster pace the face to business. And I think that is going to be essential. But if you just look last budgets, I mean, I think I read today, we’re now going to $2 trillion of government of DOD spending in the US, you saw the federal government come out with 100 billion. And I mean, these are really consequential and monumental changes, and they are going to impact. I love it, though. Because when I started out, we never talked about the partnership between Silicon Valley and it being of national security and national importance. And also, being strategic about what industries, we were a globalized world back then we said, oh, you’ll be able to get resources here and there. And they’ll never be, you know, and in history repeats itself, because it’s actually what they were talking about in 1917. Right. I mean, that’s the crazy part. It was a globalized world back even back then. So, it is really important that we think about we all work together strategically, and have a little bit more orientation about what are the industries that are important from a supply chain, and an industrial base that we need to retain in, let’s say, our hemisphere.

Hondo Geurts
Soi thinks that’s a great, you know, observation. And certainly, Ukraine is showing this convergence of there’s not commercial tech and DOD tech, there’s just kind of tech. And then you know, you’ve got these different use cases. But it still feels like we think of the industrial base in World War two terms. I mean, even you know, even within the DOD, but certainly you get a unique position with a foot in all the camps, fast forward 20 or 30 years. If we, have it right. And we figure out how to better align together. What does that look like? Do you what would you how would you know, it’s different than where we are today?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
Well, I think is we all know, because we read the same things, we’re concerned about the consolidation, we think about the world at a cost plus, that’s how the contracting is historically gone, and acquisitions, we’ve had big programs that we want to create. And I think going forward, it’ll be more market based and iterative. And hopefully, we’ll have a large number of, of organizations and companies that support that industrial base, I also firmly believe that we will be in a more siloed world, which is unfortunate. In terms of, I don’t like that, but it probably is a reality. And by that we really need to, we really need to align and work in coordination with the nations close to us because we, of EPA rules and certain things we may not be able to do everything we need to do in the US. We have close friends to our north, close friends to our south, and there are better ways where we can create a supply chain and work together. Leveraging is both natural resource because that’s the other part we forget about how you know we talk about the industrial basis, the manufacturing the supply chain on that. We also forget about the natural resource Should that go into it? Well, as well, and is we’ve neglected that size, which side which is causing us problems today? You work

Lauren Bedula
with lots of companies and on lots of boards or invest in them. I’m curious if you think that new reality is something that is generally on the minds of business leaders are how aware are they of that shift?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I think it’s a question of which business leaders, right. So I am, if we think about the old world, kind of industrial supply of military industrial complex of the is Lockheed, the Raytheon’s, the Boeing’s, I think there’s a recognition that the game is changing, and they need to keep up. And it’ll be an interesting question of whether they can adapt and adjust. I think as you talk about the collaboration on the startup side, I love the correlation between that the startup guys sort of people, as well as the is service men and women who come in, and that collaboration is going well, the question will be, and we’ve talked about this a lot is, are we going to be able to feed these companies enough. And by feed, I mean, give them contracts, and give them programs of record, that are going to enable them to grow beyond the small 200 million $300 million company, we both know that we have a couple of we have multiple unicorns in our space. But let’s say the amount where their revenues are today don’t always justify where that is. So, we need to grow. We need them to grow into those valuations, and really build up that middle where we won’t just have huge companies in this military industrial complex, that we have a robust ecosystem of small to medium sized and large companies eating that and competing on a level playing field.

Hondo Geurts
That’s a really good perspective. And I think one of the keys, if I look out 2030 years from now is do we have that balanced? Right? And do we have this robust network of performers, not only in the US, but other places? I want to turn a little bit you know; you and I have had a chance to work together. And there’s two traits about you I absolutely love. And it’s just really interesting mix of being both humble and assertive. And we laugh often because we’ll get in a conversation and I’ll say, okay, dumb guy finance, question Kirsten, you know, and I’ll have a junior high version of a finance question. I’ll be right back. And then she’ll be right back at me with the Okay, I got a dumb guy defense question. Is this accurate? Yeah, I’m the acronym dictionary. But thinks know; I think, you know, particularly as a female breaking through and what is you know, startup? No small secret, you know, very male base, same in your aerospace? How have you, I said, balanced those as you’ve gone through and know when to be humble, and then know when to be assertive? And what’s your perspective on that for kind of up-and-coming leaders? who are looking for role models, like you who have, you know, made it where others haven’t been able to break through?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
Great question, I wish I knew the answer. And I wish I could say I’ve been successful; I think you don’t always have the balance, it’s important to know what you know, and know what you don’t know. And, and always find your board is we’ve kind of found people, you can ask if you don’t know something, and use research. And don’t be afraid of that. I think the tough part is, you know, when you’re younger, you’re 26. And we always have this problem coming out of business goal. You don’t you’re always embarrassed to ask, you’re always afraid to say I don’t know that. So, I think once you can develop a competency and an expertise in a certain area, and I had a I had a niche competency. Mine was always kind of aircraft financing globalization, you know, and then it fit into a lot of other areas, as we talked about, but I was always able to, I didn’t pretend I was an engineer, I didn’t pretend I was a supply chain person I didn’t, you know, wasn’t, but I knew this area, and then I could rest to some extent on those laurels. And be okay with that. So, it is I think we all talk about the growing older, there are a lot of benefits. One of them is you kind of become a little more comfortable with yourself and your skin and say, look, I’m smart enough to be here. And now I can now I can ask these dumb questions, because it’s okay. And these dumb questions if you don’t ask the dumb questions, you really won’t understand the macro picture without some of the legs on the stool.

Hondo Geurts
Yeah, and I think an element of that is also not being afraid to break out of your tribe. Right? Because generally, you know, if you’re just in your same tribe, then then you won’t know what you don’t know. And then you can set yourself up for a big failure. How did you get comfortable, you know, going on the shop floor as the finance whiz with a bunch of wrenches, Turner’s that, you know, probably didn’t understand where you were coming from?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I think that’s a natural curiosity. I mean, for me, it was always I hate to say is, I’ve always bored with people like me. I mean, why there, you know, they’re bad. They’re, they’re, you know, they’re fine. But, you know, we our conversations are pretty linear, right? They’re pretty boring. So, it’s always interesting to have a diverse group around that you can learn from and like you, I like people’s stories. So, there’s always something to learn. So, you know, I’m a was curious about how an aircraft made, how a turbine runs, how it how things are built. So, I’ve never afraid of asking people, if the other thing you realize really people like being asked questions, they like being able to show their own competency. So typically, people are happy to do that. And if you have a natural curiosity and inclination to understand what they’re doing, that’s all good. That’s human nature. Right? So, well, you’ve

Lauren Bedula
had such great success outside of the federal space. I’m curious, what attracts you to defense and national security? And really, what has surprised you along those lines so far?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
That’s a great question. Um, grow it. I mentioned earlier that I’d been I started, you know, in government really early on, and I moved on, because I was a doer, and I like doing things. But there is a point where you’re doing things for long enough. And you’re like, what’s my, what’s my mission? What’s my purpose in life? Where am I going? And is it just to make more money? Yes, it’s fun building companies. Yes, this is great. And I’m lucky, I get to learn new things every day. But I think everyone appreciates having a mission and doing good, and trying to give back. And, you know, I think the sad part for me comes is I’m gonna Yeah, I’m just about to hit the back half of my careers, I always say, and there, I don’t have all the opportunities, I can’t go work in government, I can’t be a chief of staff to someone and learn everything I could in that position. So, I’m kind of stuck. But what we can do is go and learn as much as possible and try to understand it and figure out what’s going on. So, for me, it also helps to have a passion to wake up every day and a mission and understanding the challenges that our nation faces going forward in terms of building the space, and the changes we need to go through to get where we need to be to compete, to continue in our leadership and to keep our edge. There’s a lot of work to be done. And it’s exciting. It’s So, important to have a mission be able to wake up every day and have the energy to do that.

Hondo Geurts
Now, one of the things I’ve learned from you is and the other venture folks in the community is how important people are you sometimes I think there’s this misnomer that people back technology. Most of the time people back teams, they may have technology that helps them or a new idea that helps them but I was you know, having been outside of government now. It’s So, amazing how much the focus is on talent. And probably no surprise anybody the talent wars going on, both in the valley and in DOD. But so, I think I’m starting to see a trend now of more and more folks getting interested in national security and so, that what’s So, your sense of that? Are you seeing the same thing? And so, what do we need to do to keep attracting up and coming talent into the national security space?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I think you’re exactly right. And I think whether you’re at the back end of your career, or whatever the age you are, people want to have, they want to be doing something larger than themselves. And there’s a period, you know, if you’re building it not that social network or the social internet was, but people did feel, gosh, that’s really cool that we built this, but it was it making the world a better place. And you can justify that. But if you go back and you think about national security, and the dual use technologies that are both gonna be important on the commercial side, as well as the national security side, it does help to that social network spend you know, as an entrepreneur, you spend 18 hours a day, it’s often new to working these jobs, it’s a marathon. So having the energy and the stamina to do that, it’s that social network important to have a higher calling, which you guys have already known. I mean, you who’ve given back to our company and service, you’ve worked like that. And we’re making the salaries that you were doing it for the good of our country. So, I think that I am optimistic about these groups working together. And like I said earlier, I’m very, very excited about we’re seeing the talent coming out of our Armed Forces right now. And having an entrepreneurial bent to them and really working in connection. We’ve had a lot of work to do, I hope I love what I’m seeing around So, the DC area, the DMV, especially in Arlington and Tyson’s where we’re really having these corridors built up for the future industrial base. And that’s going to be important because ecosystems matter, people matter. And that knowledge of how to start up a company and what to do next, you’re going to be better out if you’ve seen it done before and how the game is played.

Hondo Geurts
So, for the new, you know, the veteran who served is she or he asserted his time and okay, I want to start in his venture world and when to start a startup. When do you have advice for them on you know, how, again, with some humility, what have you seen work well with them and maybe not so well with veterans popping into this into this part of the community?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I think some does matter on where So, you are in that spectrum, in terms of your position before leaving, but there’s so many opportunities because, like we said, no, you know, no, you don’t know you want a mini-MBA or the military vet He wants a mini-MBA in how to start a business how to build this? And the mini-MBA startup entrepreneur wants a mini-MBA? And how do I ask the government? How does this behemoth work, so the two can be leveraged? And if, if you’re a three star or four-star indie can be leveraged on the boards and advisory boards, because they need that support, we need mentoring, you guys are amazing on leadership, you know, we all know to look at values, not the best on leadership necessarily. So, we can, we can use that. And on the younger side, it’s So, the structure of the organization, it’s working together. So, I’m very optimistic about the tentacles between the two groups becoming stronger and stronger.

Lauren Bedula
You talk about these long days and have had so many intense career choices so far. And so, I’m always amazed at how you seem to balance love hearing about your kids and your family. And I think balancing professional interests and goals with personal goals and families in the like, seems to be near and dear to your heart. So, I’m curious if you have any advice for our listeners who are trying to sort through similar choices,

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I think the first thing is whatever sex you are, have a supportive spouse, so that it’s incredibly important. My husband and I are really lucky, we balance each other off, you know, and, and our screws have gone in cycles. I think the second part, funny enough, working remotely has been really valuable. Because even though I work really long days, my kids see me, they feel like they have access to me, I can, you know, go and do something. And that became really okay during COVID. And we realized that organizations could work together, I’ve always traveled a lot. I encourage people, probably not to have too many kids, if you want to have it all. Because you’re never going to feel that you do a good job. And I think I don’t, I feel like I fail a lot on both sides. And there’s never enough time in each day. And I think a little learning what that is, is being okay with that. Being able to laugh at it. Like I will laugh and I messed up on that with my kids or something or I work. I was like, I wish I joke with a couple of my friends who don’t have kids. And I’m like, oh, do you remember those days? We could work all weekend? That was great. You know, and it is true, because you weren’t coffee, you’re what you’re doing is learning. But you know, life goes in cycles. And we’re grateful for each and I do hope I you know; I think back every day about how lucky I am and the people who in our military have had to go on tours. And I know; hope at some point we can provide more flexibility within our military to our chain strong people internally. Because, you know, I do have to admit, I don’t think I could have gone on tour when my kids were young. So, it would have been? Yeah.

Hondo Geurts
Well, it takes a great support So, network there as well. Another key element I think, especially as you’re growing up to your career’s mentorship and so, how have you approached mentorship what we know lessons learned there and so, particularly being comfortable getting mentoring support from folks again, not just like you are look just like you or had the same background? What so advice do you have both as you know, as up and coming here, in particular of how important it is?

Kirsten Bartok Touw
I am I didn’t do a great job of mentorship. I was definitely a mistake I made. And I always had like a good kitchen cabinet of diverse people around me that I could ask questions to like the relationship we have. But I didn’t do a great job of going up. And I think that was a possibly level of insecurity I had. Because I was like, oh, they don’t want to talk to me. They’re so accomplished. They’re, they’re amazing. Why would they want to spend time with me and, and try and be helpful, but I didn’t do a great job. And it’s funny, it’s only kind of being at the higher level. Now understanding that’s not true. Like there’s a couple of people in my world who keep in great touch, and they’ve got a tickler. And they’ll reach out every six months. And they’ll set a zoom call and we’ll do it. And we’ll talk some about work and so about personal. And for me, I learned a ton from them, because they’re doing really cool things at the leading edge. And that is great for me because I don’t always get that access. And I hope that I can impart upon them. So, the stakes you’ve made or, you know, things they could approach or differently. And we talk about all aspects. So that came too late. And to me in life that the older people, the more senior people actually really enjoy it.

Hondo Geurts
Yeah, it’s funny because I hear the same thing. I was afraid and I like there’s nothing I love more than to talk about mentorship and leadership and all that. So, if you’re, if you’re young going out there or anywhere you are in your career, don’t be afraid to ask. And if somebody’s busy, don’t be offended if they say I’m busy. I’ll get back to you next month or something. But you’ll never you’ll never have the opportunity if you never make the ask.

Kirsten Bartok Touw
And sometimes if they lose your email, totally understand that follow up again the next month because you’re not offended.

Lauren Bedula
I know you’ve been a great mentor to me. I really enjoy hearing about your story and perspectives from both the financial side and then DOD and broader aerospace. So, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today about how you can be a doer but also focus on your mission and connect different worlds and really accept risk as a learning opportunity. So, thank you so much, Karen, for joining us today.

Outro
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