After 20 years at Citibank, Adam Gilmour gave up a high-flying career in finance to, literally, aim for the stars. In 2012, he decided to turn his lifelong passion into a job, founding Gilmour Space Technologies to build small, low-cost satellites powered by 3D printed rocket fuel. It was a good move – the company recently attracted $5 million in funding and is in talks to supply groups such as NASA.
The 43-year-old lives in Singapore with his wife and three kids, but spends a lot of time at the company’s research and development facility in Queensland. We caught up with him to find out what inspired his career transformation.
How has your upbringing influenced your professional life?
I come from an extremely supportive family, who encouraged me to succeed in sport at an early age and allowed me space to grow and study while I was at university.
Have you ever had a ‘eureka’ moment that changed your career?
When I found out the winning team in the 2004 X Prize competition [to build private spaceships capable of carrying three people] had come up with a sub-orbital manned space flight, with just $20 million of finance, I thought it was a sure sign space travel could be cheap and accessible to more than the ultra-rich.
What do you value most about your working life now?
I love that I’m able to set my own direction, doing what I love. And I enjoy being able to work on very large and complicated problems with a team of highly talented and highly specialised people.
If you could go back 20 years what advice would you give yourself?
Take more risks – you are usually right.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Doing what people said was impossible. Overall though, I’m not yet satisfied and believe my biggest achievements are still ahead of me.
Have you had any career low points and how have you overcome them?
I didn’t get a very senior job at Citibank that I had worked very hard for and was confident of getting. I got over it by starting my own business and taking more control of my career.
Who are your career role models and why?
Paco Ybarra, the global head of financial markets at Citibank who I’ve known for about 15 years. He treats everyone in the company with respect and as equals, and consistently looks for solutions that please all sides. He is incredibly fair, super smart, and can understand complex problems very quickly.
I also admire Elon Musk. He always overcomes the odds. He just ploughs ahead and turns his ideas into reality without worrying about what other people think.
What’s your ultimate goal?
To put humans in space permanently.
If money was no object what would you buy?
A space plane so I could fuel it up and go anywhere on earth within an hour.
What would your motto be?
You win some, you lose some. But you keep on fighting!