Recently, I, Peter Buckley, Chief Customer Officer at MyPass®, had the pleasure to represent MyPass®, NERA and Unearthed at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

With over 60,000 delegates in attendance, this is the biggest conference of its kind. MyPass® were able to connect with potential clients and industry leaders linked to the Oil and Gas sector from around the world, gaining invaluable insights into the sector as well as business leaders.

Our discussions with Houston based venture capital firms led to an introduction and meeting with Tim Kopra of Blue Bear Capital. Tim quickly understood the solution MyPass® has created for industries in highly regulated and compliance-focused sectors and the value to our current clients and their 25,000+ workers.

Our research and conversation with Tim revealed an individual with a distinguished career as a US Army Colonel and West Point Academy trained commander, serving in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm combats as an Apache Helicopter commander and pilot in the early 90’s. His academic record also recognises stellar performances at Georgia Tech, London Business School and Columbia University.

If that wasn’t enough, Tim navigated his career towards NASA and became an Astronaut at the Johnson Space Center serving as a Flight engineer for International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 46 and Commander for ISS Expedition 47. These missions in space and subsequent training in the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Germany outline the true mission and purpose of collaboration.

For MyPass® Managing Director Matt Smith and myself, whilst in Rome (Or Houston) it was a must to visit the Johnson Space Centre to experience innovation in action. To our surprise, Tim heard this and volunteered his time to spend a Saturday with us and provide a ‘backstage’ pass to the Johnson Space Centre. This act of generosity and gift of time truly humbled both Matt and me, almost to the point of disbelief.

Given his stature, I wanted to share some insights from our discussion as he really gave me food for thought when it comes to business leadership:

Work/Life balance

After 18 years working for NASA as an astronaut, I asked how he balanced family life with training in Russia, Canada and six months away on a space mission to the International Space station. His short answer was that he “married a saint”, although I can imagine it runs much deeper than this. I can vouch for Tim as we came together on Mother’s Day eve and during our time at NASA, he was on the phone ordering flowers for his wife.


Tim outlined how every single detail for his space mission was accounted for. This included custom made gloves to suit his hands and a 200 pound (90kg) custom spacesuit for when he was outside the space station performing maintenance tasks. Missions in space and working here on earth clearly requires planning, preparation and there is no need to leave success up to chance or luck.

Leadership in action – “Just like a family”

For each mission to the International Space Centre, crews are made up of astronauts from all over the world. Tim explained that on each mission communication was key to their success and combining the language and cultural intricacies of astronauts from Russia, the USA, Canada, England as well as support from many other countries, was a delicate blend. Tim recounted spending 6 months in space in such a confined space, coupled with the dangers of a space mission and the technical aspects of their role. He explained that missions in space and his time at NASA were akin to a family; there is always one crazy uncle in each family!

Perks of the role

Tim spoke of the extreme dangers of space missions including the re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, the potential of losing contact with the space station, or even rogue space junk that could demolish the space station in an instant. The incredible experiences of his work, however, align with my own views that life, work, family and friends are made up of the incredible experiences and adventures that you embrace and appreciate in the moment. For Tim, the view of the earth at 400km above the surface, taking photos of capital cities around the world,  taking a lap of the earth every 90 minutes, and 16 sunrises plus sunsets each day were marvelled and never taken for granted.

Tim spent over 2 hours with us at the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston. We were spellbound by his stories, authenticity, humility and genuine love and passion for the NASA space centre where he worked for 18 years.

Jumping ahead to the present day, I asked Tim in closing why he chose to work for Blue Bear Capital and to forge a strong career in venture capital funding, post NASA. Reflecting on this, Tim said that similar to a space mission where leadership, collaboration, teamwork and communication are all fundamental to success, the same attributes are required in his current role. It seems that keeping each other accountable, sometimes with tough love to sort out that rogue uncle, are common in life, at NASA and also for us at MyPass®.

Thank you Tim Kopra for the time and continued friendship.



Peter Buckley (Chief Customer Officer)