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EP 010 / 16.12.2020


Farah Nanji: 0:00  


You're listening to the Mission Makers show, a podcast that inspires humans to get into the mindset of success. My name is Farah Nanji, and I'm the founder of a business in the Motorsports industry that explores leadership lessons from things like Formula One. I'm also a DJ and music producer in the underground electronic scene, and a public speaker on key topics like resilience, building high performance teams, overcoming learning difficulties and stimulating creativity. And to tie it all together, I love writing thought provoking content as a journalist for these industries, which is so unique in themselves. On this show, I'm sitting down with some of the most inspiring and driven people I've met around the world to talk about their processes, their failures, the lessons they've learned, and how they're truly making an impact for this world.


For today's episode, we're joined by probably one of the smartest people I know, Damon Bradley. Damon is a leading scientist and engineer at NASA, where he manages a team centred heavily around innovation and high performance. He also happens to be a killer techno DJ. And that's actually how we met at the movement festival in Detroit a few years ago. In this episode, we talked about his journey towards working for one of the most high profile agencies in the world, his voyages of self discovery through a deep Sonic exploration of techno and his experiences of being in the US during a crazy 2020. Just before we begin, if you're interested in watching the video version of this podcast, head over to YouTube and type in Mission Makers, Damon Bradley to see the show. 


You do some really interesting stuff and I'd love to know how that came into your life? How did you discover your passions for this?


Damon Bradley: 1:58


Alright, so let me answer your first question, I guess, how did I find my passion? Now? I would say I have multiple passions. Probably the two strongest are music. And the second would be more of an amalgamation of engineering and science, particularly space science, space, science, space, technology, space engineering. So I'll start with probably, as they both go back to when I was a kid. All right, I'll probably start with music. Music started, particularly with techno techno was first created. A lot of great music has actually been played. And so that's where I'm where I'm from. Right. So that's why I was born and raised back in 79 getting old, right? When I was three years old. I remember my older brother playing power 99 FM that was like the main radio station that played hip hop, r&b so forth. And they played a lot of electric and they were playing some of the beginning techno so I wouldn't I wouldn't hear Africa bata. Oh, here we go clear by Juan Atkins. Now here are some of Soto's older tracks that came out, even Kraftwerk, all that stuff will get played on the radio. I remember in particular, my brother played, it was Africa bought a remix of craftworks numbers. And there was a sound effect. Well, that's not it was a sample where you had this robot voice counting in different languages, like Uno, dos, tres cuando. Ease be sanchi if you ever heard the acronym and bought a remix, it sounds amazing. And I was three years old. I'm like, What the heck is this? Like a robot voice like it sounds so cool. I think at that moment, that's when I thought the spark hit and I was like, no, what actually sounds like the sounds. My perspective as I got older was and got myself a tape recorder. And it was always about sound. It was like sound effects, things that sounded cool. So I would record my video games, I'll record myself making the sound effects. I was a fan of the police academy. So that one guy that made all the sound effects in that movie, like I thought that was pretty cool. So whatever it sounds good, I may take and I was as young as five, six years old, one of my other oldest brothers, two brothers both voting. They one of them gave me a tape recorder. And before he moved out and started his life on his own, and that tape recorder I just recorded everything I could find. And that started my passion for music. Right and then that just led to me discovering techno trance on university, Drexel University radio station as I got older in the rest of this a love affair and those that just kept on with it. Right Um, I think on the engineering side of things, I actually had to deal with my sisters, right? They would have their textbooks that would be leaving around, textbooks around. I remember there was a physics book and there was a science book. This book basically has those you can tell it was from like the 1960s Because it used outdated chauvinistic language like chapter one man discovers such and such and such chapter two, like men use power of friction and ice to discover new things. It was weird, right. And I thought it was fun. So, at the time, there was an older book. But the good thing about the older book, as we got into the explanation of things, it was very clear first principles physics. So I was, I mean, actually about six, seven years old time going through this business. Some summers, I'll be bored, I want to do experiments, I started going through this book, started doing experiments, as I learned, taught myself electric circuits, and current voltage, all that started learning about gravity. When I was young, I started learning about space. And the other textbooks that must have been around science books that actually had actual NASA images from Voyager one and Voyager two spacecraft, like those will get published right into the textbook. And these were pictures of planets. Time was Venus, and Mars. And then there was a couple of faint images of Neptune, Jupiter, and I'm like, Man, this is really cool, like, and they had all this information about planets in it. And it just, it really captured my mind and imagination at the time. So simultaneously, love for music. And lo really, for Astronomy and Astrophysics started growing at the same time. And as I got older, I started getting more involved in computers, more involved in math, and that naturally lends itself to engineering and science and pretty much do the same person ever since I was a kid. No, it's like, basically still playing with the same stuff that I played with, when I was given out paid big bucks to do it. You know, but it's all the same things. I'll be consistent pulling.


Farah Nanji: 6:49  


Do you think you chose it or it chose you?


Damon Bradley: 6:55  


That's a great question. Um, it's a combination of both. Right, I think, based on my family, and having the resources around having the knowledge, having the study, you know, having the resources around for me to just pick up and read and entertain the discussions. You know, I think I kind of chose it because that's something that I was interested in. And my family was really good, supportive, for me to pursue that. I think, in a way, it shows me, just because I think this kind of stuff, like the music, the music and the engineering, the music, and the math, it's for me is all kinds of one continuum of things that's in my blood. So it's like a symbiotic relationship, things both be honest with


Farah Nanji: 7:39  


Do you remember your first rave experience?


Damon Bradley: 7:45  


My first rave experience? Gosh, I gotta go back to believe it or not, not so much of a rave experience was more of a clubbing outside of the country experience. So I grew up. So as I was growing up, I listened to the music before I could, I was old enough to actually go out and enjoy it. Alright, and I was pretty much a rule follower, right. So I didn't have a fake or anything like that. So I couldn't go to any of the fame, illegal raves and so forth. Speaking, I didn't have the means trying to go jump into the rain in Philadelphia. There weren't a whole lot of raves anyway, at that time, right. I knew about him as a result of W kdU at 1.7 Drexel University radio stations, right, they were talking about him all the time. And that would inspire some DJs to get some music played on station. So that led to me really not going out a whole lot, right. So when I got to college, I ended up going to Penn State. When I got to college, I started going to clubs, the first time, the clubs there, they played a little bit of hip hop to the house to play a little bit of very top 40. And I just realised that I gravitated towards hip hop and gravitate towards mostly trying to be like more of the house, more house and technical pieces at the time. But I think the first thing I'll call legit braid like experience was actually in Mexico. Because I got a job. I got a job working at Boeing as well as a rocket scientist like actual rocket science, really an aerospace engineer, really no such thing as a rocket scientist, really aerospace engineers, good rockets. But it was an internship in 1999. I lived in Seal Beach, California, and interns, all co ops got together and said, hey, let's all go to Mexico because we all hopped in the car and went to cars. We all went down to the border and crossed the border and stayed in Tijuana. And it was this club called FX club effects. And I went there. It was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We've been playing a lot of stuff that you wouldn't typically play at a rate but they played it at the club and also played a lot of a lot of Spanish house music as well. And I mean it has gotten moving Rest of the crowd like they don't have to, like walk by and they want to get out to dance. We like to dance in the middle of the crowd. scaffoldings they like that. I'm like, Okay, this is, this is awesome. This is what I want to do.


Farah Nanji: 10:11


Nice. I can just imagine. You have got amazing energy. So what do you think drives you? And how would you define success?


Damon Bradley: 10:24


Wow. Um, gosh, so so now it's like, you know, I'm going through a midlife crisis, so to speak. Right? So the things that drive me really is, you know, I believe I have a mission to, for a number of reasons. One mission is to try to connect as many people as possible to try to expose the music that's been good to me to expose that to as many people as possible. The science and engineering perspective, let's come up with philosophical perspectives, understanding our place in the universe has really helped me as a human being really understand my place on earth, and how people should relate to one another. And so with that, you know, that that's my mission. I feel like I want to share those things. Right. Exactly. kind of similar to those who believe, believe it or not. Right, right. Yeah. And actually, I got an email with some Happy Birthday reads. It was really cool that I actually got a chance to work with him. I actually did close things up for him last year at NASA. So NASA Apollo anniversary, you know, there's an event that happened in DC, and actually was a closing DJ for that party, and like a chance to meet him talking to him. And I mean, he's actually the same age as my oldest brother, but take that. And has, we actually share a lot in common. We're both like science nerds. And we communicate science through music. So we just had an awful time. We met so I think Jeff Mills, when he plays music, he's really trying to take it. He always says he's not really playing for the crowd. Right? What he wants to do is take the crowd on an experience, but as we experienced that he's happy, right? It's something that's internal to him. And so that's how I place it's like, not really necessarily playing for someone, we're really putting it out there to say, Hey, here's an ultimate reality. Check it out. So that's kind of where I'm at. 


Farah Nanji: 12:18  


And how do you define success?


Damon Bradley: 12:21  


I think what success looks like is different for every person. But I think ultimately, what success is, is achieving the goal you set out for yourself. Right? Whether it's to retire by a certain age, whether it's to start a family, whether it positively impacts somebody's life, you know, build something that is senior that then brings some positivity to humanity. I think all those different things are successes. And so I think it is a very individualistic thing. I think it changes people. But I think ultimately, is achieving the goal that you set out to do. I think that success.


Farah Nanji: 13:06  


Yeah, definitely agree with that. You brought up something that I was actually going to ask you towards the end, but now that you mentioned it. So you mentioned understanding the reason for your existence in this universe. So what is that?


Damon Bradley: 13:22  


Yeah, that's a nice philosophical question. I think, first of all, it's, I would say, on the spiritual spectrum, and actually took an online test to figure this out. I will call myself a spiritual agnostic. Meaning religion is all good. All religions, I think, are equally good. To some extent. I wouldn't consider myself to be a religious person, but I would consider myself to be a very spiritual person. That said, I do believe in a creator. And I do believe that the creator left breadcrumbs for us, gave us intelligence, gave us resources, galas, beauty, deals, nature. And I would say that our reason to exist is to discover that nature and to communicate that nature and share up with others. I think, you know, when your relationship loves somebody, you want to experience things with that person. The things that you experience, like what do you want to do? Go go hang out, enjoy music, you want to go to the beach, or watch stars and stargaze. I think that's all consuming and enjoyable and being able to understand nature. So it's, I think, a reason to exist, right and even enjoy others you know, enjoying ourselves and joining other people. Join us. Right. I think that's what we're here for. I think, you know, really is this to enjoy the beauty of creation itself. I think that's the reason at least that's the reason I'm here.


Farah Nanji: 14:50  


Do you believe there is something else after this?


Damon Bradley: 14:54  


Oh, yeah. No question. No question. You know, a number A number of experiences. You know, the first thing is kind of a freshman. This month is the one year anniversary of the passing of a mother and she died last year. Right? And we always listen to music. Right? She was always supportive of electronic music. I mean, imagine, you know, black woman from South Philly, you know who's she passed 77 years old, you know, so she had when she was 37. You know, she was super hip, like, she loved music, loved to dance, right. And when I started listening to electronic dance music, seriously like trance and techno, mostly in 1993, she was interested in it. So it's usually a gap between plays on board, and also music. futures on the London was one of her favourite groups, probably getting a favourite track. Right? So that's, I think, as she passed, right in the morning, or, you know, good good friend from Brooklyn basically sent me a video. It was, it was DJ, it was a song DJ by no sleep, right? And, yeah, he's playing in the background. And he actually had it on this phone, he took a picture of us taking a little video, he said on top of his apartment, or condo, he's taking it on video or travels apartment looking at sunset in the background, and took a video of that and had no sleeping in the background and drinking drinks and alcohol. tocilizumab. Right. And you point to that sunset. And one of those beautiful things. We sent it to the lighthouse and it broke down, right? He was like, see a sunset right there. Beautiful sunset. He's like, that's your mom right there. She's looking down. Right. And it really touched me. And the peculiar thing about that was that that's the vision that I had before he even sent that to me is that my mom is travelling, and she's travelling into the light. Right? It looked exactly like that sunset. So I'm like, Yes, this is more the existence of me. Based on everything that I learned, in terms of science, everything that we learn in terms of things like this universe, math, the fact that math works, right, and we can take math and do engineering with it and make systems that do things that are useful, right? The fact that we actually go out and enjoy nature, right, and we gravitate towards that. Right? The fact that regardless of the religion, debt, there's some urgency, there's some urge to really understand beyond your own existence. The fact that the universe is so big, there's so many galaxies and stars and planets, I mean, so many different possibilities, exoplanets that have been discovered, and so forth. I think it will be foolish to rule out anything else. Other than that, yes, there is something after our life. What that is, I have no idea. Are we even able to observe it? No idea. Right? And for me, I'm perfectly fine saying I don't know. I don't have an idea. That's actually one of the reasons why I'm not religious, because I'm fine saying, I don't know. But I think saying I don't know, allows me to open up my mind to different possibilities. And I definitely think there are possibilities. I think as we evolve as a species, hopefully we evolve as a species, we start to uncover and discover some answers to these things. And just


Farah Nanji: 18:23  


Tell us a little bit how the lockdown has been for you. What did you do when you first found out? And how did you process it? And what did you think about it?


Damon Bradley: 18:34 


All right, so, getting into the work like a little bit, so. So right now, like, I'm an engineer, and I'm actually the engineering director. My task is to manage about 70 engineers using civil servants and contractors. And at the same time, I'm also a researcher there. So I have kind of multiple hats, one there. And their job is to build science instruments for spaceflight. Right. And the same time I have that job over at NASA, and we've been there 18 years going on 19 years now. I just started, what was an adjunct professor at UBC, teaching signal processing, which is actually one of the things I'm passionate about and engineering and music. It's like a nice little overlap between two. So I started hearing about COVID, actually, at UBC. The reason why is because my class, I had a greater and I had a TA Migrator was actually coming from China. And she actually couldn't take a flight her flight got cancelled, because what ended up happening was currently they started having COVID lockdowns in China first before before United States, and that affected her flight and that affected her to be able to actually report for duty I do NBC so that I could I was able to actually have a face to face meeting with her As Migrator, so we actually worked remotely for a while, and then eventually made our way over the middle of February. So that's my first sort of COVID. I thought I was like, wait a minute, we did a little bit more homework, because our, our government wasn't really responding with the same sense of urgency as the rest of the world at that time, right. So as I started doing a little bit of homework, then I started hearing about it at work, when I started hearing about it at work. And then I was correlated to what's happening with my grader at school, I was okay, there's a big problem showing up. And as a branch and as a supervisor, and director of my branch, my responsibilities to the safety of my personnel. So that's when we started, started lockdown procedures and, and, like, things just kind of went from zero to infinity really quick, like within a week was kind of business as usual to end the week, we shut everything down. We don't know when everything's open up again. And so I shut down two labs, basically motors focus today on trying to come up with like safety procedures. And so like learning all that on the fly. And then at the same time, I had to take all my engineering lectures for a class and convert all that into our online format. So I was actually teaching us extemporaneously. But then I had to actually create notes and software that made things a lot more difficult. So that was how I definitely COVID


Farah Nanji: 21:29


Especially as you're teaching as well, it must have been non stop. 


Damon Bradley: 21:34 


Non stop until about three weeks ago. I submitted grades for my students and students did really well. They are an outstanding class. 


Farah Nanji: 21:46  


So is NASA closed now? 


Damon Bradley: 21:53 


Not totally closed. And in fact, they weren't 100%, close, even in what they call stage four, of course, they have what's called critical personnel. So that security forces this gem Toriel on staff, those folks that keep things going, folks that monitor data from the International Space Station, so folks who work consoles, they're like folks who work on mission operations, like there's a lot of assets in space right now. Got to protect them. All right. So there's still folks reporting the work at those stages. Alright, so that's why it's still relatively open to Muslims. And Brett were actually some of them trying to figure out how to open them back up. Imagine working in a lab environment where you have recycled air and humidity control, right? And then the lab benches are in close proximity to each other. Right? The benches are about two metres with, right, and then they're all right next to each other. And we all have projects on me once, once, where we were just close to delivering to the Japanese space agency. We're like a week away from delivery. That's the week that we shut down. So now, everything that we did, this has got to wait until we tell folks about Japan to open up to the rest of the spacecraft. So I guess


Farah Nanji: 23:15  


Yeah, absolutely. So you have been quite productive in music. So let's talk about it for a second because I know that you founded a techno festival. It's an amazing community. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? It looks to be keeping you busy.


Damon Bradley: 23:41  


Got it. So for me as a music lover first, right, since I was a kid music lover, right? When I finished my doctorate and 2014 right by this time, I was already going out to parties. I was actually going to New York quite a bit. meeting a lot of friends there. And I was like you know what, let me get more involved in Docker to have more time for you up so close to the time that I'm that offended. I actually started taking office as a Facebook group just to be able to share music with friends. Plus, I'm terrible on memorising names. So I was looking for make a Facebook group. So vital Facebook, put them in a group so that they keep track to help you remember folks. So it was a small group of friends. That's how I tackle this start. Right in fact, the group itself is the name technical business joke, right? It was like oh, if you go to a club and your front right speaker you know, you put your fist up and that's what you do. So I was like, Alright, call something ciliary ended up meeting a lot more. As time went on. I started adding people sharing music and it became an organic community now has over 3000 people and it's spread literally around the globe, like epicentres are New York, DC. A lot of people in San Francisco now, bro in Copenhagen books are in there. So I'm busy with a team of about eight administrators moderators that also have a website that I've never got a chance to really update and put any work into. I have a website developer and the leader is a saint. He's absolutely awesome. It's been helping you out with that. So that's tech office park where it is, as has been enjoying music and sharing musically bringing you bringing techno, both old school and new school to as many people as possible. At the same time, like, around 2014 ish. That's when I decided I was like, no one of us so much. Let me go ahead, try my hand at ej. Right. Like, I tried to DJ a couple times. Like I wasn't actually DJing Progressive House in 2007. It actually made a mix CD and I used to hang out with people. I wouldn't use a conference in Miami at the time. And then I used to DJ a couple times at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's web annex. radio station. So I play I'm sorry, W NBC. Right. Okay, so w wb C's radio station, I used to play a couple sets, there was a progressive house there.


My first gig was actually in 20. I recall 2015. Right. And that was playing the techno house hybrid was our technical trance hybrid set. Now for a guy who actually through trance parties starts playing there. And I think the rest is history. combination of all the connections I was making in Texas, with going down to DC and playing gigs there and starting Brighton community. And folks actually like to hear while I was playing, that they started to partner up with a bunch of different people. And we started building up. So started, we put up a sequence, which is a party as a model a lot after, after the interface, we had a lot of interfaces. It was a really good party, that that was a truncate. I think those guys though, they actually started and it was moving Detroit every year, we will go to an interface that was a huge inspiration. We started the sequence. And that's actually been hugely successful actually retired from Oh, guys, back in 2018. So I can go off and do additional ventures, right. But we started that. And at the same time, I started building up a DJ career, right? It was always a hobby. It was never something I was really trying to like deliberately put my name out there and be like that, for me. I was just out there having fun playing tunes trying to get people to move, right. I like dancing, like dancing in front of speakers going nuts. I want to be able to instil that in other people, as a result of DJing. So people ended up making are playing like when I played, I played a lot of old school stuff, a lot of stuff that I grew up listening to in the 90s. I started playing that back in 2016 2017. You're closing for 24. Seven, like I love closing DJ sets, right? Because like you can experiment when you go nuts with it, you know. And that's the folks being zombies. Those are people who stay at the end of it. All right, and they wonder if you can keep the zombies on the dance floor, then you're doing a good job. Right. And that was my that was my was the closing DJ close was pretty much everywhere. So I got to start having a lot more fun once and then get a DJ career ended up becoming really good. And I also started a new party called catalyst, which paid homage to a lot of the fast. And it was coming in a new interpretation of the old school technical debt folks are producing mostly in Copenhagen now. So I was able to throw two parties in New York already. And I was about to throw two more. One was actually on the weekend that we shut everything down in a lockdown in the United States. That was in New York. Awesome money there. And we're so I'm not going to reveal half an hour. We're going to have Mr. Free from Copenhagen, and Dalia from from New Orleans, and supported by a lot of local artists in both DC and New York. Not going to have an April though, because I don't need to send that out. Um, I had April, May, sorry, March, April, and I had a party plan for May as well. But then COVID wiped it all out.


Farah Nanji: 29:23  


Did you ever think about doing events for techno?


Damon Bradley: 29:27  


I did. Actually, I did three times. So it was right before, right before and also during the start sequence. So I did a couple small parties with techno. This one was called techno this label and mislabeled it because I'll have a label yet, but contact with his label name because I was wanting to have DJs who are a part of the community actually playing the party. And when I started the podcast in 2006 2016, I started a podcast. There's so many artists, I was finding out You know so much local talent, when we feature local talent, instead of trying to fly these DJs from overseas, let's focus on the locals. Right. And I think there's also a philosophy of DBS one. That's one of the reasons why Minneapolis has done so well with the techno scene is because they pay a lot of homage and respect to the world, it's a tonne of talent. And for me I almost prefer locals. Because these folks, they're working, they're putting energy and effort into putting a passion and, and they're trying to get to the next stage in their career. And as a result, you're going to hear probably some of the most creative sound the most leached out from these folks. They're trying to make a name for themselves. Whereas some of the bigger names, the probably exhausted going on tour schedules, I remember talking to forgot, we actually, I'm actually closer if you act in, in Chicago, and we all are having pizza pizza in Chicago, and they're telling me about your tour schedule, right? You're doing this full time, but you're bouncing from a different city every 24 hours, and flights all the time, we were talking like four or five gigs a week. And just preparing to do one gig. I mean, it takes a lot of effort. And so I can imagine just how tiresome it is. Right? So we got a little more energy, but at the same time, like I can imagine having that brutal tour on tour schedule. So, yeah, so I think I'm having a bigger name DJs, I think they can get more exhausted. And I think it becomes almost a job. If they're playing so many gigs. All right, it gets to a point where there's probably more job than is being fun. And I think it might have an adverse impact on salary, isn't it? So I plus I only get folks who don't have any chance, which I will plan on.


Farah Nanji: 31:52  


I totally agree. There have been so many times when I have gone somewhere and thought, Oh, my God can't wait to see this person. And it was a two out of 10, on the performance level. Because we are DJs we understand a bit more of what's going on and why. Equally as upcoming and local DJs we know how much effort we put in. There's no reason why we can't produce something of a similar calibre. So I totally agree. I think it's important to support the local scene and always remember the people that have supported you in that journey as well. So talking about that, what do you think will be the implications for the industry as a result of COVID? And do you think that it can be used as a way to reset some of the negative parts of the industry?


Damon Bradley: 32:54  


That's my hope, actually. talked about this with friends quite a bit. I think the industry needed a reset. I'm hoping that the reset is positive. Um, I don't know, I have a lot of different opinions about it. I think one thing, you might be more inclined to see more locals playing just because of travel restrictions and travel ideas and just just overall anxiety over travelling and going to different places. So I think folks who really desire music, you know, in promoters who really want to put their music out there, I think they're going to have probably more motivation to all local events, and host local talent, which I think is a good thing, because that that that itself infuses new talent and new perspectives on things. I think I think in general, like, the big change was Kevin here by doing podcasts and doing webcasts, and so forth, and streaming. I think, you know, after a couple months of that, I think that whole area is saturated. But I also think there's some positive as a result, because on one hand, the saturated one another hand, now more people didn't enjoy more artists, but at their own time, right. So I think I can reset folks' minds in terms of, you know, say, as artists in Copenhagen, and people heard about, you know, the artist in Copenhagen or maybe never had the chance to go to a party. But now, they'll go, they'll do a live stream. Everybody can hear him and they say, oh, now I'm exposed to this music. I can go ahead and now start buying some music and getting more exposed and broadening horizons there. So I think that's a big positive, I think more exposure, more exposure to music, different sounds, I think, is a really good thing. I think all of these elements lead to a general reset of the dance music industry. Now how we come out of this, I don't know. There was a big emphasis, emphasis on parties dancing together and so forth. But I think there's a lot of It is not safe to do so yet, folks should be quarantined right now. Especially unfortunately, looking at data, you know, unfortunately, looking at the 1918 data, for example, in different cities, particularly the United States, where you can see how different cities have different policies about shutting down and reopening. And you see, on the one hand, folks for the cities that reopen and a much broader second wave, for example, I think we're starting to experience that here in the United States, because folks are eager to open things up, and so called printing fatigue. So, so I think, you know, we're gonna be writing in a couple of ways, right? If not just the United States everywhere else, right. And I think that's going to have an impact on bookings is going to have an impact, the law is drawn out, I think it'll have impact on preferences. Like, lately, like, before it was shut down dualism, I started seeing the community start to gravitate more towards the old school sell, and more towards the faster and translator, style and technical Before that, we had kind of like the deep dark heaven base, slower, almost doom and gloom type technical, which was also good, right? I think. I think the industry, I think the overall collective consciousness goes through these different phases of what folks really prefer, and what they really like, you know, take them from 2002 1010, a lot faster than 2010 to 2018. And then 2018, to now it's back up again. So I think there's going to be another phase change as a result, particularly if this means that this COVID lasts for an extended period of time, I think, because all the factors, I said, exposure, changing bookings, changing the changes of parties and so forth, cancels, cancellations and so forth. I think that's, that's gonna be the nature of the reset. So I'm really curious to see what's going to be outgrowth of this. Yeah, I


Farah Nanji: 36:55


I think on the one hand we will learn a lot of things because it was very unfair how it was. Let's see what happens in that sphere. And you mentioned your colleagues being with you. So I wanted to ask you, do your colleagues know what you do outside of your engineering life and have they ever attended one of your gigs?


Damon Bradley: 37:26


For a while, or one of the firewalls, DJ life and engineering like a browser notify me of his office, imagine I'm a branch at some of the people working for me. And I'm playing techno balls, right? A lot of a lot of the people that work with me are older than me, right? And so they might not be as familiar music as I am. So we'll come in here and I'm playing the music. The beginning was kind of odd for him. And for me, I'll take it. I'll take a chance to actually explain some of the music and actually show the history like so to actually teach American history. How technical was created in Detroit? House was created in Chicago, right? And this is American history writer, I get a chance to really teach the history lesson. This works a lot for folks interested in anymore. My supervisor actually once booked me to play for, for the engineering Directorate party actually plays in house music for right. So yeah, play some house. Probably one of those fun experiences, actually. Because when Gretchen and Alison can have all brunch, cookouts, so yeah, that's where we all kind of get together and just kind of put her down Just relax. Chill. I actually played Joey beltram energy flash at a cookout at work. Right actually, courthouse, I guess a five chance to do that. So it was one of the two worlds for Yeah.


Farah Nanji: 38:49


That's quite funny. I was just adding your LinkedIn and I saw that something like 15 of your friends who've gone to the same university, work at NASA and Berklee College of Music. I started clicking on them and I was like, that's just amazing that there must be a lot of musicians. I had a couple of questions about the future. What do you think this planet will look like in 10 years? 20 years, 30 years from now on? How do you think we can support the population growth? 


Damon Bradley: 39:39  


That's a conversation. I have a lot of my children. my three daughters are freaking brilliant. Right? And we talked about it quite a bit. So 10 years from now, I think the planet will look ultimately the same. And change either comes incrementally slow or is forced upon You really fast? All right, I think this COVID situation is the last one smaller is going to force a big change and how we interact with each other, like how we do business, how we conduct business. I think governments are going to end up changing Google. People realise that governments are working on your own behalf, as opposed to the half of the people, that's gonna end up changing in that sense. But 10 years from now, things are gonna look a lot the same. I think technology is going to keep progressing. One of the things that NASA is doing differently for examples, like the commercial space, as opposed to government space, so there's gonna be more applications of folks using space for business, for example. Right. So that's going to change the landscape of what you can use space and space exploration and Earth observation space for it. But that has changed a lot the last 10 years. I think as, as a society. One of the things that I see now is a lot of a lot of the unrest here in the United States, you know, I think is a great thing that is happening, it should happen, it should have always been happening, has been happening in different forms. I think. This is why the cases where positive change happen incrementally, but not fast enough, and not effective enough. You know, we still have police, for example, still committing crimes, still killing people who look like me for no good reason. All right. So to stop that, right to, to have a positive change in that one, when people, people will listen, when change is forced upon them. So when you want to have riots, when you have millions of people marching in the street in multiple cities at the same time, that's forcing governments to listen. And it's forcing some change. I think that some of that positive change has to be forced, because otherwise, folks be complacent with the status quo. Right? So 10 years from now, you might see some positive change there 20 or 30 years from now, it's really tough to say, really tough to say. It depends. I mean, one of the things always argued, being a technologist is that within the last 100 years, we've had an unprecedented explosion in technology, that delights, which humanity has never seen for the entire existence of humanity. But just look at the invention of the transistor in the 1950s. And how that led to microchips that's inside of our devices. Today, we're going to communicate. Right? That kind of progress and technical progress has not happened at a rate like that, at any other time in human history. All right. I think at some point, that's what a plateau because the change that needs to happen right now. Biological change, mental change, gotta change how we interact with each other, we got to change our procedure, we got to change our economies, like how we interact with just commerce, for example, right? Like, those are, the society needs to change at the same scope and same amount that technology has evolved and changed for the better. So I think that's, that's what needs to happen. And that's what I'm hoping for. Your tutorial is 30 years.


Farah Nanji: 43:27


It's an interesting one, the rapid rate of technology is absolutely insane. But it hasn't been equally distributed either. And that's what then leads to what we have today, an unbalanced world. You talked earlier about being in Copenhagen, driving in this car, and just not knowing where you were. As a musician, as a travelling DJ, you're constantly pushing the boundaries, you're constantly taking risks, and going out and that really innovates and shifts your thinking.


Damon Bradley: 44:12


I'm thinking, I think that's who I am. I like to do things differently. I'm an Aries racer, so we can kind of be hard headed, and kind of want to do things my own way. Um, as far as a comfort zone, one thing I'm struggling with right now is how to go into business for myself. Because right now, I've been at NASA for almost 18 years. It's a nice, comfortable government job. I'm making reasonable money there. But I feel like I'm maxed out. Right now. He was like, done, pretty much everything that I could do to reach the levels that I'm at now. So now I was like, Okay, I'm looking for the next challenge. I think the next challenge is really, instead of working Somebody's working for us. And so I'm looking into what it would take to go ahead, do a startup, start our own company, and still do Space Technology Research. And I experimented with that concept by starting a business to make a technologist into an LLC. For now that's an actual legit companies, I went through and learn how to do paperwork, learn how to do taxes, form company, to do these kind of things, just to get some practice, right, because I'm a federal employee, in order to go into business for myself, I had to resign. So that's a huge risk as a financial rescue. I also have two kids. So this is like them. But I think it's something that's my comfort zone that I'm in now. That's what I'm trying to figure out how to take a calculated risk to go outside the comfort zone and explore one.


Farah Nanji: 45:53


Yes. As long as you have reached the highest peaks of what you want to achieve. The next question is what's the next mountain? I’d like to ask you, you're insanely busy managing these different career paths, family and children. What success habits have you employed to manage this? 


Damon Bradley: 46:20  


Successful? I don't know. I'm pretty sure I don't think it's discipline. I think discipline is definitely divine intervention. So definitely give thanks to God for the blessings of that.


Thing is, knowing where I came from. I didn't come from much, but I came from a loving family that works really hard. I think I was rich in that regard. Right? Those welcome terms of loving family and, and other friends that really support friends, support the community, you know, blessed with three brilliant little daughters. Far as a success habit, just work as hard as I can, work smarter as I can. And just try to pay for it.


Farah Nanji: 47:17  


Okay, cool. Last two questions from me. For anyone watching this, who is younger and thinking about their careers, what advice would you give to them in terms of valuable skill sets for the future?


Damon Bradley: 47:37  


So, research at all. I think the career pass, first of all, think about the kind of job that a robot can easily do. And don't do that job. So like, that's kind of like, what the first job would be fast, right? And I was like, Whoa, there's robots doing that. Now, I started showing the video of a startup company that actually makes these robots so fast to get the robot arm is like flipping burgers. And so I'm like, so that's becoming automated, right? So there's gonna be a lot more of that, right, there's gonna be a lot more automation, there's gonna be a lot more even like data science, machine learning, pattern recognition, there's all stuff that I did research. And I'm seeing that now being applied to just about every single aspect of life. So I think you have to stay ahead of that. I think my advice to younger folks is, given the trends, what you see now, try to extrapolate, try to figure out, okay, 10 years, where's this stuff going to end up? Right? And then try to get ahead of that, right. So skill sets, definitely everything on a computer, also knowing how to build, fix and maintain real computers as opposed to just being computer users. Because I'm also seeing a whole generation of people coming up using these devices that have no idea what a microchip is, they have no idea what a BIOS or RAM ROM is, right. So it's like, it's kind of like the prologue to the monster movie Dune, where it starts out your 6000 robots are running a slave to humans, because humans are, were apathetic, they really care so much. And that's how the whole saga started. Right. So I'm afraid of those old generations coming out that are computer users, but not computer Tinker, Tinker. I think there's a lot of, there's a lot of opportunity for folks to tinker. The other thing I will say, is, look for fields where they're unconventional crossovers, right. So like, for example, if you're going to get into biology, studying numbers, number theory, studying that back study, central processing, and then try to combine those fields. Like for example, the computational genetics lab, for example. That's an interesting, interesting area. So I think, cross pollinate. of classic fields, particularly healthcare, I think there's still a lot of work to be done in healthcare. But just healthcare and health monitoring, care for the elderly, you're gonna have a lot more elderly folks who are alive and need support, right? Because we are living longer because medicine, medicine is evolving, right? But because of that now, we're gonna have to figure out more reliable, efficient ways to take care of. So. So I think those kinds of areas that they will be looking at, I think, and are necessary for society to keep moving. 


Farah Nanji: 50:37  


Obviously COVID stopped the ageing population, which is super sad, and I hope that History doesn't repeat itself again. Turning the question around a little bit on advice, and that's my last question for you, is what has been the best piece of advice you've ever been given?


Damon Bradley: 50:56 


the best piece of advice I've ever received, I'm probably a little funny, it was advice that I received, kinda late, was advice that I give now as a result. But when I was doing my doctorate, right, it took me seven and a half years to finish. And I had nervous breakdowns, Don and I struggled many nights crying. I was, it was hard, because, you know, I just had brain surgery, and that was a stressor. I survived that in 2010. You know, like, my kids were small. I was working a lot. So I was stressed out, or I had a lot of things going on. Right. And writing my dissertation was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, right? Because it was like, I was at a point where I finished all my coursework. And now I do all the research. And no one was given a deadline. No one's told me, Hey, you do XYZ, like it's all on me. Right? And protege, actually, somebody used to mentor Dr. Justin rice, right? I started mentoring him in 2004, over at NASA. And wow, that's what I must say, he got your PhD. Well, he did it and finished two years before. All right. And his advisor told him the way to get a PhD, the publisher went out. And I'm like, that makes so much sense, like so. So basically going to start writing your dissertation until you have papers that are published. Right? Every published paper gets peer reviewed, and defended. And once it's published, that's your own body of work. Your dissertation is a summary of all the work. So your dissertation is easier to write once you have a published paper. And I found that out in the middle of my dissertation writing. And so when I published a paper, I found that a chapter that related to that technical work is easier to write than one where I didn't have published. So now, I pay it forward by sitting on committees, total committees, many students, a lot of them, they actually leave the United States to go back to Asia, Taiwan, China, mostly. And


I had about probably 13 students that have ever since I first told me exactly the rice available as well. So that's probably dusties advice.


Farah Nanji: 53:15  


What I really loved about Damon's story is just the amount of passion and dedication he put into working for his dreams. I'm sure it's not an easy dream to have so many people could only ever dream of working for a company like NASA, or being a DJ, but how would you even know where to start? But his story is really a testament to the fact that we can all dream big, and it doesn't matter where we've come from, because as he says, he didn't come from much, but he came from a loving family that showed him the meaning of hard work. And he valued his wealth by the love of the people that he was surrounded by, as opposed to a financial figure. I also love that Damon kind of similar to me has been able to juggle two passions that both require an immense amount of dedication, and in some ways, find a way to kind of merge them together. And I know that he does get to use an amazing array of those spatial frequencies from his work at NASA. So if you are interested in hearing how that sounds, do be sure to check out his music which will be in the bio of this episode. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you're leaving with some great inspiration that can help you with whatever you want to achieve in your life. If you enjoyed today's episode, be sure to subscribe to your favourite podcast platform so you can be notified when a new episode is posted. It would also mean the world to us if you could rate and review the show and share it with your friends so we can reach as many people as possible. If you want to reach out to me as well you can get in touch directly @DJ.n1nja on Instagram and Twitter. That's DJ.N1nja and also @missionmakers on social media. Thanks so much again for listening. Until next time, Mission Makers stay safe and have an amazing week.

Lessons To Fuel Your Mission
  • Your strengths are rooted in your perseverance 

  • What makes you different, it was makes you valuable

  • Being original is better than being a copy of someone else

  • The voyage of self-discovery will be the most important journey you take 


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