Before long, lessons learned at the Conexus Indiana Case Competition could be contributing to the effort to put people on Mars.

Blake Bradley, an Indiana University Kelley School of Business senior whose team placed second in the 2020 case competition, recently was accepted into an internship program at SpaceX, the aerospace company launched by Elon Musk with the goal of sending a manned flight to Mars.

An Illinois native, Bradley said his focus on supply chain management piqued SpaceX’s interest in him during the internship application process. While much attention is put on the technology required to go into space, Bradley’s interviewers noted that the process really is one big supply chain challenge. So, in addition to rocket scientists, they need people like Bradley.

“The [internship] director came to our business school because he needed someone who had the business mindset but understood the tangibility of manufacturing,” Bradley said. “My job is going to be looking at the ‘Can we do it?’ aspects [of going into space] and asking, ‘Can we do it and make money?’”

Having entered IU not certain which area of business interested him most, Bradley said case competitions combined with internships helped him home in on supply chain management. He found last year’s Conexus Indiana Case Competition especially interesting, he said, because it tackled a real-world supply chain problem – how a logistics firm could continue to supply retail stores with product in light of COVID-19 restrictions – and helped to highlight the many variables that factor into the pursuit of profit. He especially appreciated how the process pushed him and his team to look beyond “basic math equations” to wrestle with the ethical and human impact of their decisions.

The complexity of the challenges in supply chain make Bradley believe that business majors who overlook supply chain as a career option are missing great opportunities. “I think supply chain is so underrated,” he said. “Every business major fits into supply chain … it encompasses everything.”

One of 13,000 applicants for the internships at SpaceX, Bradley will pack up after this spring’s graduation and head for Cape Canaveral, Fla., where he’ll work with 17 other interns in a program that encourages career exploration and experimentation. He said he has been a fan of SpaceX for years, but he never dreamed of a career there until a professor suggested he apply for the internship. Now he’s hoping the three-month gig leads to a full-time job – as the program intends – so he can launch his career with a firm that sees supply chain as a key part of the space race.

Conexus Indiana Talent Programs Director Sarah Harrison said she is not surprised by Bradley’s success. “I have often thought the caliber of students we have in the Case Competitions is impressive,” she said. “Blake’s a great example of the kind of young men and women who participate, and the valuable experiences they get from the competition.”

For more information on the case competition, contact Sarah Harrison at sharrison@conexusindiana.com.