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We are proud of the successes of our Alumni and their contributions to a diverse range of businesses.

Bret Johnsen, SpaceX

Bret Johnsen

A PwC alum guides financial operations in the world of commercial space 

Roaring toward Mars

A PwC alum guides financial operations in the world of commercial space

When we think of a quantum leap, it’s not just physics that comes to mind. We imagine a big jump—the kind visionary leaders and engineers often bring about.

Such is the case at SpaceX, the southern California space exploration company that designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft for customers around the world, including the United States Air Force and NASA. The company already carries cargo to the international space station; future plans are to replace the space shuttle and take US astronauts to and from the international space station.

That’s a huge job, one usually taken on by governments rather than the private sector. But SpaceX commands a sweeping view of the future, including taking mankind interplanetary all the way to Mars.

Behind the compelling vision rests a well-tuned financial operation. That’s where PwC alum Bret Johnsen, now CFO for SpaceX, comes in. Having joined Coopers & Lybrand as an auditor after graduating from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1991, Johnsen spent nearly four years with the firm prior to its merger with Price Waterhouse, learning the audit profession and gaining exposure to different clients. After leaving, he moved through the ranks at key technology and communications companies, increasing his responsibility and scope at each juncture.

When he got the call one day that a company called SpaceX was in search of a CFO, he wasn’t sure at first what to think. “I said to the caller, ‘You know, I’m not an aerospace guy,” Johnsen recalls, smiling. “He said, ‘Look, this is a tech company that happens to be in the commercial space industry.’ And so of course I came to meet the founder and CEO and was overwhelmingly impressed and felt it would be a good fit. What a place it was too—truly a rocket factory!”

Johnsen credits his university studies and early experience with Coopers as critical pieces of his career: “It gave me exposure very quickly to different companies, management teams, financial systems and approaches to business. It was the foundation for the rest of my career.”

Would he recommend this career move to others coming out of college?

“Oh yes,” Johnsen says emphatically, “My son is graduating from USC as an accounting major and is headed down the same path. It’s one I believe in, and now he does too.”

Contact us

Amy Paquette

US Alumni Network Manager, PwC US

Sallie Hinson

US Alumni Network Manager, PwC US

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