From the runway or the launchpad

Special Aerospace Services of Boulder aims high — and hits its mark

Heather Bulk, president, co-founder and CEO of Special Aerospace Services of Boulder, shared some actionable advice in a recent TED Talk.

“Look around for people who don’t look like you. And welcome them,” she said. “Give them an entrée into the room, give them a seat at the table and see what happens.”

As an unequivocal global leader in the aerospace and aviation industry, Heather has demonstrated that differentiating through products and services, together with diversity of employees and expansive, outside-the-status-quo thinking, brings unprecedented success to teams. Her thriving teams have contributed to a business model that’s taken off, well, like a rocket.

Established in 2007, Special Aerospace Services (SAS), and its subsidiary SAS Flight Factory, provide innovative aerospace solutions to NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and the commercial spaceflight sector.

SAS’ divisions span from strategic and tactical engineering, including propulsion, systems engineering and avionics — to space hardware design, prototype, assembly and testing. Their engineering and hardware are seen in nearly every human spaceflight program in the country. 

The SAS enterprises are run by a team of roughly 135 individuals, and they’re in a continual process of recruitment to serve their rapidly growing client demands. SAS is strategically located in Colorado, Alabama, Texas and Florida to serve the aerospace community.

Eminently capable, Heather presents as a person who can do pretty much anything. Wisely, she has also determined that she can’t do everything, so she’s narrowed down her primary roles to mother, CEO, and pilot — in that order.

“I’m a mom first and foremost. I have three incredible kids, ages 10, 16, and 17,” she said. And although she’s the CEO of a thriving aerospace company, her education and background isn’t in engineering. It’s in finance, economics, and tax law, and she spent 15 years doing estate and tax planning for affluent business owners. 

“Those experiences gave me a really solid insight into how business owners think,” she said. “And my degrees have served me tremendously well in being a CEO and business owner.”

Heather is also the corporate pilot for SAS. She’s been flying for about 20 years and regularly seeks occasions to get her Pilatus PC-12NG in the air. 

“Any opportunity I have to fly, I take it,” she said. “So, if it’s a trip to our facility in Huntsville or to go give a talk in California, I’m always up for it.”

As a talented leader and connector of ideas and people, Heather places a high value on mentorship. In aerospace, just 26 percent of its workforce is female. Heather aims to change that with her advocacy for women, people of color and other minorities, and her advancement of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers for underrepresented populations.

“I love to weave life with business, and my greatest passion is philanthropy. Lately that’s been space workforce development,” she said. “There’s such a need for recruitment of those who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. And it benefits the industry; it’s such a great win-win. We’ve found tremendous talent.” 

Heather often looks to minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs) and Denver’s Metro State University, where she’s a regular speaker. The importance of embracing one’s background was the topic of her recent lecture there.

“When we bring our own diversity and backgrounds to our roles and don’t try to minimize it; when we embrace our personal history it becomes very powerful,” she said. 

Tenacity, taking the long view and a well-developed intuition are some of Heather’s other characteristics, and they inform many of her business decisions.

When it came to her banking and finance partner, she had a long and positive relationship with a Front Range business bank that underwent an acquisition. When it changed ownership, everything else changed, and she quickly recognized that the level of customer service wasn’t going to remain the same.

Heather started looking for a new banking relationship and was referred to Alpine Bank.

“As a growing business, we need a banking partner who’s going to be agile, be there right alongside us and understand our business needs — not have us try to fit into their model,” she said. “I’m pretty analytical; I collect the data, but I also follow my intuition and it’s never led me in the wrong direction. Coming to know the people on the Alpine Bank team it’s very obvious to me that they’re committed to their clients.”

Heather asserts that the ability for a business to put itself in its client’s position is a game-changer. 

“It’s really important and I think that’s part of the magic sauce for Alpine,” she said. “We have the same conversations at SAS as our leadership team sits around the table, serving the client and placing ourselves in their shoes. Because what’s good for our clients actually works out to be good for SAS.”

Learn more about Alpine Bank’s commercial banking services.

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Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

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