Alumni Spotlight: Zaltman on International Business

Since graduating from the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, Jeff Zaltman’s (Pardee ’96, COM ’96) has taken a winding road — with each turn serving as its own adventure (including his four  years in the United States Navy as an Avionics Technician prior to arriving at Boston University).

After graduating, Zaltman moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked for a defense contractor running emergency response scenarios for agencies such as FEMA. But his international aspirations remained strong so he worked overtime hours on some the company’s international projects. This  paid off when a colleague who moved to a telecommunications consultancy in Amsterdam and invited Zaltman to join him.

Zaltman spent two years in Amsterdam building out the country’s first private mobile network. At that point, having had such a rewarding time at Boston University, he decided to go back to school for an MBA. He attended London Business School and stayed in UK upon completion of his MBA to work for Ford Motor Company for a couple years as a manager in the Strategy Department and Internal Audit.

While working for Ford, Zaltman had the idea to commercialize the sport of Air Racing. He left Ford to launch a startup company to take an old relatively-unknown sport into the mainstream of the sporting world.

“It was a rocky start and I found myself also exploring other ideas, mostly in aviation, as I flew my small airplane around Europe for a year,” Zaltman said. “I eventually seized my moment and moved back to the UK, raised some venture capital, and launched a company that organized airplane races across Europe and the Middle East, as well as world aerobatic championships and other events.”

Zaltman’s company also produced worldwide television shows covering about 70 top titles in air sports.  The company had some successes and grew to a team of ten people with seven-figure revenue.  Unfortunately. a combination of external factors forced the company to stop operations right at their big growth moment.  Zaltman went on to sell private business jets in Central and Eastern Europe, living in Slovakia.

“But the bug of air racing had its hold on me, so I took the plunge again and moved to Spain to set up a new company, with a new business model, to promote the sport known as formula one air racing. Since then we have held races in China, Thailand, Tunisia, Spain and USA under the brand name Air Race 1,” Zaltman said.  “Off the success of this project, I realized I had the opportunity to really make a difference in the world while organize exciting air races. And so Air Race E – the first ever all-electric airplane race – was born.”

Air Race E, for which Zaltman, serves as CEO, now designs and engineers new airplanes which fly under fully electric power to form race teams — a project that is on the vanguard of the aerospace industry and is gaining huge momentum globally.

“It didn’t happen overnight,” Zaltman said “The long and windy road (with many twists and forks not mentioned) covered over 20 years of experience – not least of which was the Pardee School as the launch pad for my journey.”

 Air Race E, based in Dubai, UAE, now has the aircraft manufacturer Airbus as a founding partner and are working with other leaders in the industry to develop their new air racing series. Air Race E is the first electric airplane racing series, with the first race scheduled for the end of 2020, and is a hive of activity with race teams, manufacturers, sponsors, suppliers and media from all over the world ambitiously building and preparing. 

Zaltman runs a team of sales and marketing managers, project managers, PR professionals, and aviation experts working to make the project come to fruition. His work includes liaising with host cities, airports, sports associations, motorsport industry professionals, aerospace engineers, pilots, manufacturing companies, journalists, and authorities.  Organizing the races requires extensive depth of knowledge in all aspects of event management from public safety to advertising to ticketing and more.

“My job as CEO is to try desperately to hold it all together and make sure we have the right resources, the best connections, and network to have the maximum chance of success,” Zaltman said.

Zaltman said he sees his Pardee School education as integral to the work he currently does, as well as the foundation of the professional toolkit he uses as CEO of Air Race E.

 “The Pardee School was that first step in the right direction that gave me the tool kit to confront challenges on an international scale and to identify opportunities and threats in the global marketplace,” Zaltman said. “My mindset had always been looking outward of the U.S. for new opportunities, but the Pardee School helped me form a realistic, grounded and actionable global perspective. It impressed upon me the inter-relationship between politics, government, business, culture and language that would allow me to adapt to the worldwide environment and be a more mobile citizen of the planet.”

 According to Zaltman, the quality of the classes, faculty, and his fellow students at the Pardee School made his entire experience at Boston University one of the most happy and productive times of his life. 

“The quality of the course work and of my fellow students was always impressive and the city-campus life a lot of fun. I recall the faculty all had illustrious (or confidential in some cases) careers and the access to people with well-known international reputations was noteworthy,” Zaltman said. “The resources available to students were abundant, and this at a time when email was only for the science guys. I even recall a course I took on how to use the internet!”

Offering advice to current Pardee School students who are thinking about their next steps after graduation, Zaltman emphasized the importance of maintaining the connections made as an undergraduate or graduate student.

“I think the most valuable resource you’ll ever have is your fellow class-mates. Stay in touch, but also learn how to network to meet new people, whether its by researching online or ‘working a room’ at a conference or revitalizing old friendships,” Zaltman said. “In terms of your own decision-making, don’t hold back and don’t be afraid of taking risk. Becoming complacent or putting off your goals is a sure-fire way to get stuck in a rut. There’s nothing wrong with caution and common sense, and certainly a well-thought-out calculated plan can always give you an edge. But over-analyzing your options or saying to yourself ‘someday I’ll do that’ can end up causing you to miss life’s opportunities.”