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25 years of cosine: an interview with cosine’s first employee

In 2023, cosine is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Founded in 1998, the company has become a serious player in the space industry, accumulating extensive orbit experience over the years. On board since 1 January 2000, Dr Giuseppe Vacanti was cosine’s first employee and has witnessed the company’s evolution first hand. He shares his cosine story with us.

“Hi, I am Giuseppe Vacanti, an Italian physicist. In the early years of cosine I have worked on most of the areas the company now works on, but for the last several years, I have been mainly concerned with the development of Silicon Pore Optics.”

How did you join cosine?
“I knew Marco Beijersbergen (cosine’s founder and managing director) and that he had started a company. At the time, I needed a company to work for. So I went to Marco and asked him if I could be his first employee. He thought about it… and obviously, it happened.”

What were the first days at cosine like?
“For many years we did not have an office. We were contracted out to ESA or other companies. When finally we rented our own offices was funny because at first I had to bring my own table and my own chair. The first few weeks it was empty as we only had the office space!”

How do you think the company has evolved?
“We have become much larger, and with size also came complexity in communication and organization. Ideally one would hope that complexity scales less than linearly with the number of employees, and making sure that is the case is certainly a challenge we face every day. To make sure that everyone knows what they need to know to operate autonomously and responsibly, and that at the same time they are not burdened with more than they need to know.”

What is your best memory (so far!) working at cosine?
“There are a number… For me, working at the X-ray beam lines we operate abroad is one of the most interesting parts of the job, and certainly making the first Silicon Pore Optics mirror modules at the beam line at the BESSYII synchrotron was a great moment. Having to work long hours figuring out things in the lab as issues pop up unexpectedly is one of the best recollections I have… Even if I didn’t sleep much! It is never boring.”

How would you describe your work at cosine?
“cosine is a company that combines research and commercial applications. Managing the balance between not having limits when looking for new solutions but also having to stick to a given budget is what makes cosine different. And because we are now larger it is also necessary to bring order and structure to the activities that we know how to do, so that they do not absorb all of our energy and budget.

Some parts of the work can be seen as demanding in the sense that for sure there are periods when every week there is a new problem to solve that we haven’t solved before. I know not everybody likes that type of environment, but for me, being just outside of the comfort zone constantly or often enough is what makes working here interesting. Sometimes it can be challenging, but I like working here because it is how I like to work. After 24 years, I think that I can say that it is a good match.”

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