For our eleventh episode of The Executives Unpacked Podcast we invited Dave Bettinger to share his insights with us. Dave is the co-founder and CEO of SpaceLink, an exciting new company who aims to provide secure data from anywhere at any time. Dave is a business and technology visionary who has spent the last 30 years in systems engineering, focusing on innovation within satellite communications. Dave is incredibly passionate about the industry, and his happy place is whiteboarding new systems architecture. Outside of that, he loves to travel, eat and spend time with his family.
Read on to hear his advice for anyone who wants to follow a similar career path.
What’s been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned during your career?
Patience and perseverance. By nature I’m an impatient person, but I learned early in my career that not everything happens on my timescale. During my career I’ve been through a number of tough years, and I saw a lot of my colleagues up and leave because they were worried about the future. I stuck it out because I knew being patient and seeing things through would ultimately see us come out very successful. That’s exactly what happened, and we’re really proud of that.
What do you wish you’d been told earlier?
I started my career at a big, established company where there were processes, people and structures in place, so there was very little change. I wish someone had told me to roll with the changes coming out of that. There’s gonna be a lot of change around you and there’s a lot that you can’t control, especially in the satellite industry. Accepting that has served me well and helped me grow.
What’s the best advice that you’ve been given?
Someone told me early on to make sure you like what you’re doing, and only work on the things that you have control over. Above all, see things through. Focus on your job, focus on what you can control and you’ll be successful, don’t just aspire to move to the next rank on the corporate ladder. Focus on doing stuff well and that’ll come. I’ve never focused on moving up in my career; since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be an electrical engineer and design stuff. It’s still my passion, and because I put so much into that I’ve been able to take on larger roles and turn that experience into bigger things.
What constantly keeps you awake at night?
There’s always a perception that satellite isn’t a mainstream industry. Most people don’t understand how much space is serving humanity, so I worry about the general perception of the space industry. People think it’s just ‘Are you gonna go to the moon?’ No, there’s real applications, real science and real utility for satellites and space in general. I’d like to see space get its due credit, and hopefully the general perception remains positive, because we need to continue to invest in these applications. What keeps me up is getting the world to realise that.
Can you identify a single thread through your career that’s led to your success?
It’s always been learning and taking an interest in the other areas of the business. Starting my career I was fortunate enough to be thrown into a position where I was designing. As I went, I started to realise there were pieces that I didn’t understand because somebody else was designing them. So I learned RF. I started to think about what the system actually does, and why people were using it. Then I had to learn about the applications in the market that we were trying to serve, which led me to ‘How does the business work?’
I try to learn as much as I can about all the areas of the business. That’s served me well. I was thrown into higher positions because I knew more than just my specific area – ultimately I knew how the business revolves around our technology. Now I’ve been given an opportunity to lead an organisation, even though I never aspired to be a CEO. Being an engineer meant you weren’t always worried about the people aspect of a business. Now that I’m here, I love it. I love being able to influence the Human Resources side of things and make sure that our people are getting what they need. Because of the fact that I’ve always taken an interest, I’m doing really well in this position.
What advice would you give to someone entering the industry?
The advice I gave to my son (who was a mechanical engineer graduate last year), is that there’s so many aspects to space that there’s always more to know, so go and learn it. You have to worry about everything from radiation and thermal challenges to aerospace engineering. Space is a very multidisciplinary industry. Do what you do well, but look around and get involved in a lot of different things.
To hear more about Dave’s current work in the Satellite and Space sector, tune into the full episode of The Executives Unpacked Podcast here.