We spoke to Aakash Parekh about leading in the space industry during Episode 14 of The Executives Unpacked Podcast. Aakash is the CCO at Pixxel, a space data company whose mission is to build a health monitor for the planet by creating the world’s first commercial hyperspectral constellation. Prior to joining Pixxel, Aakash led commercial aviation in international markets for various startups in the tech domain. He has a business background, which he uses to bridge the knowledge gaps between commercial and engineering teams for his clients.
Read on for his insights on unlocking your people’s potential.
What would you say has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned throughout your career?
EQ will take you a lot further than IQ will. In the early stages of my career I was focussed on learning hard skills, but I realised that if you figure out how to deal with people, your growth will be exponential, not incremental. A lot of it has to do with self regulation, where you’re able to recognise your own emotions and control your reactions to certain things. Figuring out other people’s motivations and helping them get to where they want to be is the key to getting where you want to be. It took me a while to realise that, but it defines a lot of how I operate and the decisions I make today.
What do you wish that you’d been told earlier?
I wish I had been told about the importance of data science and how data literacy is going to become a paramount skill in any domain. I was a little bit late to the party. I used the pandemic to teach myself basic coding with Python and a few other data science courses and probability and statistics. I’m still a massive work in progress. I wish I could keep up with the times today, but I’m working on it. Data literacy and data science is critical to every area of business.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
As a leader your job is to make yourself unnecessary. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you’re working with a big team, but you’ve done your job well if your team doesn’t need you at all. You should have honed these people to be completely self-sufficient, able to function on their own and empowered to make their own decisions. Enabling that autonomy and supporting your team’s growth is what it’s really about, not you.
What constantly keeps you awake at night?
The fear of failure used to keep me up at night. Eventually I realised that failure is just a stepping stone to success. It’s inevitable, and certain learning behaviours are only prompted when you get hit hard. It took me a while to internalise that, but now nothing keeps me up at night.
Can you identify a single thread that has run through your career and led to success?
I’ve always taken on global roles, which has massively benefitted me. Travel opens up new destinations that I can explore as a part of my personal life, and it teaches you how to adjust to changing environments rapidly. Something that’s really critical in sales roles is adapting to different cultures, and I think travel teaches you how to do that. It teaches you resilience and open mindedness, which has helped me move along in my career.
What’s the one piece of advice that you’d give to others?
People are often conscious about the work that they’ve produced, and they want to get it to its best possible stage before turning it in. I feel like our culture highlights the pursuit of perfection, but I don’t necessarily think that that’s always the right way to do things. It’s important to make sure that you’re constantly moving forward and iterating and getting feedback, so finished is always better than perfect. No matter how perfect it is in your eyes, when you produce a piece of work it will always have the potential to become better. It’s actually smarter to get it early and then make adjustments. It’s a tactical piece of advice, but it’s critical in people’s day-to-day functioning.
To hear about the work that Aakash and his team are currently doing at Pixxel, tune into The Executives Unpacked Podcast here.