Executives Unpacked Episode 8: Embracing Curiosity with Brian Pemberton

This post was written by: John Clifton

On Episode 8 of The Executives Unpacked Podcast we were delighted to be joined by Brian Pemberton, the CCO Omnispace, a NewSpace provider redefining mobile connectivity for the 21st century. Brian brings more than 20 years of experience in global wireless terrestrial and satellite communications. In his current role, Brian is responsible for establishing the global strategy and the company’s direction in developing the world’s first 5G based global network. 

Outside of the satellite and communications world, Brian’s happy place outdoors, and his dream one day is to build an over-the-top entertainment room, where he could watch sports and movies with family and friends. 

Below are the highlights of our conversation with Brian, including his best career advice and the things he wishes he’d learned sooner. 

What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned during your career?

The biggest lesson is one that you don’t quite realise when you’ve learned it, it’s not until you have an opportunity to reflect back, later in your career. It’s the importance of communication with peers and supervisors, especially in the matrix of organisations today. You need to be able to effectively communicate across groups of people, both internal and external. Being able to do that on an individual level as well as in group environments is a powerful and essential skill to be able to advance in your career.

What do you wish you’d been told earlier? 

Something that I would try to share with people is that if you’re getting the supervisory opportunities you’ve obviously a very strong individual performer. As you move into the more senior roles though, you need to be an effective delegator as well. That really gets back to the communication element, because you have to be able to tell those individuals about the different tasks you’re giving them. That’s something that a lot of people need to understand as they become managers, they have to balance being an individual performer and more of a coach or facilitator type role.

What one bit of advice do you always give to others?

You can tell someone what to do, or how to do it, but don’t do both. When you do both, that’s when you overstep, and you stop the individual being an individual, because we all work differently. You’ve got to give employees the latitude to find what works best for them. Figure out your methodology or process for your output. If there’s something that has a very deliberate process, show someone the process and allow them to figure out how it works best for them as an individual. If you make people do specific tasks your way, they’ll feel micromanaged. You can only have so much your way. 

What has constantly kept you awake at night? 

Usually when I’m awake it’s because there’s a complex problem to be solved and I’ve just started iterating different concepts in my head. That can be the early stages of a product or project where we’re still getting the design concepts or the requirements. Sometimes it’s in negotiations about the goal we’re trying to obtain, getting there and bringing the other stakeholders along. It’s just my own ideas that keep me awake when I have something to think through. 

Is there a single thread that’s run through your career that’s led to your success?

One of the core attributes that I have is my passion for identifying a problem and coming up with that solution. Being able to take a vision in its ideation stage all the way through to execution is really fun for me. That ability to see down the road to where the pitfalls are and successfully navigate them is a rare thing. Sometimes you’ve got to pivot and rethink the plan, versus handing it to someone as their marching orders. That’s been something that’s differentiated me from a number of people that I’ve worked with throughout my career, and probably has a significant impact on the success I’ve enjoyed.

What advice would you give to somebody joining the industry?

Be curious. There’s a lot of different ideas and innovation that is happening. No one’s got a monopoly on the best ideas, so talk to a lot of different people. Be curious, don’t be afraid to prod things. Don’t accept that the answer is at face value, but be willing to question things. If we hadn’t questioned ‘why can’t we harmonise terrestrial and satellite into a single user experience?’ we wouldn’t be where we are with MTN today. My advice is always to be curious and stay curious, it will facilitate your learning.

To hear more about Brian’s work in the satellite industry, tune into the full episode of The Executives Unpacked Podcast here

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