As part of our ongoing series, “Meet the Chief,” Signals took the opportunity to sit down with the newly appointed Comtech Chief Strategy Officer, Nicole Robinson, to talk about her role at Comtech and how her career in the industry, creative thinking, and passion for innovation will help Comtech achieve its business goals and position the company for the future.
Nicole Robinson joined Comtech in April, as a Chief Strategy Officer. Her enthusiasm for the organization is contagious. In her words, “I couldn’t imagine a more exciting time to join this exceptional leadership team with such an important mission as a company.”
With a proven track record of leadership and innovation, Nicole has rightfully earned a stellar reputation in the industry and is already making a significant and positive impact at Comtech.
For our first series of questions, we asked Nicole what excites her about joining Comtech, and how the company’s strategic initiatives will help Comtech achieve its future objectives and accelerate positive transformation across the global technology landscape.
“I’ve spent the majority of the last two decades of my career focused on satellite communications (SATCOM) and the past few years in geospatial,” said Nicole. “There were two interesting trends that I observed during this time. First, a pivot to managed networks with high-speed connectivity. Second, there is a shift away from the demand for raw data and pixels, to a strong need to receive processed data and analytics that deliver valuable insights.”
We asked her how this shift in customer needs maps to Comtech’s strategic view that the future of communications infrastructures is not only hybrid or converged, but “smart” networks able to refine and analyze data in near real time.
“We’re seeing blended services and smart networks being created today,” said Nicole. “When it comes to SATCOM and geospatial, for example, the ground services that support these two communities are often an afterthought, and the convergence between SATCOM and geospatial isn’t something many in the industry anticipated. Integrating the two seamlessly requires significant expertise. Comtech is uniquely positioned to occupy the space between SATCOM and geospatial to deliver the new solutions customers are seeking, and I think my background and understanding of both trends position us to be on the forefront of such convergence.”
Another unique perspective Nicole brings to her role as Chief Strategy Officer is her background in P&L management, which also happens to be how she met Comtech CEO, Ken Peterman.
“I have interacted with Ken in previous positions throughout my career, and he has a visionary style and approach to business that I admire,” said Nicole. “When he joined Comtech, it immediately caught my attention, and I knew I needed to keep an eye on the company. I expected something really dynamic to happen in leveraging Comtech’s incredible technology leadership and capabilities, which are uniquely positioned to support the convergence of SATCOM and the geospatial domain. Turned out to be quite true and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
We proceeded to ask Nicole more about some of the most important lessons she has learned throughout her career that apply to her position as a Chief Strategy Officer.
“Listening is a critical skill for finding success in business,” said Nicole. “For example, when applied to customer and leadership dynamics, listening is the most important thing you can do. I always challenge myself to listen carefully to customers to understand the solutions they need from partners.”
“In my position at Comtech, I am currently working with strategic customers that are looking for solutions that will not only have an enormous impact on their businesses, but ours as well,” said Nicole. “Developing new integrated solutions with our customers is a collaborative process and listening to their needs and understanding where there is combined opportunity is critical.”
Nicole went on to discuss how Comtech is working with its strategic customers to bring value to diverse global technology markets.
“We are partnering with select organizations that can generate enormous value from Comtech’s strategic innovations because these partners have a growth trajectory that we’ve already identified, and business needs that Comtech is uniquely positioned to solve,” said Nicole. “By working with our strategic partners, we are developing new blended technologies and services that can bring enormous value to end users across diverse global markets as well as unlock substantial financial growth for Comtech and its partners.”
We moved on to ask Nicole about the initiatives she’s focused on, and some of the exciting opportunities ahead for Comtech.
“Prior to my joining Comtech, the company underwent a significant transformation,” said Nicole. “Now we’re focused on challenging ourselves to think bigger for our customers and we are leveraging our unified organizational structure to identify synergies that create new pipelines of opportunity. We’ve also created strategic account management plans that will help our customers benefit from solutions in both of our business segments—our satellite and space segment as well as our terrestrial and wireless segment.”
The strategic account management plans Nicole describes ladder up directly to the company’s plans for the future.
“As we continue to meet and collaborate with our customers, we have noticed common threads between them. Whether it’s a large-scale cloud provider or a satellite communications operator or geospatial partner, we’re hearing similar themes: multi-orbit, multifrequency, multi-modality,” Nicole explains. “These customers want communications and smart-enabled connectivity that works, everywhere, all the time. Thinking about business trajectories over the next three to five years, and how we start approaching new strategically significant opportunities, it’s taking advantage of this moment of convergence.”
“It couldn’t be a more opportune time for us,” said Nicole. “Comtech is constructively disrupting the industry and we are doubling down on the convergence of satellite, space, terrestrial, and wireless technologies. By leveraging our unique culture of innovation and our technology leadership across these global market segments, we are finding new opportunities and developing innovative solutions that will deliver enormous value to customers that other organizations can’t provide.”
In addition to helping lead the culture of innovation at Comtech, Nicole is just as committed to empowering other women in the industry.
“One of my greatest achievements in my career has been playing a role in creating the Women in Space Engagement (WISE) effort within Space and Satellite Professionals International. It is an amazing platform for women and it’s fulfilling to see the impact it’s having across the industry,” explains Nicole. “WISE has created a new venue to highlight the multifunctional roles that women in the space industry are playing today. In my eyes, it’s not necessarily a matter of insufficient attention, but insufficient numbers. We’re working to change that.”
Nicole also discusses the importance of Comtech’s continued commitment to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) across the enterprise.
“A statistic that stuck with me from a Harvard Business Review study showed men are typically promoted on the basis of potential, whereas women are typically promoted on the basis of performance,” said Nicole. “This study and conversations around it changed the way I approached my career. Now, I also encourage other women in the industry to speak up, be counted, and to take on new challenges. At Comtech, I am really excited to be part of a team that is focused on DEIB as well as making significant investments to lift women up in the organization.”
Within her first two months, Nicole is already delivering significant value and she will be central to Comtech’s continued success as the company looks to democratize access to connectivity and empower customers with new blended technologies that deliver valuable insights when and where they matter most.
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