Jan 17, 2019
Catherine Mealing-Jones did not set out to become a key player in the space sector of the United Kingdom, a nation that produces about 44% of the world’s small satellites and aims to double its share of the global space economy by 2030. As Director of Growth, she is now responsible for meeting that ambitious goal. But her early goals were quite different.
She was the first in her family to attend university, where she majored in English because she wanted to be a writer. What she ultimately became was a civil servant as well as chartered accountant. Her early career was with UK Border, a law enforcement agency responsible for border protection. She learned to manage large-scale technology programs there as well as to manage partnerships among different organizations.
Learning to Lead
She learned early on the value of leading by example. A self-starter by nature, she found it surprising and sobering to realize that “not everybody is motivated by wanting to do the best thing all the time.” But she also learned that “how you behave is really important – how you lead, how you shape things and how you enable others to shape things with you has a profound impact on how people operate and how they become leaders.”
She is a passionate believer in drawing on people with different background and different talents, and she also learned early about the challenges that brings. “Early on,” she says, “I encountered behavior that wasn’t in keeping with standards of respect, especially of respect for diversity. I realized that I faced a choice: either to challenge this and try to make it into something more positive or simply to put up and shut up. I took the decision to challenge. The most interesting thing was the response that came from other people around that situation, who really felt empowered to do the right thing.”
Attracted by a job posting with the UK Space Agency, she applied and won her current position – in an industry of enormous excitement and potential. In a Promise2Purpose podcast on the SSPI channel, she shares that excitement, her unusual career path and the lessons in leadership it has taught her.