In the first annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the organizations outlined ambitious goals to improve global health, address hunger and poverty and improve education in the United States.
Among these goals were to:
- Cut childhood deaths from rotavirus in half.
- Help millions of the poorest farming households in Africa and South Asia triple their incomes by 2025.
- By 2025, help 80 percent of U.S. students graduate from high school, ready to succeed in college.
The Gates Foundation and the world’s endless string of optimists and cheerleaders have persistently looked at society’s challenges and broken them into organizational tasks, with specific goals and means of achieving success. It is inspiring to anyone in business to know that the space and satellite industry plays a role when these high-profile attempts at human progress are launched.
Still, given my Calabrian nature, I tend to be a pessimist when it comes to the species. I say that human beings are predictably, depressingly dumb but not suicidal. My optimism holds around that thin string of belief. But that string is like today’s supply chain. It looks vulnerable and open to breaking. The past few years have challenged human society.
We may be getting better, but you need to include root canal, heart bypass and Teslas into your defense and body of evidence to make the case! Things are pretty bad when you are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Donbas region of Ukraine or waiting on the subway platform.
Hope in Space
Fortunately, the space and satellite industry is a place where hope can be found. We do see light that shines. The appetite for achievement is remarkable. Even a pessimist can look at the numbers and see a plume of good news. With caveats.
You don’t need to be an economist to figure out that this is the industry to be in if you want to make good money, do good work and meet someone who actually works for SpaceX.
As GVF Secretary General David Meltzer wrote in Connectivity Business, “These are good times to be an employee in the U.S. space industry and, conversely, space industry employers are having to pay a premium to recruit and retain employees.”
Economic percolating on the commercial side defies what transpired for two decades in the rest of the labor force, where despite the fact that American employers added jobs for 101 continuous months through the Summer of 2018, real average wages (wages after inflation) had the same purchasing power as they had 40 years before. It became political fodder, both cheered and criticized, that wages in the overall economy mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers. But in our industry, wages across the board were impressive.
This was seen in The Space Foundation’s 2022 Report. Pay for employees in the commercial (private) sector averages $125,214. This is more than double the $62,247 average annual salary of U.S. private-sector jobs and 27.3% more than the average salary of $98,340 for STEM occupations.
Satellites and Humanitarian Aid
Also remarkable is the growth of satellite’s impact on humanitarian aid. The vicious and persistent COVID, political failures in Europe and Africa (which is what a war is by definition) and the creeping sin of climate change present a basketful of nasty within the global footprint we call our neighborhood.
We saw that the global chain of trade and intellectual exchange which is our lifeblood was built for efficiency and not sustainability. This is the root of the current crisis. The supply chain issue is a nasty one we did not anticipate. The slowdown of production and distribution of goods and services gets headlines. While we help untangle it, it is a tough knot to crack.
The supply that most concerns leaders in the satellite industry, as I learned in my podcast conversations, is the one that has a qualified, certified and talented human being at the end of the chain.
The supply of people.
In a revealing podcast about the supply chain challenges to humanitarian relief providers who rely on the satellite industry, Meltzer and Ultisat CEO David Myers readily agreed that the real supply chain issue in the satellite industry is the inability to find and onboard qualified employees to accommodate the rate at which the industry is growing and the clip at which aid workers are needed. There is a high turnover in this sector.
“Thinking differently, thinking more at the networking layer instead of more at the satellite layer, I think, is important for companies, and we need to recruit more people that bring that talent and that perspective . . . I think that will absolutely help to bring in new talent, bring in different disciplines from other industries and other best practices.” – UltiSat’s David Myers in Humanitarian Guidance from Above, Part 2, the fifth episode of the Untangling the Supply Chain podcast.
But like Bill Gates, I want to end with good news. You will learn from the podcasts that while there are more disasters these days, the data reveals that fewer people are being killed as a result. All agree that an investment in disaster preparedness and satellite solutions is at the root of this “success.” So go out and sell it!
“The same data which shows more people impacted, more severe disasters, more disasters . . . shows fewer and fewer people being killed by those disasters. And that is concrete evidence that if you invest in disaster preparedness, you will actually get a very positive return on investment.” – GVF’s David Meltzer in Humanitarian Guidance from Above, Part 1, the fourth episode of the Untangling the Supply Chain podcast.
Untangling that supply chain is an area of executive management that will require us to let people know that if they want to “do well by doing good,” the job is theirs.