60 seconds with… Ali Al Hashemi, CEO Designate of Yahsat Group, CEO of Thuraya Telecommunications Company and GM of Yahsat Government Solutions (YGS)
Ali Al Hashemi, CEO Designate of Yahsat Group, CEO of Thuraya Telecommunications Company and GM of Yahsat Government Solutions (YGS)
We find out from Ali what he sees as the next frontier of space innovation and how Abu Dhabi is leading the way in space research and technology.
1. What is a typical day at Thuraya like for you?
For me, a typical day at Thuraya starts early and ends late. This is mostly due to the meetings with our international partners in different time zones. In addition, I may have to attend industry events and conferences. I also make time to catch up with my core team; we work in unison to plan and execute our strategies for Thuraya and YGS. Our current priority is Thuraya’s US$ 500 million next generation programme, which also includes the Thuraya 4-NGS satellite system.
Developing people is another area I am deeply interested in. We have an ‘open door’ policy and I encourage my teams to join me in my office. These informal gatherings promote a healthy culture of communication, respect and closely knit, cohesive work groups within Thuraya and YGS.
2. What has been your biggest success at Thuraya?
Aside from steering the company through the COVID crisis, I consider the integration of Yahsat’s and Thuraya’s fixed and mobile satellite services as the highlight of my two-year stint at the company. The mandate was to assimilate different components and deliver a responsive platform within a year. This was vital to continuing Thuraya’s growth story. We needed a strong, agile foundation to fuel future growth and diversification.
Thanks to meticulous planning and the support of my teams, we were able to pull this off flawlessly. Today, Thuraya is one of the few companies in the world, providing affordable mobile satellite communication solutions, complemented by fixed satellite services.
3. Thoughts on the growing space ecosystem in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is one of the most exciting places in the world to live and work. There are so many developments happening in line with Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, as we shape a knowledge-based economy. Healthy, dynamic space economies can play a huge role in accelerating socio-economic development in their immediate neighbourhood and beyond. As programmes like Hope and Nanoracks take off, we are cementing the UAE’s reputation as an incubator and facilitator of space technologies.
I must stress that capital flows into space systems, research and technology development are not enough; investors must also have the means to monetise them. As one of the world’s leading business hubs, Abu Dhabi can commercialise its space investments and take part in the global space economy responsibly and sustainably.
4. The next frontier for space sector innovation in Abu Dhabi?
The possibilities of space defy imagination. While there will always be new frontiers to be explored, what’s more important is that we build a homegrown community of space scientists and engineers so that the UAE is able to attain its objectives with greater autonomy. To this end, we must start young, invest in STEM education and research to tap into their potential.
Backed by its shareholder, Mubadala, Yahsat is committed to using connectivity as a tool to help drive social change, increase opportunities and develop communities. In 2017, we launched the UAE’s first multidisciplinary, MIT-endorsed academic space programme and established Yahsat Space Laboratory (YSL) in partnership with Khalifa University and Northrop Grumman. In 2020, it began operations as part of the newly opened Khalifa University Space Technology and Innovation Centre (KUSTIC). Additionally, Yahsat is involved in mentoring initiatives across the country.
5. Why is Abu Dhabi a great place to pursue innovation in the space sector?
Abu Dhabi is now in a position where it can quickly gain knowledge necessary for innovation, and localise and consolidate this know-how. Because of prudent investments by our visionary leadership and outcomes in key sectors such as IT, communications, infrastructure development and transport, we are attracting top international talent and expertise. Abu Dhabi has been highly effective in the adoption and utilisation of new knowledge, technologies, products and services. This is further augmented by Abu Dhabi’s strong connections with global knowledge and innovation networks.
Learn more about Thuraya here.
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