Viasat United Kingdom Managing Director Hisham Awad first felt the awe-inspiring power of an airplane when he was a young boy. The experience made such a deep impression, he built a career around it.
“I loved that moment on the runway when the plane accelerated so quickly you fell back into your seat,” he said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, that’s the moment I thought, I want to do something that involves planes and also have the ability to fly one someday. And that led me to go into aerospace systems engineering.”
The native of Wales majored in aerospace systems engineering at the University of Hertfordshire, graduating with honors. He completed his master’s in business administration at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
During those years, he also earned his pilot’s license and fulfilled his childhood dream of flying.
“The acquisition was actually really good for my career, because they put me on an executive leadership course at a really young age,” he said. “That allowed me to develop from a traditional systems engineer into an engineering leader role.”
In his seven years with BAE Systems, he found he had a talent for leadership.
“At one point, I was heading up technology strategy, and it was my first leadership role where I was responsible for a number of engineers,” he said. “Our team developed lots of technology, and we had a pretty much limitless budget. It was really enjoyable.”
In his last role there, Awad managed a multinational team as BAE’s head of information management and technology strategy and architecture.
He spent the next decade with Ultra Electronics Group, a defense and space manufacturing company. His first job there was in business development.
“But I was desperate to get back into engineering,” he said. “I became the engineering director for the aerospace division, which is where my passion was.
Awad also undertook his first general management roles at Ultra, as the head of U.K. cybersecurity.
“The CEO of Ultra rang me one weekend and said, ‘I have a problem in one of the businesses and I need you to go and look after it. And by the way, it’s cyber business rather than aerospace,’” Awad recalled. “That was quite scary because it was a new area for me. But it was really enjoyable.
“And that is where I first came across Viasat, because we competed with Viasat on some of the crypto technology and the government systems side.”
Expanding in the UK
Awad was intrigued by Viasat’s focus on satellites, space and cybersecurity — all areas that matched both his passion and experience — and the company’s plans to expand its U.K. footprint. So when he heard the Viasat U.K. managing director position was available, he applied.
“Everything about it sounded like the right opportunity,” he said. “Viasat offers capability all the way from space, satellites and networking to data in transit, data at rest and cybersecurity.”
The Viasat U.K. business is best known for data assurance and encryption solutions for government and defense.
Today, Viasat U.K. provides security and communications expertise to the country’s civilian and defense markets — including Royal Air Force fighters and Royal Navy warships. With the upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation launch, the company expects to expand in the U.K., adding highly skilled network, analysis, and cyber roles to meet that growth.
Awad is planning for those changes.
“I’d like us to focus on offering value creation for the U.K. customer,” he said. “That will include everything from the traditional data-at-rest products to space solutions.
“To grow our reputation and work share in the U.K., we need to proactively demonstrate our ability to deliver and prove we are a strong, knowledgeable partner who is looking out for their best interests. I want to be the preferred supplier a customer keeps coming back to every time they have a requirement.”
The planned acquisition of U.K.-based Inmarsat will also help expand awareness of Viasat in the country, he said. The complimentary assets of the two companies are expected to help bring more choices to customers.
ViaSat-3 is also a vital part of Viasat’s U.K. expansion plan.
That near-term opportunity and Viasat’s plans to continue to differentiate itself sold Awad on the company.
“It’s the whole roadmap of the future, knowing that Viasat not only will launch ViaSat-3, but that there are plans beyond that too,” he said. “I’m very interested in working for a company that continues to invest and grow in an exciting area.”
He was also compelled by Viasat’s culture — the belief that every employee provides valuable input.
“The collaboration, the way things are discussed, the involvement from people, as well as being data-driven — are all things that speak to me,” he said. “I felt this company more closely aligns to my personal values and culture than any I’ve previously worked at.”
A married father of two children, Awad lives in Bristol, a location that is equal distance from Viasat’s three U.K. offices.