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Meet the… chief executive officer

Our "Meet the..." series goes up to executive level with Barbara Spicek, CEO, GatesAir

Talk us through an average day in your role

The concept of an average day in the business world does not exist. There are several dynamics in the mix that make each day at least somewhat different. These include internal operations as well as external events, from customer-facing responsibilities to fluctuations in the global economy. We see new challenges and opportunities arise daily that bring unique characteristics to each business day.

There is consistency in how I approach the changing business dynamics of each new day. I am based in California and am an early riser, and begin each day with two cups of cappuccino. My mornings focus on EMEA and the east coast of the United States, and my afternoons shift to western US time zones and Asia as the business day progresses. As CEO, I am tasked with global responsibility, and carefully adjust my calendar to appropriately manage time zones.

Throughout each day, I maintain the knowledge that I am now the face of the company. Externally, it’s about strengthening business credibility and visibility for the company, communicating with key customers and vendors, and being prepared to react accordingly when emergencies arise. Internally, I emphasise creating and maintaining a corporate culture for GatesAir that inspires commitment. That includes conducting leadership calls, piloting town halls and arranging think tanks to strengthen internal communications, drive group discussions, and ensure that all within the company are working toward a common mission. 

My approach also boils down from these larger group-focused activities to more personalised outreach. I wish every one of our employees a happy birthday, for example, and I make sure to connect with sales teams, product managers, engineers and assembly floor personnel through regional office and factory visits. Many CEOs prefer to establish more distance, but my preference has always been team engagement and an emphasis on inclusion. 

How did you get started in the media industry?

My executive experience spans nearly three decades, including positions at Fortune 500 companies with versatile responsibilities across sales, marketing, regional management and global leadership. I have spent much of my career on the IT side, spanning a variety of technologies across software, hardware, networking, storage and computing. Some of these products, including storage media and asset management, reached into the media and entertainment space.

My official introduction to the broadcast and professional AV industries came through my appointment to the Vizrt Group in 2020, when I accepted the role of president and general manager for NewTek. There, I led the company’s live production business for three years. Now, I have an opportunity to make a difference at GatesAir, which is on the completely opposite side of the broadcast spectrum as the leader in TV and radio transmission and IP transport. 

What training did you have before entering the industry?

I hold a track record over 25 years in executive roles with larger manufacturers across multiple industries. Over my career I have touched all business units in companies from sales, marketing, product, services, finance and HR, which enables me to be an inclusive, proactive and innovative leader. I have experience in accelerating business revenues and defining the direction and culture of large global companies.

My educational background is diverse, having studied business administration and foreign languages, with strong fluency in English and German. My understanding of international cultures is strong given my depth of experience working across many regions. This provides me with a deep understanding of global markets and trends, both of which are essential to being a successful CEO.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

The media and entertainment industry represents a fascinating fusion of creativity and technology. One side of the industry is responsible for content creation, and the other side develops and supplies the technology that takes this content to the audience for consumption. That fusion is particularly exciting to me, and GatesAir is at the centre of this technology foundation to support global content delivery. We are also a key element of the broader digital transformation that’s accelerating worldwide.

With this exciting fusion of creativity and technology comes the incredible people and brilliant minds behind the execution. I have the opportunity to work with dedicated innovators that are fun to be around. This is an industry of collaboration, and it remains fun, exciting and surprising.

What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

My advice would go for any role you take in your life: be dedicated, focused and truly engaged. Trust in your own capacities but also entrust and involve your teams. I am strong in my belief that people make a company, so I drive think tanks and team workshops to encourage collective knowledge and ideas. There is exceptional power when more brains come together to collaborate.

CEOs are responsible for the internal and external culture and image of the company. Remember that fact, and always strive to live up to the highest standards. You owe it to your people to be your best.

Perhaps most of all, enjoy what you do. We spend half of our lives working, and if you don’t enjoy your work, find something that motivates you and brings you happiness.