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Malcolm Keys | BAI Communications

Insights from our leaders – Group Business Development Director Malcolm Keys

by Malcolm Keys

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14 September 2021

We recently spoke with Group Business Development Director Malcolm Keys.

This month’s insights from our leaders around the world come from Group Business Development Director Malcolm Keys who is responsible for driving BAI’s achievement of its customer acquisition, revenue and profitability goals. This includes developing new product offerings, such as 5G IoT solutions for industry, and assessing new market development and entry. For the past six years before taking on this role in June, Malcolm was leading the BAI Communications European Transit Communication business and made a significant contribution to our success in winning the TfL concession. Prior to that, as CEO of BAI’s joint venture with Airwave Solutions, Malcolm was responsible for BAI’s market entry into the emergency services telecommunications market. Malcolm joined BAI in 2005 as BAI Director of Telecommunications and Information Technology and led the New Products Division, focused on innovative new services such as mobile TV, datacasting, and digital radio. Before joining BAI, Malcolm held various executive positions with leading ICT companies such as Crown Castle International and Digital Equipment Corporation

What’s the most important development happening in our industry and what does that mean for business in Canada?

Clearly, 5G is driving our customers to reinvest in network capacity and densification. This is an investment wave that BAI is well positioned to support through our focus on privately owned/funded shared infrastructure (the neutral host model). We are seeking to combine a major technology upgrade with a sensible economic model that derives benefits from sharing passive and active network elements. I am excited by the prospect of O-RAN and for BAI to operate shared/active radio access networks. In this way, BAI will move up the value chain of wireless network service delivery. We have a similar opportunity to operate shared fibre, small cell and IOT platforms. This approach works in our core market of transit, but is equally suited to large venues, indoor buildings, and outdoor networks across cities.

One focus area is driven by the fact that telecommunications and electricity supply are intertwined and co-dependant. Electricity supply is being reinvented with new forms of green generation, battery storage tech, and localised distribution. As this investment is made in supply infrastructure, this is a great opportunity to advance the densification of 5G, fibre, and IoT telecommunications. BAI now has a partnership with Signify to invest in new urban lighting solutions that combine street lighting, 5G smart cells, fibre connectivity, electric vehicle charging, and IoT. I hope this is just the beginning of BAI working with new partners, as society makes this huge leap forward in the redesign of the electricity supply networks.

What inspires you most in the work that you do?

Working on projects that contribute to society. Infrastructure projects we work on have long lasting benefits that we pass on to following generations. We take for granted things like the internet. This great telecommunications service, which underpins most aspects of our daily life, was only made possible by the engineers and business leaders who in the 1800s invested in the original telecommunications network – the telegraph service.

This was later upgraded to POTS (plain old telephone service), the fax, dial up internet, then broadband. Our work today on 4G and 5G services is a modern extension of the ideas from the earliest commercial wireless network of Marconi, also in the late 1800s. So, I am inspired by continuing the great work of our forebears. There is clearly not enough room here to list the great benefits to society of fixed and wireless communications, but I think it’s fair to say we are doing a great deal to contribute!

What is a technique you use to be more effective in your work?

My best tool is paper. A daily run sheet of actions that I cross off and store information that I collect. If it’s not done today, then it’s at the top of tomorrow’s run sheet.

What’s one of the ongoing challenges you face at work and how do you manage it?

The biggest challenge is the long timeframes some infrastructure projects take to secure then build. Partnership with government entities exposes us to a host of complex political and commercial issues, which often take many years to resolve. So, patience needs to be a virtue. BAI’s success in numerous countries and projects is testament to the rewards available for companies that can harness that patience in the business development lifecycle. I manage this challenge by staying focused on the long term outcome and use this vision to get me over any short term obstacles.

What is your advice for proactively managing your career?

Stay curious. Technology is accelerating the pace of change across all elements of the economy. It is vital to stay abreast of political, commercial, and technology changes in our field. Understand how our business works and think about how we can do things better. This means you always have something to contribute as we face an uncertain and competitive future. Leadership is not always a top down process. You can be a leader of change at any level in the company. The proactive things you do, are what makes a difference and is what gets noticed. Career development is a series of steps where you took the initiative.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career and why?

My first boss, an entrepreneur who designed and then manufactured scientific instruments from a modest factory unit in Sydney. From there we exported to large customers in Japan, Korea, USA, and Europe. He taught me two key lessons in business.

The first was to have a great product and boldly position yourself as a global leader. Do not allow geography or distance to limit your vision. The second was a holistic understanding of business. As the production manager, I learnt to manage software development, factory inventory, and a complex production line. I also learnt the business skills of accounting, people management, and how to market our products in multiple languages. Later, I would go on to study business administration, but it was this practical grounding that taught me a broad range of skills and a ‘can do’ attitude.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I have moved from Australia to live in the UK four different times during my life. So, these days, I am happy to say that both feel like home. Coming from an aquatic city means I have always had a sailboat or speed boat, so when I moved to London this time I bought what Australians call a “tinnie” (an aluminium runabout) for going up and down the Thames river. If you are ever in London and want a unique way to see the city highlights, just let me know.

Malcolm Keys

Director
BAI Communications UK

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