16 Jul 2021
We recently spoke with Vice President, Digital Infrastructure, Sarah Palmer.
This month’s insights from our leaders around the world come from Vice President Digital Infrastructure in Canada, Sarah Palmer. Sarah has more than 15 years’ leading high performing commercial and operational teams in the technology, telecommunications, and IoT sectors in Australia, where she has held roles including executive general manager of products and director business development. During her executive career she has launched over 35 products in wholesale, consumer, and enterprise markets. She started her career studying Japanese language and economics at Sydney University and was fortunate to attend the prestigious Sophia University in Japan, participating in the Comparative Culture programme before starting work with Telstra.
What’s the most important development happening in our industry and what does that mean for business in Canada?
Like most places in the world, COVID has shined an intense light on the digital divide that still exists in Canada. The Federal and Ontario provisional governments have responded with over $5 billion in subsidy funding to build high speed broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. To help solve this problem in Southern Ontario, BAI is proposing a fibre network infrastructure that will be provided as an open access network to all ISPs and telcos. The build will also incorporate fibre construction along some of the busiest highways in North America in preparation for the 5G densification needed for a ‘connected vehicle‘ environment. It a big vision and BAI is in a unique position to facilitate this.
What inspires you most in the work that you do?
I read a great article by my old boss Paul Tyler, now CEO of Superloop, about the disruption to business occurring when there is a corresponding disruption in human behaviour. And business disruption is what inspires me! Our small super clever data analytics team here in Toronto, led by Jeremy Foran, is building solutions with the TTC that take data from the subway communications networks, integrate into TTC’s work processes and systems, and enable them to do things differently and better. It is good sticky business for BAI and has the potential to be game changing for the TTC and other rail operators.
What is a technique you use to be more effective in your work?
My niece, a school teacher, gave me the tip that every year she finds one thing to like about everyone in her class. I do this with my work colleagues and it enables me to be planned, practical and, most importantly, positive!
What’s one of the ongoing challenges you face at work and how do you manage it?
Like most people, I assume, I get frustrated with work. Customers, colleagues, partners, the government, the industry don’t always move at the same pace, with the same urgency as I hope they would.
Many many years ago, a colleague shared with me the Cherokee story about the Wolves Within. For people who don’t know it, an Elder explains to his son that one wolf is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, piece, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, truth, compassion, and faith. When asked which one wins in a battle, the reply is simply: the one you feed.
In a work context, I often check my intent and work practically through what I can do differently to get the outcome we need.
What is your advice for proactively managing your career?
A wise man once told me to think about the role you wish to get to two steps away from where you are today. Use the next role as the steppingstone for it. What do you need to achieve this from a skills, mindset, and capability point of view? What goals are you setting yourself to help you achieve this?
Who has been the greatest influence on your career and why?
Without a doubt my father and brother, both significant to the mining industry, have influenced me. I used to map their careers and compare roles at similar ages. But as they were both born in Broken Hill, a veritable breeding ground for mining execs, and a place where married women were banned from working until 1981, what this really taught me is that I need to run my own race and comparisons are not always helpful. So, if I really consider the way I work today – from how I understand a problem, define purpose, build process and accountability, and know my customers and colleagues, including the name of their spouses – I would single out CEO at DIRECTV, Bill Morrow, as having the greatest influence. I worked with him closely at NBN Co for four years while he was the CEO.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have had a driver’s licence for 25 years, but have not driven a car since 2015 as I have no reason to.