Curious about the behind the scenes team that keeps Kepler operating? Finance Manager Sally Ha-Hau shares career advice and insight into the roles and responsibilities of the non-technical team at Kepler.
How long have you been at Kepler and what is your role here?
I’ve been at Kepler since June 2020, so a little bit over a year. When I first joined Kepler, I joined as their senior financial analyst, and I’m now Finance Manager. My role is helping the team remove blockers in their daily work and being involved in all things finance – anything that involves money, finance is involved in some way, shape, or form.
What are the day-to-day roles & responsibilities of yourself and the finance team?
It really comes down to two things. One is the operational and support side, making sure that everything is running smoothly and the day-to-day things are addressed. This includes supply chain, procurement, accounting, financial reporting, treasury, payroll, process improvement work and supporting the team. The second piece is the strategic side – planning & analysis and finance which involves understanding where Kepler is going, planning for it and maximizing how Kepler’s resources are utilized while minimizing risks.
What led you to join Kepler?
Aside from the enticing mission, it was the people. During my interview process, I had the opportunity to meet a few different individuals from Kepler and I was just really impressed and excited about the potential of working together with them. I can say all of that was realized and came true. Kepler is full of brilliant individuals, passionate about the Kepler mission and always willing to support one another.
You mentioned that your role has changed since joining Kepler. What encouraged that change?
Kepler is growing very fast, very quickly, and the opportunity was there. There is also a very supportive process internally to promote employee growth. Very early on, there was a discussion to understand what I brought to the table, where I wanted to go in my career and how that aligned with Kepler.
What is your favourite thing about working for Kepler?
Is it corny if I keep on saying that the people are the best part? Otherwise, it’s the celebrations for important milestones that we achieve along the way together. One example of that is for our satellite launches, we all get together (virtually now) and watch the live stream of our satellites being launched off. We commemorate those moments with these uniquely designed mission badges that everyone involved gets. Everyone works hard at Kepler, but we also make sure to have fun along the way.
Which Kepler value resonates with you the most? What does it mean to you?
I have to pick two – Endeavor For The 10x and Speak Up & Listen. For me, those have been two big differentiation points for what’s so special about Kepler. With Endeavor For The 10x, we’re very ambitious with the goals we set for ourselves. Everyone is very driven and working towards achieving that 10x in everything we’re doing. It’s amazing to be in an environment where everyone is striving so high. With Speak Up & Listen, I’d say despite how much we’ve grown, everyone is still very down to earth. Everyone is welcome to go speak to any member of the C-suite, team members outside of their own team, and to be vocal and share their thoughts on wider topics. All those thoughts are valued and play a role in what management and team members consider when making improvements. Leveraging everyone’s ideas and collecting all those thoughts and diverse opinions to come to the best solution possible is an essential part of our structure.
What qualities do you look for in potential hires?
Aside from just having solid technical knowledge, it’s the soft skills that really differentiate individuals for me. The ability to take initiative and demonstrate ownership of work, strong problem solving, organizational and communication skills. All of those in combination play a big role in making someone successful, especially in a finance or operational role.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in kind of the non-technical side of the space industry?
Be curious, ask questions. I was new to the space industry as well and understanding the unique aspects of how the space industry operates and works has been essential to my day-to-day. Understanding more technical details gives more context to what is happening, why, drives the work I am doing and tells me whether the numbers Finance is looking at make sense.
Is there a particular achievement that you’re most proud of during your time here?
It’s hard to take the sole credit for something, so I want to preemptively say that successes are a collective effort. Our recent financing raise was a big milestone, and I’m excited about where that’s going to bring Kepler next. The launch of our satellites is also really exciting for me as well. While I can’t say I was involved in the engineering design work or production of them, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work operationally that supports the company to make sure that all the other individuals can do their day-to-day work well.
What are you most looking forward to in the future of Kepler?
ÆTHER is a really exciting product and project for us. It’s a big step in achieving our mission of bringing the internet to space. I think this is actually a game-changing thing that we’re doing, for the industry, and for the people who will be using the service. It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of something with such tangible impacts, where we can see the connectivity we’re building actually making a difference.
Do you have a favourite space movie?
I know there are way better movies, but I’ll say the movie Passengers. I was actually really struck by that movie in terms of realizing what the possibilities of space are and how it could impact humankind.