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Issue 15
issue pic Leslie Blaker currently supports the position of vice president of government affairs and development for DataPath, Inc. which is as of June 1st is undergoing a merger with Rockwell Collins, Government Systems of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In this role, Blaker leads DataPath's government relations initiatives and participation with key industry and federal organizations that inform and advise the U.S. government on vital communications issues. In addition, Blaker is responsible for the business development of strategic US DoD and Intelligence sector programs as they relate to satellite communications.

Blaker was previously vice president, development for SES Americom Government Services, Inc., formerly of GE Americom, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of SES Global, S.A. that serves the U.S. government in the areas of civilian and defense broadband satellite communications services. There her responsibilities included strategic program development and related governmental affairs. Blaker has more than 20 years of experience within the satellite industry supporting the U.S. government, including other senior executive roles at iDirect Technologies, Loral Orion and Loral Space Systems, GTE Spacenet, Hughes Network Systems and Northern Telecom.

1) How did you get started in the satellite business?

After a start in my first position with what was then called Northern Telecom, I became a member and volunteer in a then "new" organization called "Women in Telecommunications" or "WIT". I met many wonderful people as part a member of this then start up organization, to include the then chapter President Dee Dolan. Dee told me about contacts she had with a firm then known as M/A-Com DCC in Germantown, MD, and their separate division M/A-Com Linkabit in LaJolla, CA. They were launching a new line of satellite communications services called "VSAT's" or Very Small Aperture Terminals for the commercial segment, and wanted to also pursue applications in the US Government as a possible vertical market. I met with the senior leaders of M/A-Com DCC at the time to include Jack Shaw, Pradman Kaul (2009 - Satellite Executive of the Year) and was hired as an Account Manager to develop Federal programs. M/A-Com DCC became Hughes Network Systems after a few years, and M/A-Com Linkabit evolved into multiple firms of the then pioneers working there such as Mark Dankberg, ViaSat, L-3/Titan Linkabit and others. It was also later through associations such as Women in Defense and industry networking that I also met other women pioneers in the industry such as Mary Ann Elliott, Founder and CEO of Arrowhead Space and Telecommunications, and Kay Sears, now President of Intelsat General. A solid lesson that networking and service to your industry is important to those young women considering a career in satcom.

2) How have you been involved in changes brought about in or by this business (innovations, technologies, services)?

Following my tenure at Hughes, and GTE Spacenet which became GE Spacenet and later SES Americom through acquisition, a small group of tenured colleagues from Hughes Network Systems and GTE Spacenet including myself became investment capital partners in a new venture originally called Comsoft Systems in 1994. Through what we now call our "friends, family and fools" round of capitol, Comsoft Systems leveraged what was then one of the first developments of a next generation, internet protocol, or IP network modem over commercial or military satellites. As the company evolved, and new investors where brought in, we re-branded the company to iDirect in 1999. Through this early venture, the current iDirect product line and other now competitive technologies available in the open market have evolved the way high speed broadband satellite communications services are effectively provided to both the commercial and military segments.

3) What do you think was the greatest event/situation/opportunity you experienced?

The greatest privilege I have had in my career was serving in the front line from a contractor's perspective in 1991 to effectively provide solutions to our warfighters during Desert Storm. Through GTE Spacenet I had led efforts supporting the US Army in a program since 1988 and still publically known today as TROJAN. Through our efforts with this program, we had successfully deployed one of the first US military implementations of commercial Ku band to the field. At the time of Desert Storm there was a pressing need to provide portable broadband communication in theatre. Working together with multiple industry partners, utilizing available commercial off the shelf solutions (COTS) components, we were able to integrate a trailer based broadband communications solution resembling the satellite news gathering trailers of that time. Within a 45 day window to meet critical mission requirements from start to finish, we deployed 14 satcom communications trailers into theatre, significantly influencing our troop's ability to perform their mission. Many of our team received the Commanders Civilian Award for Public Service.

4) What was the greatest obstacle?

I would offer the greatest obstacle I have faced in my service to this industry is actually more of a challenge. That is one of balance and equal commitment to both work and family. As women, balancing our professional roles and our commitment to those that depend upon us as business leaders, and our personal life remain pressing despite what all the books we have read and media influences tell us. My advice from experience on this is simple. Each of us has to dig deep to determine what is best for us as individuals, set priorities, and stick to them. If it doesn't work, change it. Of key importance is to first take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Give the gift of time to yourself daily to fulfill this. When we are full, we have the time to ensure the needs of our job and families are met without reservation.

5) What do you see happening in the next five years in this industry?

I predict that there will be a continued if not increasing reliance on satellite communications by both the commercial and US military sectors given the demand for mobile higher broadband data and video applications. This will also be driven by the availability to provide these solutions through the exploitation of frequencies such as Ka, and new data compression technologies and ground segment equipment that are commercially supplied today in the market.

6) What advice do you have for women interested in entering the industry?

As has been evident in my career, seek a mentor, someone you respect that can assist in coaching and your professional development. Be of service to your industry, volunteer and equally mentor those who come to you for support in the future. Always maintain a current knowledge of our industry, emerging trends, and look for opportunities to develop your career with that path. Enjoy your tenure, as this is one of the most exciting fields I can image for women to be part of.


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Issue No. 15:
Women in Space

Spring 2009

General Editor Introduction

From the Guest Editor

Audrey Allison, Dir., Frequency Management Services, Boeing Shared Services Group

Anita Antenucci, Managing Dir. Houlihan Lokey's Aerospace-Defense-Government

Dr. Wanda M. Austin Pres. & CEO, The Aerospace Corporation

Julie Bannerman, Gen.Counsel, Space Systems/Loral, Inc.

Sharri Berg, Senior V.P., News Operations, Fox News

Leslie Blaker, DataPath, Inc.

Yvonne Brill, Consultant, Satellite Tech. & Space Propulsion Systems

Michelle Bryan, Senior V.P., Human Resources, Intelsat

Dr. Angie Bukley, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering

Catherine Chang, General Counsel & Asst. Company Secretary, AsiaSat

Sabrina Cubbon, Gen. Manager, Marketing, AsiaSat

Yvette Dominguez, Manager, Payload Design Engineering Section, Space Systems/Loral, Inc.

Chris Ehrenbard, Dir., Broadcast Distribution, CBS

Mary Ann Elliot, Chairman of the Board, Arrowhead Global Solutions, Inc.

Celeste Ford, Founder & CEO, Stellar Solutions, Inc.

Mary Frost, former CEO, GlobeCast America

Eilene Galloway, NASA Pioneer

Carmen González-Sanfeliu, V.P., Latin America & Caribbean, Intelsat

Dawn Harms, V.P., Marketing & Sales, Space Systems/Loral, Inc.

Ellen Hoff, Pres., W.L. Pritchard & Co., L.C.

Polly Rash Hollis, Satellite Industry Professional

Britt Horncastle, Satellite Consultant

Susan Irwin, Pres., Irwin Communications, Inc.

Barbara Jaffe, Senior V.P., Advanced Technology and Operations, HBO

Christine King, Deputy V.P., Technical Services & Engineering, Lockheed Martin

Betsy Kulick, Newsletter Editor & Corporate Secretary, Mobile Satellite Users Association

Penelope Longbottom, Founder & Pres., Longbottom Communications

Joanne Maguire, Exec. V.P., Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

Andrea Maléter, Technical Dir., Futron Corporation

Joan T. Mancuso, Founder & Executive, Broadband International LLC

Dolores Martos, V.P., Sales for Latin America & Caribbean, SES Americom - SES New Skies

Brig. Gen. Susan K. Mashiko, Vice Commander, Space & Missile Systems Center, L.A. Air Force Base

Eileen McGowan, Corporate Strategy & Planning, Intelsat

Olwen Morgan, Development Engineer

Bridget Neville, V.P. & Gen. Manager, Satellite Engineering & Operations, Sirius XM Radio

Christine Paape, V.P., Space Explorers, Inc.

Rhonda Parson, Manager, Occasional-Use Sales & Traffic Division, EchoStar Satellite Services

Maj. Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Deputy Dir., National Reconnaissance Office

Jane Petro, Kennedy Space Center Deputy Director

Dr. Nongluck Phinainitisart, D.Eng., Pres., Thaicom PLC

Mary Quagliotti, Retired Major General, Army

Radhika Ramachandran, Ph.D., Counsellor (SPACE) & Technical Liaison Officer

Veena Rawat, Pres., Communications Research Centre, Canada

Joslyn Read, V.P., Regulatory Affairs, SES Americom - SES New Skies

Walda Roseman, Founder & CEO, CompassRose International, Inc.

Farah Suhanah Ahmad Sarji, General Counsel, MEASAT

Jacqueline Schenkel, Founder, Schenkel & Associates, LLC

Kay Sears, Pres., Intelsat General

Gwynne Shotwell, Pres., SpaceX

Marcia Smith, Pres., Space Technology Policy Group, LLC

Pascale Sourisse, Gen. Manager, Land & Joint Systems Division, Thales

Andy Steinem, CEO, Dahl-Morrow International

Nicole P. Stott, Astronaut, NASA

Bambi Taskarelli, Voice/Data Engineer, NBCU

Leslie Taylor, Strategic Planning Division Office of Spectrum Management, NTIA, U.S. Dept. of Commerce

Synette Tom, Marketing Dir., Sales, Space Systems/Loral, Inc.

Marjorie Rhodes Townsend, Satellite Communications Consultant

Diane Tryneski, Senior V.P., Broadcast & Studio Operations, HBO

Diane VanBeber, V.P., Investor Relations, Corporate & Marketing Communications, Intelsat

Barbara Warren, Systems Analyst, International Telecommunication Union

Zhang Yan, Gen. Manager, CITICSat and Chief Rep., Asiasat

UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology: Astronomy Blog

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