Talent Talk with Chris Leslie

Welcome back to Talent Talk. Today we are joined by pilot turned CEO, Chris Leslie from Airscope Industries, who talks us through his journey from managing uncertainty in the air to managing uncertainty in the boardroom. Let’s get into it:

Q1: Tell us about Airscope and your visualisation technology.  

Airscope Visualize is a Software as a Service (SaaS) + Data Management as a Service (DMaaS) that gives companies the ability to access a High Definition 3D digital model of remote assets without having to leave the comfort of their office or home. Airscope plugs these High Definition 3D models into pre-existing data sources already in use so every piece of corporate data can be visualized, leading to increased situational awareness, collaboration and reducing the need to have people on site.

Organisations that manage and operate large infrastructure (Oil and Gas, Mining, Utilities, Renewables etc.) have always faced the challenge of connecting field teams that normally reside on site or conduct Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) with support and executive teams located in offsite support offices or head office. What companies have found is that internal silos are created as the team on site has access to dynamic and constantly changing data while the team supporting from afar often gets outdated, incorrect or no information.

With the onset of COVID and the lessons that have come with it, a large number of companies are now expediting their transition to running their assets remotely and using technologies like Airscope Visualize to enable a new way of safely and efficiently running their operations. 

Q2: How did you make the move from pilot to CEO? 

I often reference in conversation how my training and the lessons I learnt flying commercial aircraft has a lot of similarities to leading a business. If you take the technical aspect of flying a plane out of the equation and focus on what pilots actually do – managing a dynamic and uncertain environment 35,000ft in the air, it is very similar to managing the dynamic and uncertain nature of a business.

As a pilot you start with a flight plan (business plan) and you look at things like your fuel use, fuel reserves and how much fuel you need to get to your destination – like to a business with; capital requirements, revenue projections and funding contingencies. Then for a pilot, you look at weather effects on your flight plan – similarly to a business’ competition, industry and technology that may take you longer to get to your destination. Once you have looked at all the external factors that may affect your flight, you then look at the serviceability of your plane and morale of your crew – as per your corporate strategy, company structure, team culture and morale.

Learning the technical aspects of business however has been a different story for me, I would compare this to putting my mouth around a fire hydrant and gulping as much water as I could as fast as I could while trying not to spill too much!

Q3: What does a typical day look like for you? 

I usually set my alarm for 6:00am and go straight down to the beach for a walk/meditation session. I then check my calendar, plan my day over a coffee and read or listen to a podcast for 30 minutes. I normally try to get in a play with my boys Ollie and Arlo before I get out the door. I generally schedule my meetings from 10:00am onwards so I can make the most of the morning and reduce my transit time into the office.

One trick I learnt early was to break my week into a 3/2 split where 3 days are focused on operational tasks “in the business activities” and 2 days are focused around strategic tasks “on the business activities”. Depending on what I am doing for the day will dictate what my schedule looks like. If I am working “in the business” I will usually hold all meetings and calls from 10:00am – 3:00pm and then get to emails in the afternoon. If I am focused on “on the business activities” then I usually like to work remote in a creative location and generally work a shorter day as I don’t do emails on these days. I am usually home around 5:00pm – 6:00pm and start my night shift (dinner, bath time and bed time for the boys) before spending some time with my partner Amy and heading to bed around 9:30pm.


Q4: What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry OR the biggest trend we should be watching out for in your space? 

The transition to remote operations/ working from anywhere.

Prior to COVID, the roadblock holding back this transition was a widespread cultural acceptance to using technology to do work from anywhere. COVID has forced a lot of organisations globally to adopt technologies and reinvent the way things were historically done out of necessity. Zoom for example has shown people all over the globe you don’t need to have every meeting as a face-to-face and that you don’t need to work in the office every day. Similarly, Airscope Visualize is showing organisations that they don’t need to have as many people working remotely on site.

Q5: What’s the most valuable leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

To 100% own the vision and be accountable for how the team is to get there.

Read more stories of leadership in tech in our latest publication, Human 2: Bold leadership through crisis and change. Check it out here.