Welcome to the latest feature in our ‘Day in the life’ series with Sarah Parker our Chief Financial Officer.

Sarah Parker - Chief Financial Officer at In-Space Missions

How did your career in finance begin?

I studied Maths, History and English at A level and particularly enjoyed History which I went on to study at the University of Cardiff. After gaining my degree it was in the middle of a recession so finding work was difficult. There were high recruitment levels in accountancy and I already had experience in accountancy as I had looked after the books for my Mother’s garden centre while I was studying for my A levels. This experience helped me to understand the concepts of running a business and I had enjoyed this work so it seemed like a good time to explore this for my career. I joined Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) and trained as a chartered accountant and worked in audit for a number of years. I also became a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

What did you do before joining ISML?

After leaving PwC I set up a consultancy working as part-time Finance Director for small growing businesses and helping them to raise finance. During this time I helped Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) write their business plan in preparation for being spun out from the University of Surrey. I literally fell in love with the space sector and I was easily persuaded to give up my other clients and join them as their first Finance Director. My family were still very young and due to the flexible culture at SSTL I was able to work school hours. It was wonderful to be part of an exciting, growing space company and to be able to grow my professional career whilst raising my family.

After working at SSTL for 23 years as Finance Director and then Managing Director I was very ready for a change and new challenges. So I left the company intent on building a portfolio of Non-Executive Directorships and was appointed to the board of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and UK Launch Services Ltd. This plan was derailed when Doug and Tony asked me, over a pint of beer, to join the team at ISML and I fell in love with space all over again. It was exciting to be part of a small start up again, the culture, the excitement of the fast pace innovation that was taking place and a new team who are all keen and passionate about their work.

What key attributes do you need to do this job?

One of the key attributes I need to do this job is my long experience as a strategic thinking board member who has enabled disruptive innovation in the space industry. I have deep financial monitoring expertise and understanding of the governance and controls required to ensure financial strength and business performance. My experience facilitating the growth of SSTL and knowledge of how to cost a satellite is extremely useful as are my strong people and communication skills.

What are the key responsibilities that you have to undertake?

My key responsibilities are financial reporting, ensuring that we meet our shareholders’ expectations, deliver on our financial promises and making certain that there are no surprises! Managing the cashflow is very time consuming as payments in and out are large and irregular though this has become less worrying since our change of ownership.

I am also responsible for developing our financial processes within the company. When we started out it was very simple as there were only 8 of us, now we are growing fast so we have put more robust controls in place to make sure it does not slow down the building of the satellites and that the team have what they need to get their jobs done. A key part of my role is to support the delivery of the business and ensure we have everything in place to meet our customer commitments.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

It is definitely the people, they are a fun team to work with.

Who are the main people that you liaise with day to day?

I work closely with Kathryn on the Projects and the Project Managers as well as our senior team (Doug, Tony and Ed.) I also work closely with Mel (Head of Sales and Business Development) supporting the bids to make sure we have costed them properly. Also, I have my own team who report into me including Debbie who assists me with the Finances and Jess, our HR and Office Manager.

I now interact more with BAE Systems Ltd since their acquisition of the company so I have a dotted line into Dave Lawton CFO of AI at BAE and I interact with his team as well to make sure there are clear lines of communication between us all.

What is it about Space that excites you?

It is the enthusiasm of the people involved in the space sector and the ground breaking work that they are doing that excites me the most. I love the people who have a passion for space, they are breaking boundaries and new frontiers with such enthusiasm, vigour and drive. It is all so fast moving and innovative it really is the most exciting industry to be part of.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have a husband, 4 children and 2 dogs that I enjoy spending time with and I love to exercise and as well as walking the dogs. I play tennis, run, swim and I practice Pilates.

Article  by In-Space Missions
Date: 24th February 2022