Meet Kam Akhtar, Vice President, Global Governmental Relations and Engagement for BlackSky.
Q: What do you do for BlackSky?
A: I handle our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and at various US government agencies. The vision that Jason set out for the company has grabbed the attention and imaginations of people everywhere and we like to keep them informed of our progress and to make sure we are part of the conversation as it relates to space matters. I also work on the BlackSky sales team led by John and Rakesh focusing on international customers which we fully expect will start to generate company sustaining revenue as our go-to market strategy plays out.
Q: What interests you about space?
A: The big questions. The idea that we can at once understand so many of the physical aspects of the universe but still be puzzled by it and our own existence and place in it. Math and physics can tell us how it all works but not why.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
A: The answer evolves over time – or more accurately, age! In addition to not being as fit as I want to be, or reading as many books as I buy, I would say most of my free time is spent thinking about what I would do with lots of free time. J My family loves to travel – my wife (our ex-colleague Stella) is half Brazilian and half Peruvian and I am originally from Pakistan having grown up in the UK and lived throughout the Asia-Pac region so we tend to hit the airport/road every chance we get. Our girls are the best travelers ever and run circles around their father who is not that sharp.
Q: Star Wars, Star Trek or The Martian?
A: Hands down Star Trek but the original series. Gene Rodenberry created a vehicle for him to ponder the greatest questions we have about ourselves and the universe. Silicon based life forms, alternate but parallel existence, etc, etc, etc. I grew up in the UK at a time of great racial strife and one of the best lines was from an episode where two men who were half black and half white – but on opposite sides of the other- were caught in a battle representing their own societies and Kirk asks one why he hated the other so much and he replied “don’t you see, he’s black on the right side” thereby showing how meaningless racism is and by extension, any form of thought that would imply anyone that is “other” is bad.
Q: If you were to mentor someone who wanted to do what you do, what advice would you give them?
A: Stay flexible but stay true – you never know where life will take you and the journey is sometimes way more interesting than any imagined destination you may have for yourself. I always loved space but after a few degrees in Biology (it was easier than Physics) ended up working at NOAA for the Chief Scientist, Dr. Sylvia Earle (look her up – she is fascinating), in the US Senate for the Intel Cmte Chair, as a US Diplomat overseas in Asia, in international sales and now finally where I dreamt of but never thought possible – a space company! For this last piece I owe all to Jason – who maybe wonders if his initial hiring decisions were the right ones.
Q: Would you interested in going to space someday?
A: Is that an offer? Done!
Q: What’s one thing that most people at BlackSky don’t know about you?
A: A lot more than one thing but that’s probably good. I once sat at the command column of a Los Angeles Class Nuclear Submarine and at the orders of the sub’s Skipper, took the sub down to 1,000 feet and then later stood on the conning tower with him and watched Dolphins ride the bow wave – truly awesome and beautiful. The Skipper literally had the power to destroy nations but was more interested in catching up on the last episode of “wait, wait, don’t tell me” and we have been good friends ever since. I also stayed at Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) before the guest conditions went south – another story for the next company social. On a lighter note, I slept on the grounds of Machu Picchu (very illegal), ditto a Mayan Temple in Tikkal, Guatemala, climbed Ayers Rock in the Australian summer (fun), and last, while visiting an ex-Billionaire in the heart of Bordeaux’s wine region, gave him a bottle of Trump wine. Sacre bleu!