David Clementi is the Chief Operating Officer and Accountable Manager EASA ATO at ITPS (Canada) Ltd. and one of our February/March Game Changers. Mr. Clementi wears many hats in his current role and got his start with the company in 2009 while he was still in high school. Organization, adaptability, and responsiveness are traits that are highly valued by both Clementi and ITPS. Both are also keenly aware of the issues affecting the aerospace and defence industry within Canada and abroad. For these reasons, they focussed on utilizing new and innovative training solutions and technologies to meet the needs of today’s pilots. They also value and embrace individual idea generation at all levels of the company, making for an empowered and inclusive work environment.

How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?

I started out with ITPS while in high school by establishing the company’s IT infrastructure, for which I had a bit of an understanding, when it first opened in London, Ontario in 2009. I continued working with ITPS while completing my undergraduate and master’s degrees at The University of Western Ontario and Ivey Business School respectively. These positions ranged from managing the commercial and contractual side of the organization to the financial, business development and human resources side. Much of it was trial by fire but it gave me the breadth of exposure needed for the role I now carry out and the multiple hats that I need to wear from one day to the next.

What is your role at your organization today?

Today, I hold the role of the Chief Operating Officer and I continue with many of the same responsibilities as before but with expanded responsibilities, including our regulatory compliance with the various ministries that govern our organization, as well as acting as the Accountable Manager for our EASA flight test approved training organization.

What was your most challenging moment?

We have all come through a very challenging few years with COVID. As a training provider we found ourselves in the middle of our courses when the shutdown orders were issued. We faced our clients wanting to pull their students home with no certainty that we could get them back into Canada once we were able to get up and running again. We were lucky to have had strong relationships with our clients which garnered us the time to figure out how we could reopen our training programs, which we did successfully and completed all training with little to no delays. We faced regulatory uncertainty as the government struggled to determine an appropriate path forward, pulling some key avenues for us to bring in students with little notice. We still, today, face many delays or lost communications when dealing with various government departments for vital aspects of running our organization but we have reached a point where we are able to navigate these delays more effectively.

What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story.

Our A-HA moment came when we realized what we could achieve as an organization utilizing the limited resources we had available to us but mainly through realizing how we could implement our resources in a unique way to achieve training objectives that would otherwise be overly expensive or unachievable by a small to midsize enterprise. We foster a strong organization mentality from which we can build great things. This allows us to be aware and quick to respond to the changing environment in which we operate. From both a business and technological stance, we have seen rapid advancement in the aerospace and defense sectors as well as a fundamental shift in mindset that often big and expensive options don’t always provide the flexibility that’s required by the end users to adapt as environments, needs, and values change. To that end, we endeavour to remain quick to adapt and innovative in our uses of readily available technologies.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

In running and organization such as ours, I am fortunate to be in a position to hear about the issues that are affecting the aerospace and defence sector domestically and internationally and those issues get me excited (fired up) to simply have the opportunity to be able to play a role in solving some of those issues through incorporating new and innovative training solutions and technologies in order to meet the needs of today’s pilots. 

What is the best advice you received?

Surround yourself with good people, listen to their expertise then relying on your judgement and experience to determine the best course forward. The team you surround yourself with will have their specific areas of expertise which must be leveraged to generate ideas and improvements but also to identify pitfalls. As a leader, it is then your job to take on board this information and determine the best course of action given the myriad of other factors and issues that you should be aware of or source from other team members.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

It is very easy to get lost in the weeds when dealing with a difficult situation or frustrated and demotivated by events that may or may not have any impact on you or your organization. Sometimes stepping back and taking a breather allows you to see and appreciate what has been achieved, recalibrate what needs to be done, and renew your enthusiasm to keep going. This has helped me with my consistency and perseverance in running a very complex and heavily regulated organization.

What is your parting piece of advice?

The pace of technological change is going to require people and organizations to adapt and pivot to meet future needs, and in ways we likely have not yet seen or come to terms with. We are already seeing it with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Pay attention to what is going on out there so that you can either be ready for the change or be part of it.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by so many extremely capable and enthusiastic people. Not just our team members, but the clients we service and the suppliers who help us achieve what we do, so it’s difficult to pick, but the one that stands out to me are the businesses in the VR/AR/MR space and the way they have incorporated various technologies to transport us, all but physically, anywhere. It has been incredible to see these headsets evolve from the Oculus developer kit with its terrible resolution and nauseating lag to what is being put out by companies like Varjo. Mixing virtual reality with the real world allows one to incorporate VR into spaces where tactile feedback and spatial awareness are needed and doing so with unnoticeable amounts of latency and optimizing the hardware with software that increases the resolution of the headset specifically, so your eyes are pointing within the headset to mimic Foveation. This technology really is incredible, and I am excited to see where its going to go!

Questions regarding the organization:

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

ITPS is changing the game by leveraging the capabilities of its multiple business units, Advanced Flight Training, Aircraft Maintenance & Engineering, and Flight Test, to incorporate new technologies, such as mixed reality and simulation as well as our in-house development programs, into our aircraft, facilities, and courses and in doing so, produce one of the best learning environments and, ultimately, better outcomes for our clients.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

The largest impediment to innovation in our industry is regulatory. As with any large bureaucracy there is an inertia that is very difficult to overcome. It has been our experience that regulatory bodies, irrespective of their mandates, are either unable or not willing to properly handle change, whether it be due to perceived risk, a lack of understanding, a failure of their own processes, or a general unwillingness to work with industry partners to establish the framework for fostering innovation. Recently, there has been a drastic deterioration in turn around times and tracking of submissions which lumbers companies with delays and additional costs that we are just expected to absorb.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

Innovation in our organization originally came from leadership’s vision and was disseminated through the organization via team leaders. Innovation now flows in reverse as we have empowered our teams to voice their observations, concerns, and ideas and for leadership to then provide more of a review and guidance function to identify those ideas that will provide the greatest benefit to the services that we render and give them the support required to execute. This provides for greater generation of ideas and promotes a more inclusive team which values the individual inputs. 

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

The advancements being made in simulation hardware and software, not only for use on the ground but also in the air, are where I see the largest changes. How that gets incorporated and utilized will, in my mind, determine who the next industry leaders will be. The complexity of systems that the next generation of pilots and engineers are being exposed to will require the industry to be clever in how we incorporate technologies to support the teams that will go on to develop and utilize those platforms. We certainly have our ideas and plans.