After graduating from the University of Waterloo with double honours degrees in Math, Computer Science and Business Administration Co-op in 1993, Duane Barry joined a small company in Montreal called Virtual Prototypes (now PRESAGIS of CAE) which specializes in Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) for glass cockpit avionics.

Over the years as this technology evolved to include “rapid development and code generation of complex dynamic displays,” Barry also progressed through many roles in technical support, marketing product management and sales at Virtual Prototypes and then worked at a few other companies which helped to prepare him for his current position as the VP of Business Development and the acting MD of QinetiQ Canada.

As Vanguard’s latest Game Changer, here is our full interview with Duane.

What is your role in your organization today?

My role within QinetiQ Canada today as VP of Business Development, and now acting Managing Director, includes providing a pan-QinetiQ view of our full product and services offering to the Canadian market through sales, marketing, business development activities, and now management of our growing team here at QinetiQ Canada.

What was your worst moment?

My worst personal moment was my when I was hit from behind on my motorcycle in 2008. It not only set me back a few steps but the whole ordeal and recovery process had a huge effect on my family and friends. I am so appreciative of all those who helped me get back on track during my two-year recovery process. Never give up.

Early in my sales career, my fiercest competitor convincingly told my key customer outright lies about my product, technology, and company jeopardizing my largest opportunity and strongest customer relationship. I turned this critical moment into a positive outcome by telling the truth on all fronts (even some explanations that were not exactly what the customer wanted to hear) and then I walked the walk and demonstrated our commitment to that customer over and over again to deliver the required results and improvements along the way.

What was your aha moment that you think will resonate most with our reader? Tell us that story.

Back a few lives ago, we were trying to tailor our graphical software product to match the needs of the avionics developers working inside our lead customer – a military aircraft manufacturer. The customer appreciated the way the software tool was evolving to operate in a way that would facilitate fast, complicated avionics displays. The real problem was the large size of the resulting application. Yes, there was a time when onboard embedded system memory was extremely expensive per “Megabyte”. The customer needed a way to express the critical need for us to reduce the code size by half.

Being the corporate account manager, the customer brought me into a room and told me how the project was working out very well except one thing – he then flashed up a picture of a fighter jet aircraft carrying multiple memory modules on the wings. The tagline below the picture said, “We need to drop BOMBS, not PROMs!” PROM stands for Programmable Read Only Memory Chips. The message was received loud and clear. The only way we would be successful in the avionics business was to decrease the code size by half. I brought the message back to the development team and they appreciated the challenge. In turn, the team found enough ways to reduce and deliver the code size at one-third of the original size. We exceeded the customer’s expectations.

So the point is, always listen and learn from your customer and do your best to deliver on their key requirements.

Step back and analyze your journey, what is the takeaway you want to give to our audience?

During my entire career, I have learned and proven that being honest and open with customers is the best way to be successful in selling in this business for the long-term. Today, I operate with the same level of integrity to achieve success. Now, with QinetiQ, I work for a company that appreciates and demonstrates trust and integrity every day. Success follows not without hard work, but it follows naturally.

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

I spent the last year learning all that I can about QinetiQ, its breadth of military and commercial offerings and the breadth and depth of just some of the science involved. QinetiQ has so many niche products and specialized skills to offer into Canada through technology and knowledge transfer. I have been told several times that “every time you turn a corner in the company you learn something new about QinetiQ.”

What is the best advice you have received?

Be a good listener. Let your customer talk and tell you what they need and why they need it. Learn from your customers and their unique perspectives.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I always make an effort to say thank you to those who help along the way. Life is so much easier when you appreciate others and their contribution of unique skills and abilities.

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

I would say the University of Waterloo. Last year through QinetiQ I had the opportunity to return, after 23 years, to UW during the Aerospace R&D Forum. I was reinvigorated by not only the memories of spending some long nights at the computer labs but also by the innovation vibe that was shared among the R&D community at UW. I was not surprised to hear that DND has placed its “innovation centre” in the Waterloo area.

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

As a provider of skilled defence consultants in many areas including cost engineering and options analysis, QinetiQ operates and delivers best through an output based model vs “bums in seats”. The output based delivery method focuses on achieving results and allows an in-country project team to deliver to the customer while exercising reach back deep into the QinetiQ global resource pool of 6,500 subject matter experts. The customer gains access to an increased breadth of knowledge and depth of skill vs delivery through one single person at a desk. With QinetiQ, the end product is always a high integrity deep knowledge delivery.

In December 2016, QinetiQ made a strategic acquisition with the purchase of Meggitt Target Systems in Medicine Hat, AB now called QinetiQ Target Systems Canada. The targets supply business dovetails nicely with QinetiQ’s Global Target Services campaign already delivering to militaries around the world. The success of this campaign will, in turn, contribute to a growth strategy for QinetiQ’s overall targets business.

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

So often, a large defence contractor can morph to reflect the behaviours of its customer. To me, that is a critical moment where innovation can be lost. At QinetiQ, we look at problems differently to find a novel approach to our customer’s problems. QinetiQ has a willingness to lean forward on everything we choose to do.

What are the biggest impediments to innovation in today’s enterprise?

A lack of interest to fund the smaller acquisitions and the smaller lead seed projects is an impediment to fostering innovation and new ways of thinking in a company. We are bringing together many QinetiQ niche products to solve unique and new difficult problems. For example, QinetiQ’s fibre optic acoustic sensing technology is not only used for perimeter security but also in the oil & gas business for down-well sensing during fracking operations delivering an increase in overall yield of each well.

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

When QinetiQ approaches a solution, we draw on all areas of the company who can contribute and think differently while being experts in their field. Recently, QinetiQ brought together a team of experts to construct and submit eight proposals into the All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) Science & Technology program call for papers. We drew on deep internal technical experts in sensors, C4ISR and information fusion to innovate novel ways to use new sensors in combination for improved surveillance. We also found the best Canadian industry and academic partners to contribute with a similar level of innovation and fresh technical thinking.

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

In Canada, the In-Service Support (ISS) model is now integral to the long-term success of any defence program in Canada. The ability to join teams and contribute products and services to the delivery of ISS gives any company longevity to operate over the long-term.

Unmanned autonomous vehicles and systems will drastically change the way we work and live and interact. They already are changing the way we live and think about new problems.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Build your own personal board of directors with those people who have challenged you to achieve and succeed along your career path. We each encounter tough managers during difficult times that in the end are there to teach and help shape us for future challenges. There are other people in this world that provide concrete examples of what not to do in business. While they were difficult journeys at the time, in each case I grew to understand that the real intention was to build on my experience and develop my skills up to another level. These key individuals have become my personal board of directors. I can call on them at any time for some guidance or even just a check-in.