Cyberhawk appoints Ursula O'Brien as Chief People Officer

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15 Oct 2020

Over the last 12 months, Cyberhawk has gone from strength-to-strength. Logging a total of 50,000+ UAV flights, increasing year on year revenue by over 42%, and last but not least, significant team growth, increasing our headcount by over 100%.

With such a fast-paced approach to recruitment, we saw the need for additional help to maintain, nurture, and grow our company's core values.

Introducing Ursula OBrien, Chief People Officer (CPO) at Cyberhawk.

Our audience would love to know a little bit more about you. Can you talk me through your career?

I started my HR career in Devon with the NHS, where I spent a fantastic 10 years learning the basics of the craft that is all about people, behaviour and leadership. After visiting the Edinburgh Festival in 1993 I fell in love with the city and never left. Originally from the west of Ireland, the climate in Edinburgh is positively Mediterranean! Impatience and young children lead me to move to the private sector, working in a start-up educational software company where I really began to understand the key relationship between commercial outcomes and human investment.

A passion for Renewable Energy and start-ups led me to working in Marine Renewables at Aquamarine Power. This was my first energy-focused role - I led the business headcount from five to 75. This was a huge privilege for me as I was able to establish an incredibly powerful and positive culture, strongly aligned to the strategy and commercial goals. And there was the upside of working in an innovative environment with people and engineers who really were changing the world.

From this point I worked with a series of energy business. Wood McKenzie where I was Vice President of Human Resources, Seafish as HR Director, and Ventient Energy as the Head of HR.

What I came to realise is that my personal passions had always surfaced in my career choices – Health, Education and Energy - and it is this alignment that has kept my personal energy levels high, my passion for empowering people and helping them be the best version of themselves at work. I get a real kick out of seeing a young person blossom through experimentation and responsibility in a safe environment. Creating an environment of high engagement and accountability is much more fun that writing policies, processes and procedures and it is where HR can truly add value.

Was there a specific time or role where you felt you made significant impact which makes you the perfect fit for Cyberhawk?

Aquamarine. The CEO had HR right at the top of the agenda. I was leaning on an open door. For me developing a strong culture which was supported by values and backed up by the influence of the Leadership team was key. Focusing on hiring the right people in terms of cultural fit as much as technical fit ensured that all our efforts were on positive processes such as learning and development and employee relations

Great! We know why you’re a great fit for Cyberhawk, but why was Cyberhawk the right move for you?

For me, the relationship with the leadership is key. Cyberhawk’s leadership team truly believe in the culture and values of the business and that is critical. There is a high level of trust and the right amount of challenge in the team – authentic leadership with only one agenda – success for all.

Cyberhawk is a small business, it’s growing fast and has a global appetite, and I really enjoy working with engineers! I find the leadership team are humble, modest, they can challenge each other and most importantly there is no ego – they can role their sleeves and get their hands dirty and that is crucial for cultural success.

Since starting at Cyberhawk and with a fresh pair of eyes, what are your thoughts on the team and services we provide?

What I have observed is there is a huge amount of passion for delivery and project execution. I haven’t met everybody in the business yet, but I have spoken to a lot of the team and they all share the same positivity and ambitions to go the extra mile. This passion for doing things properly and doing things right – the gold standard.

Another remarkable staff attribute is everybody’s ability to get together on a weekly basis. It’s a huge investment to have everybody sit down in one room and learn about the company’s progress, health and safety notes, business performance, and an open forum for discussing the company values in action; allowing all members of the team – of all levels – thank and recognize the great work carried out by others.

Finally, Cyberhawk truly create a platform which promotes experimentation within a safe environment. This is a true framework for innovation and knowledge sharing.

What do you hope to achieve and bring to the company, and where for you hope to help steer the business?

I want to drive employee engagement so that we are able to focus on a very positive future rather than trying to resolve on-going problems. I would like to drive automation so that we are process light within the HR team so we can be extremely agile, eliminating the more clunky processes. This will allow us to shape a first-class HR function which supports a global business.

I see fantastic opportunity to add value. We have already introduced a series of new platforms, systems and frameworks to ensure were getting the basics right and automated. By pushing the HR strategy down a pipeline based on good foundations means we can grow the business and retain the positive culture we have developed so far.