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Inside Track: NewTek president speaks to Installation

Barbara Spicek, president and GM of NewTek, on the importance of planning and communication, her love of rugby and cookery, and making the right decisions

Whereabouts do you hail from and where are you based?
I grew up in Cologne, Germany, but have lived in the US for over 10 years and now reside in California. You may be wondering what brought me to the US, it was a previous roles for US companies that finally brought me over in global functions to the US. In fact, my career has brought me all over the world. I don’t mind it though. I’ve always loved to travel, I originally wanted to forge a path in the travel or entertainment industry, but life had different plans.

How did you get started in the industry?
My first job after university was at Toshiba in the services department. I ended up staying there for 10 years, moving into marketing and sales roles. I then moved to Brocade Communications, where I stayed for over 13 years. It was Brocade that sent me to America, where, before joining NewTek in 2020, I worked for several software, hardware, and computing companies. Technology and its impact on life and culture has always been fascinating to me. As my career moved along, the language skills and my global citizenship, combined with the business knowledge has been a significant asset in my various global roles, and it’s really the reason I’ve been in tech for so long.

What advice can you give someone starting out?
The first one is attitude, focus and determination. You must want to be successful and drive yourself to be so. Nothing is given to you if you do not ask for it. The second is planning, preparation and attention to detail. Whether that’s internal or customer and partner meetings, events, knowing the ins and outs of your business strategy – preparing and planning are key. Communication is also critical. Knowing the right way of talking to people and making sure you get them onboard with you can help drive your business forward. I always say I am a “do as I do and not as I say” kind of person, so getting collaborative buy in really makes you stronger in your position.

Another part of preparing is studying. You never get too old to learn. Study the technology, make sure that you feel confident in talking about the technology, because only then you can represent your position and the company.

How did you fill your time during lockdown? Any new hobbies?
I’m one of the probably millions of people in the world that started golfing when the pandemic hit. Here in California, golf was the only sport you were still allowed to do because it’s outdoors. That was one of the things I picked up and I enjoy it very much. 

Other than that, I was incredibly privileged to continue working throughout the last few years, it was an incredibly busy time. Everyone, not just us, moved to remote calls, demos, meetings, etc, and the demand for NewTek’s robust video solutions increased dramatically. 

What sports teams do you support / sports do you partake in?
I am an avid athlete, and I have been my entire life. I played volleyball, dived, swam and played rugby for 10 years. I coached rugby too; it is still my favourite sport. My favourite team is the New Zealand All Blacks.

Tell us something about you that may surprise people
Most people know me as a direct and proficient business leader, but what they don’t know is that I love to cook for people. It’s a huge hobby of mine to try new recipes, I can pretty much cook any recipe from any culture in the world and have tried my hand at many over the years with great success. One of the most challenging, but rewarding has been to learn cooking Asian recipes, as the typical spices and ingredients are very different from what I grew up accustomed to.

If you could change just one thing about your life, what would it be?
I wish I would have known the ins and outs of business sooner in my career, but I know this isn’t something I can influence or change. If I had known more earlier on, I wouldn’t have had to go through trials and errors. This is true for anybody in business life. It’s all about making decisions. If you’re lucky, then out of ten decisions, eight turn out really well. But there’s always those two that you wish you had decided differently.  

How did NewTek fare during the Covid-19 pandemic and how has this era-defining event changed your approach to business?
Fortunately, we have had an unbelievable business rise during the pandemic, and that is because of the nature of our business: we do video production equipment and communications equipment. What we offer became necessary across industries, whether that be schools and universities that were learning remotely, with teachers teaching remotely, enterprises with remote demos and even houses of worship that wanted to keep communities together throughout the pandemic. The entire world basically needed effective and broadcast quality video production, so we’ve doubled our business and supported countless organisations and companies in keeping communications flowing despite the obstacles and challenges of Covid-19. 

What we learned is that the entire industry has shifted. Working from home can actually be very, very effective and in some cases more productive. Many companies have moved to hybrid models permanently, and now need to put in place the right tools to make hybrid working work for them. What Covid showed us is that businesses can be successful despite being remotely connected, but it takes the right partners and right technology tools to really reach its full potential.