Linda Shields Chief Operating Officer
Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Linda Shields was inspired to start Harvest after working firsthand in offshore services. An idea first sparked 10 years ago, focused on removing people from risky environments and improving critical communications was realised when Harvest discovered the technology to make it possible. Characterised by her hard work and eye for detail, Linda leads the sales, marketing, PR, commercial and defence arms of the business globally.
Joined Harvest: Founder
Qualifications: Bachelor of Marketing & Public Relations; Grad Cert in Business Law
What are the responsibilities for your role at Harvest?
My role is responsible for the Sales, Marketing, Public Relations, Commercial, and Defence functions, globally for the group.
Have you had other roles at Harvest? If so what were your responsibilities?
During the past four years, my role has evolved from Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) to Chief Operating Officer (COO). For the first two years, I was responsible for developing all corporate services and commercial functions as well as vessel operations. My role as COO is responsible for global sales, marketing and communications, as well as the commercial and defence arms of the business.
What inspired you to start Harvest?
The idea behind Harvest was born 10 years ago when Paul (Chief Executive Officer) and I worked together tendering offshore services for inspection, repair, and maintenance (IRM) projects. We saw first-hand how intensive and expensive offshore operations were with the number of people and size of vessels and assets required. We’d save subsea data and video to portable hard drives and back onshore it would take up to three months to process the data into a report for the client. The client would then use that information to schedule repairs and maintenance.
Our earliest mission was to find technology that would remove people from the risk of working in offshore environments. The other was to improve communications to shore and reduce the amount of time it took for a client to receive critical data. We were a little ahead of ourselves because the technology didn’t yet exist, but it was these twin goals fuelling our mission.
In 2018, we started Harvest to undertake vessel operations and offshore services for energy projects whilst looking for the technology. Along came a small West Australian company called Advanced Offshore Streaming (AOS) which had developed the technology we were seeking and quite serendipitously shared a similar vision. 24/7 operations with a small team was already hard with a lot of hours, and moving into technology was daunting, but we firmly believed that our vision was real and achievable, and the right thing to do, so in late 2019, Harvest acquired AOS, and the rest is history!
What does a typical day look like?
The functions I lead are so diverse I’m often wearing many hats. No one day is the same and rarely turns out as planned! At Harvest, we work in alignment with our strategies, but the reality of being a start-up means you need to be agile. With a global role covering several functions I must be able to quickly adapt to changing priorities. I don’t have a large team, so I work long hours to serve each of the different functions – it’s pretty much a given for me to be knee-deep in the detail to support the team in achieving their outcomes.
What do you love about your job?
As a founder and shareholder, I’m extremely invested in the success of Harvest and inspired by what we’re building. Harvest is a people company that makes cutting-edge technology. We have an amazing team of people who individually and collectively deliver excellence. It is truly humbling to be surrounded by such a diversely skilled and intelligent group of people every day.
Something I’m particularly proud of is our share incentive plan, all employees own a piece of the company they’re helping to build. It means we share the pride as well as the spoils when the company succeeds. Start-ups require a degree of sacrifice to make the dream come true, so the reward must outweigh the risk.
The potential of the technology and the company as an employer of choice, plus the satisfaction of knowing we are creating a legacy for the next generation to develop even further is what gets me out of bed every morning.
Do you have a particular highlight since working at Harvest?
There have been plenty of highlights along the way, and overall we have achieved so much as a small close-knit team. One of the most enjoyable was overseeing the design, build and fit out of our new office and workshop facility here in Technology Park. It’s a purpose-built design with lots of space for innovation and collaboration, along with a large workshop, and comfortable breakout rooms and end of trip facilities.
I’m really proud of the space we’ve created – for now and the future. We commenced our STEM program with Innovation Central in nearby Curtin University and are extending that program out to all WA universities. We are also looking at starting an internship program this year.
What has been the greatest challenge?
One of the greatest challenges has been COVID. We had just acquired AOS three months before the first lockdowns in March 2020, which significantly restricted our ability to travel, and undertake face-to-face meetings with customers, not to mention the supply chain issues in the years that followed.
At the same time, the vessel was a big and successful part of our business and all of a sudden, offshore projects were suddenly cancelled or delayed. It was a particularly challenging time to be a vessel operator and try to grow a technology business when the world had virtually stopped. But we used this downtime to better understand the capabilities of our technology, develop our strategic plan, manage product compliance, and build an R&D and technology rollout roadmap. Also, the pandemic reinforced the need for our very existence as a technology company solving the challenges of working remotely.
What’s coming up in your area of business for Harvest?
There’s a big to-do list, but key focuses are growing and diversifying our customer base, building the global sales team, resetting regional strategies, and revamping the website and marketing collateral. This year we intend on releasing our unified communications solution, codenamed “NS2”, so the implementation of the commercialisation strategy is a key outcome for my team together with the product team.
What’s the most remote location you’ve ever visited?
My entire life has been defined by remote living. I was raised in a village in Ireland with a population less than 2,000 and moved 15,000 kilometres away to Perth at age 12. I remember having this notion as a kid that Perth was the Wild West. As it turned out it was more like Ramsay Street!
These days remote can be as simple as not being able to access wi-fi. Where I grew up in Ireland, I still have to run around the outside of the house with my phone in the air to get reception.
What’s the most remote location you’d like to visit?
I would love to visit Antarctica and Alaska and livestream my experiences back to the team in Perth – with audio of course!
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I get the chance, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, reading, going to the gym, and I’ve recently started learning to play the piano. Catching up on some much-needed rest is always welcome!
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