#MeetKigen: COO – Stephen Halpenny shares leadership lessons

Stephen Halpenny is Chief Operating Officer at Kigen. Stephen shares his leadership style, advice for how to build successful careers in IoT, valuable learnings from his startup experience and his new role

In the spirit of “In trust, we grow” we have been openly sharing some hard learned #Leadershiplessons from Kigen on our LinkedIn conversations. These have sparked a greater demand for meeting Kigen’s leadership team. Today, we turn to Stephen Halpenny to share some advice for anyone wanting to build a successful career in telecoms, security or IoT; or foraying into building a successful startup.

About Stephen Halpenny

Stephen Halpenny is Chief Operating Officer at Kigen. Stephen oversees operations as Kigen seeks to continue its expansion both in supporting an expanding customer base and servicing more verticals. Stephen has played an integral part in Kigen’s growth with being co-founder of Simulity Labs, which on acquisition in 2017 by Arm became Kigen. Stephen has served previously as Chief Revenue Officer at Kigen, leading commercial operations and brings over 20 years of experience across the telecoms and security space. In between spending time with customers and Kigen’s customer success centres in Belfast, Stephen works flexibly from Dublin.

What is the most memorable lesson that you learned from a mentor?

I got this advice early on in my career, which I shall be forever glad for: Asking for help is a strength!

What is something you wish someone had told you during your career journey?

Taking rest is important to recharge. Don’t feel afraid to give yourself personal time to care for what’s important to you.

What key moments stand out as career highlights for you?

I started my journey with Kigen as Co-founder of Simulity Labs. The acquisition into Arm and the formation of Kigen as a group would be a clear highlight as it allowed me a unique position to see the birth of a significant technology leap in the realization of the iSIM (Integrated SIM). It also came at a time when my family was growing, and it’s been wonderful to know that that period opened two new chapters of my life, which gave me lots of hope for the future.

Despite only being an independent company since 2020, many colleagues including myself, have long association with our career growth, playing different roles as the company grows. This is testimony to our high-trust, high-integrity culture where anyone can lead to tackle the challenges that are important for our business growth.

Recently, Tom Rhodes, who I have worked with for over 10 years also remarked something similar, which I feel sums our culture well. Expanding our team worldwide and getting to understand what motivates us similarly the world over has been another highlight.

Yes Tom, the feeling is mutual!

Is there anything you do in your personal time that helps you be a leader in your career?

I love watching all kinds of sports and deeply admire the perseverance it takes to succeed in sports. I find inspiration in how even when things are not quite going the way one hopes, even if you are behind; – it’s the determination to keep going and control what you can that helps achieve goals. I find many life and career lessons within this.

How do you make room for continuing to learn while leading?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and very much enjoy the recommendations I get from colleagues at Kigen, from our customers or partners! Largely I’m drawn to learned experiences in business or personal memories of real-life scenarios.

Recently, I “listened” to Tony Fadell’s ‘Build’, which had fascinating insights into learning from failures, asking the question of “why” – i.e. why do customers desire or want a product, and our knowledge of it.

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What influences your approach to leadership?

I come from a large family, which helps me keep my feet on the ground – keeping strong relationships across continents despite the physical distance. I bring this to our technical and customer excellence teams too: I believe a high trust relationship brings out the best in people.

What would you tell your younger self?

You’re never too important to not learn. Take guidance and feedback whole-heartedly and with an open-mind as it comes from a place of wanting to improve.

What would you advise someone starting to lead tech or customer teams in a startup?

Listen carefully to your teams and ask them if your help is needed. Learn to trust your team rather than offering solutions too quickly.

Do what you enjoy. Sometimes, areas of tradition may not suit you – but as a startup, you have the power to be different and take full advantage of it. Find a different environment to grow – the best learning comes from those who you surround yourself with.

Lead by example for yourself – your actions will speak loud for all who you lead.

Tell us about some of the key developments in your new role

With achieving 4x revenue growth since being an independent company and seeing 350% growth in our eSIM OS adoption, we are hiring for teams focused on customer success, technical excellence, operations and more – the roles are diverse and across all parts of the business. We have a culture that recognizes great talent, as evident in how our teams have grown and being promoted; and one that prioritises “life-work” balance (we think, life should come first in this well-known phrase).

It’s exciting that the space we operate in and fondly refer to as #FutureofSIM is fast evolving, and sparking connected innovation. IoT has a huge potential to influence and impact our lives positively so I’d repeat my advice again to anyone looking to build a career in IoT – that choose to do what you enjoy!

Thanks Stephen, for sharing your journey and learning. Let us know on LinkedIn if you have further questions for anyone in the Kigen Leadership Team.