Former Mitel, Seaspan exec Amy MacLeod takes key leadership role at MDA

Familiar face in Kanata North joins space-tech powerhouse as head of corporate communications

Amy MacLeod
Amy MacLeod

In search of a new corporate adventure, one of the capital’s best-known communications executives is moving from sea to sky.

Amy MacLeod has been named vice-president of corporate communications at Canadian space technology giant MDA, the company announced this week. 

“We have a great brand with a history of world-leading firsts in space and a story to tell,” says the 55-year-old University of Waterloo political science graduate, who started her new role last week. 

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“In some measures, it’s untold or it needs to be retold, and that’s going to be priority one.”

MacLeod had spent the past two years as VP of corporate affairs and external communications at shipbuilder Seaspan Shipyards. Deep space is virgin territory for the longtime Ottawa resident, who’d spent years working for Kanata-based telecom firms before jumping to Seaspan in 2019.

“The opportunity to learn something completely different and outside of my domain … there’s something really attractive (about) that for me,” she says. 

“Talking with people about things that are larger than life and otherworldly, it just turns my brain on in a really dynamic way.”

“I have everything to learn. Talking with people about things that are larger than life and otherworldly, it just turns my brain on in a really dynamic way.”

Founded in Vancouver in 1969, MDA has evolved into one of the country’s largest space-tech enterprises. After going through several ownership changes, it made its debut as a publicly traded firm on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April. 

“Publicly traded is a different beast, and that’s a really good fit for me,” MacLeod says. “I really enjoy that sort of dynamic corporate environment. I love the intellectual and the communications challenges of working in a … publicly-based (company).”

It’s another step in an eclectic professional journey for MacLeod, who began her career in Ottawa more than three decades ago as an assistant to former Liberal MP John Nunziata before becoming one of the most familiar voices in the Kanata North tech scene as an executive at Newbridge Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, General Dynamics and Mitel.

In a sense, the new job will be a return to familiar territory. 

Significant Ottawa presence

MDA, which employs about 2,200 people worldwide, has a staff of 80 engineers in Ottawa and maintains an office in Kanata North. MacLeod, who lives in Stittsville and will remain based in the National Capital Region, says she expects the company to continue growing its local presence as a “second space race” triggers new opportunities for the industry.

Now headquartered in Brampton, MDA is probably best-known for manufacturing the robotic Canadarm used to service the International Space Station. The company is currently developing an updated version of the device as part of the Canadian Space Agency’s contribution to NASA’s Lunar Gateway program, a planned space station that will orbit the moon.

The firm is also playing a major supporting role in Ottawa-based Telesat’s multibillion-dollar Lightspeed program that will see nearly 300 low-Earth-orbit satellites deployed over the next several years to deliver high-speed internet to the most remote parts of the planet. 

MDA will assemble and test the satellites at its Montreal plant as well as manufacture the antennas using 3D printing technology. The deal is expected to create more than 300 new jobs at the firm, and MacLeod says it’s a sign of the space industry’s “dynamic” shift from a sector built to serve government-funded exploration programs to one that creates technology for a wide range of applications here on Earth. 

“The landscape has changed in the space sector, and as a result of that, MDA has a great growth opportunity,” she says. “That was really part of the attraction for me.”

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