A career trajectory into the business of low Earth orbit satellites

Wild Geese: Strategic moves have landed Dubliner Eileen Treanor a top job in space tech company LeoLabs

Those in the early stages of their career often wonder how long it will take to get to the top and what’s the best way of getting there. For Eileen Treanor, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of California-based space tech company LeoLabs, it took a solid degree in accounting and finance as a foundation, an MBA to broaden her knowledge of business practices, and more than 20 years’ working for nine companies across different sectors as she steered her career from accounting and finance into operations and senior management.

These days Treanor’s working life is all about what’s happening above us. “The low Earth orbit or LEO space is pretty crowded between space debris and satellites, and LeoLabs’ global network of high-fidelity radar arrays is designed to keep LEO satellites safe,” she says.

“To put it simply, we’re a bit like the Google Maps for space and at least 60 per cent of all LEO satellites use our service,” says Treanor, whose colleagues include a former astronaut and a slew of rocket scientists. Mixing in such stellar company doesn’t faze her one bit. “You’ll never stop learning about the space domain and my colleagues are all very down-to-earth people who never make you feel you’ve asked a stupid question.”

Cutting-edge space technology is a long way from where Treanor’s career began, in the more earthly realms of audit and tax with accountants McGrath & Company in 1997.


“I qualified during the downturn when the Big Four were cancelling apprenticeships, so I was fortunate to have interned at McGrath the year before,” says Treanor, who subsequently moved to EY as an audit supervisor and then to PwC in New York in a similar role.

For many, building a career with a top-flight firm would be an end goal but, curious about the workings of the wider commercial environment, Treanor began a process of broadening her experience with a series of career moves, starting with a relocation to California in 2005 to join Yahoo as senior manager for external financial reporting.

Hindsight is 20:20, but some of the mistakes I saw [at Yahoo] taught me what not to do in business. The biggest problem was no accountability for what were ultimately bad decisions

“Yahoo turned out to be a very crazy ride,” she says. “Headcount went from 7,000 to 15,000 while I was there but then there were five rounds of lay-offs. The Yahoo-versus-Google battle was going on and every quarter there seemed to be something big happening, like us appointing a new CEO, Microsoft trying to buy us and us trying to acquire Facebook.

“Yahoo was very acquisitive, so I was also heavily involved in areas like tax and stock compensation. By the end of my time there I felt I had earned another degree, the learning curve was so steep.”

Asked what Yahoo (which subsequently struggled to survive independently) got wrong, Treanor says: “Hindsight is 20:20, but some of the mistakes I saw taught me what not to do in business. The biggest problem was no accountability for what were ultimately bad decisions.”

In 2010, Treanor moved to Virgin America as director for financial reporting and also returned to college to do an MBA at the University of California, Berkeley. “The MBA was a safe environment in which to take risks instead of on the job and it really gave me confidence in my leadership skills,” Treanor says.

“Working at Virgin was also super fun. We doubled in size and I began to move deeper into operations, which I really enjoyed and wanted to do more of. I felt joining a start-up would allow me to flex this muscle a lot more and that prompted my move to entertainment hosting service Wikia [now Fandom] in 2013 as corporate controller.

“At Wikia I got the opportunity to understudy the role of CFO so I was ready for the CFO position at Lever when that came along,” Treanor adds. “Lever was small but growing rapidly and I even headed up sales there for six months. We also did a Series C round and fundraising is a great ‘forcing’ function because it makes you scrutinise your business through the eyes of investors and examine if your story stands up. At Lever I flexed even more into operations and a big learning for me was how being part of a highly functional CEO/CFO relationship really propelled the business forward.”

From Lever Treanor joined employee training software company Inkling as CFO before moving to LeoLabs in 2021. “I mainly moved jobs to build experience, but the product and people had to fit too,” she says. “At LeoLabs my job is to connect all the financial and operational aspects of the business, while we have a CTO who takes care of the technical side. This allows our CEO to be the main external advocate for the business.”

Asked about lessons learned during her career, Treanor says: “A lot of people won’t do the commitment piece if they disagree with a decision and this creates problems. Make your point and move on.

“I also think listening is important because if you’re the leader and speak first then the others in the room usually feel they have to agree even though you are most likely not the person closest to the problem. Ask the person who is closest to the problem to speak first as you will get better outcomes. I also believe in giving people autonomy to execute as it builds their trust and confidence and ultimately that’s the best thing for them and the business.”