After 9 years of military service Matan Shavit started his MBA in London. It was here that he met Hadrian’s founders and was brought into the dynamic and invigorating process of helping to recruit, build and manage the Hadrian team. Since then, Matan has progressed through the company to become VP of Strategic and Special Projects. We had the opportunity to talk to Matan about how his skills from his time in the military have aided him in this new business context.
Prior to getting your MBA you did 9 years of military service. What have been the biggest similarities between leading military operations and leading business ones?
I think ensuring you have values that guide you, kind of like a ‘northern star’, is true to both. No matter what kind of team you’re leading, rallying individuals under a common cause is always going to be important.
At the end of the day it’s all about the people. You have to build relationships, foster them and align them with the overall goals you believe in. I definitely understood the importance of people management from my time in the military. During my military service I started off as a platoon officer, with 45 individuals under my command, and later took command of a company, with 350 individuals under my command. When you’re being put in situations of uncertainty and ambiguity, like in the military, it’s always about the people. It’s vital to have a structure of values in place that act as guidance.
The people-focused approach of Hadrian is one of the things that’s so exciting to me:The values we have and what we believe in within Hadrian is very people-centric.
It must have been a pretty big change to move out of military life and to get an MBA. What drove you to go back to school and take that leap?
I was born in France and raised in Belgium. Both of my parents were diplomats. I remember being 6 or 7 and my father would host other diplomats - I learned to greet in many different languages. I also went to an international school where there was always a huge circulation of kids from different countries coming in and out. That international energy is a huge part of who I am today and I think partially what attracted me to an MBA and later into Hadrian. The MBA is so international and it gives you exposure to networks of individuals from around the world. There’s an opportunity there to build new and true relationships. The environment is fast paced and people focused, which I find exciting.
Have there been any challenges in transitioning from a military to business mindset?
It’s a very different routine, especially with going back to school. I did my Bachelor’s degree in the Academy in Israel. We would wake up, study, and then in the evenings we would go out and do drills. Doing my MBA meant transitioning to a very different environment of sitting down and studying for tests days-on-days. The routine was new and challenging.
I always like to emphasize the similarities but I think with regards to the challenges of the transition, it’s putting yourself in an environment that’s relatively new in terms of the hard skills needed. These are skills like financial modeling, pricing, or market analysis, which is different to what I was doing in the military. I was mostly in field positions and during my MBA instead of presenting in the field on a map, I was presenting in an office on a powerpoint (laughs). I’ve now finished my MBA but I still know I have a lot to learn, and that’s what excites me and gives me drive and motivation.
Has there been anyone within Hadrian that’s really helped you along the way to developing those hard skills?
During my MBA, I managed to categorize the skills I wanted to improve on. When I started the journey at Hadrian each of those boxes was ticked. For financing - financial modeling, how to finance an entrepreneurial business - you have Maurice, our CFO. On the technology front, I’ve put in endless tech for non-techie hours with Tijl, our CTO. I have Rogier, our CEO, who has a past of successful ventures, and I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of management within a business environment. And then there’s Olivier, who is so cool with all his hacking experience. There’s not just one role model, there’s multiple and they’re ever changing. Depending on the situation and the time and the step in the process that you’re in there’s different people you can turn to.
You’ve talked a lot about managing people internally, but as you transition to customer success what has it been like to bring those same skills to external stakeholders?
Value creation for a team is managed similarly whether you’re focusing internally or externally. Our ability to have the customer’s needs drive our customer success and interaction timeline is what makes us good at what we do. Similar to the flexibility needed managing our own team we prioritize customer goals in developing our customer success process. Rather than having a predetermined timeline that makes actions generic we make iterations and adjustments to address the exact needs of our customer’s digital security strategy.
Because we are at such an early stage of development these iterations are easier - we can change the product to meet customer needs. Our ability to have direct interactions with the customer and make iterations to the core product depending on their goals is out of the ordinary. It allows us to truly prioritize what brings value to the customer.
One of the teams you helped put together and have worked to get off the ground is the marketing team. What has it been like to watch that group begin to come together?
I always start from a goal: why do I want to put this team together? The answer was that we wanted to showcase how much Hadrian is planning on doing to make the web a safe space, and disrupt the digital security space. On top of that we wanted to show we are a family, a community and a fun place to work.
One of the key elements of building a team is sitting down and thinking about what parts you’re going to need to achieve your goal. We want members of the team to compliment each other and create a finalized product that is strong enough to show our audience what an opportunity Hadrian is. I sort of think of the team as a manufacturing chain, where every step of the process compliments the one before it and the one after it. Everyone has full autonomy and creativity regarding how to get their task done, each task is specific to an individual depending on his or her capabilities.
With the marketing team we have someone responsible for content, we have someone on the more technical side looking at when and how we need to post to reach our target demographics, and we have someone with the visual skills to wrap it all up in graphics. As the team progresses we’ll be able to build off our prior successes and have increasingly better outcomes.
As the company expands, how have you seen that team grow to interact with the rest of the organization?
Overall within Hadrian all the teams seek to add value not only to themselves but to the broader company. The marketing team is pushing to assist and act as a force multiplier within Hadrian, and that’s not unique to just them.
In and of itself this approach is a customer-centric approach. Prioritizing where we can add value always comes down to where actions can be taken to meet customer needs. For instance, case studies or posts on DNS hacking in the case of the marketing team. However, this also is seen in other teams such as product development where feedback loops and timelines help to cater to customers. As the company grows this approach has meant that many teams are cross-functional and working in collaboration in order to best create value.
A lot of your career, across different contexts, has been about creating teams. What is it that keeps pulling you back to team building?
I remember myself playing endlessly with my LEGO set as a child. I loved building cars, buildings and spaceships. I knew I could one day build something of value. Decades later, the LEGO bricks have become the real thing. I’m addicted in a sense to building products and teams that are fit for purpose, ready to tackle big challenges and add true value to their environment. As Hadrian continues to grow I am excited to see what the future holds. This is only the beginning.