An Interview with Jordan Kyriakidis – A Vanguard Aero & Defence Game Changer

An Interview with Jordan Kyriakidis – A Vanguard Aero & Defence Game Changer


We started working on a research project with Lockheed Martin on algorithm, and algorithm development, particularly, development of algorithms on the verification of
their complex systems. These are systems that are a combination of both software and hardware. Because software’s so prevalent now, verifying them is much more difficult, and so we develop core algorithms and from that core algorithm that seemed, at least in the lab,
to be very successful, we’ve built out products
to test them in the market and engineers have
successfully deployed them in their own projects now. We’ve since expanded
our product offerings, not just the verification of the designs but also testing of
the actual requirements and documentation before they
get to the actual design. And what brought us to this
place is really working with our industrial partners
and really understanding the issues at a very deep level that defense contractors are having in supplying what the government needs to execute its mission. Today my role is I am
the President and CEO. I’m responsible for the
overall strategic direction of the company, and also doing all the job
that no one else wants to do. The most challenging
moment so far has been keeping in front of all
the changes happening in the company. Because we’re very small, and we’re growing very quickly, that means we have to
have continually reinvent new processes, new way of
communicating with the team, and new way of tracking
our products with project. We’ve almost, we’ve nearly
doubled in size every year since our existence, we’re five years old. And so really the challenge is keeping on top of everything and
making sure that the processes and procedures we have in
place are the right ones and also, that’s one challenge,
an internal challenge. And then an external
challenge is as our products start gathering more adoption
in various industries, is a challenge is really
trying to understand the industries that are using our product and what specific needs do they have and how we can best help them
achieve their own missions. I think really an aha moment came, there are several, so it’s
difficult to nail it to just one. One early one has been
when we started talking to those aerospace engineers
who are actually building the safety systems and
actually do the verification. Once we started talking to them, and really understood the
problems that they were having, immediately multiple
solutions came to mind. And so, I would say one aha moment is really understanding the
problem that these industries are having and how these
problems will get even larger in the future unless they have new tools that better enable them to do their work. What fires me up a lot
today is really working very closely with our customers
and really understanding the issues that they’re having and what find I gain a lot of energy from is when people look at our products and they say yes, I need that, this definitely solves a problem for us, and what else can it do, and they start suggesting
a problem that they have that we can try to expand it. And that is very gratifying. It’s also a bit problematic
because we want to make sure that we execute our own strategic vision, but seeing the acceptance
and the validation from the market is
really very invigorating. I think the best advice, maybe not the best advice,
but a very valuable piece of advice I’ve
received is to really try to understand the problem
you’re actually solving and the value that you need to deliver to your customers and
then build everything else around that. So one habit is every
morning I try to write out in very minute detail, 15 minute increments,
or 30 minute increments, what the day’s gonna look like, what I need to accomplish, what appointments do I have, and what gaps do I have where
I can spend time thinking. So timeboxing everything, writing down my daily, my daily timeline of things I want to get done has really been very helpful
in organizing my thought and focusing on the important decisions. I guess I would say the
biggest parting piece of advice is the advice that was given to me, is really try to identify
the problem you’re solving. Try to solve a problem
that’s worth solving. I think that, so I do think that QRA is a very innovative company. We try to embody innovation
in everything we do here. Looking out in the wider world, I would say groups that
inspire me are people that do things that are
more mission-focused and they really are aiming to
really make a big difference, and so they innovate a lot,
not just on their product but also on their delivery,
also on the business model, and also on things that we
normally don’t associate with innovation beyond
just the technology, but also the organization,
how they deliver value to the customers, right. I gain inspiration from that. Well, so I’d like to think
that we’re changing the game by providing tools that engineers don’t have at their disposal today, particularly in, for us
exclusively in the design phase. So there’s been very rigorous
engineering processes done in the middle and late
stages of a big project. Relatively less is done in the early stage and with the complexity that’s
present in today’s systems, even more so in the future systems with automated systems
and autonomous systems, the design is gonna
become at the forefront. So design verification is going to become, in the future, a whole new industry. design verification engineers
are gonna be as prevalent and as important as test
engineers are today, and we’re providing the tools
to enable that to happen so that when they get to the
actual late-stage testing, all they’re finding are
errors in, say, manufacturing or implementation, that
there are no design errors in the later stages. Some of the biggest impediments are that the organizations
themselves are very large and who they sell to, oftentimes
they sell to government and that’s also very large organizations, so there is all this
institutional inertia built up and it’s very difficult
to actually get into the, not just the supply chain,
but become integrated into the process because
of such a huge amount of institutional momentum is being, has been built up over the years in terms of people and
processes and technologies that it’s very difficult
to make one small change without affecting, you know, a huge change in a whole bunch of other processes. It’s so tightly integrated. So it isn’t ingrained in our culture because we’re changing so fast, both in terms of what we
can provide to our customers and also in terms of the markets we serve, the way we try to encode that mindset into the company’s DNA is to have solid communication between
all the various departments in the company, that they know what it is we’re doing and why it is we’re doing it and what we want the outcome to be. And then each individual department and each individual
person in that department can make decisions
confident that they know we’re going towards the same direction. So not everything needs to be improved. You have to empower the
individuals to make decisions that have consequences. That can work if they buy into the vision and the management team can
actually communicate the vision and so everyone is aligned. It’s going to be design verification. It’s going to be at the
early stage of the products, of the projects, rather, and programs. We know already today that
most of the most wicked errors that are present in large projects happen at the very early stages, at the requirements stages
where there’s built-in contradictions, or in
the early design stages where they’re designing models of what they’re going to build before they actually cut steel. The biggest change and
the biggest innovation is gonna come in tooling and analysis and the engineering rigor that occurs at these earliest stages.

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