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Get to Know: Michel Chalouhi, VP Global Sales at Genetec

Get to Know: Michel Chalouhi, VP Global Sales at Genetec

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What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

In my career, my most memorable achievement was launching Omnicast 4, our video management system. I was the Product Manager at the time, and helping the team come together to release what would become our company’s flagship product was really impactful. It helped me develop my management style and allowed all of us to really see the value of collaborative teamwork. It is second only to getting my degree in Electrical Engineering.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I have always been curious about how things work. I am fascinated with manual work and making things by hand. As a kid, I used to like to take things apart and then rebuild them. This led me to study engineering at university where I was able to really follow my hunger to learn. To be honest, I haven’t changed. I am still curious about everything.

What style of management philosophy do you employ in your current position?

Whether I’m working with senior or a junior team member, my goal is to empower everyone around me to make their own decisions. I appreciate when people try new things even if they don’t work out. In fact, I think failure and mistakes are an important part of finding success. Being able to take risks and learn is crucial for developing as an individual and for building strong, forward-looking teams.

I also believe in open communication. While I don’t micromanage, I do think it’s important for everyone to feel supported. I focus on balancing a sense of autonomy with security.

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

When it comes to technology, there is a lot to talk about these days, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is at the top of everyone’s list. From solution developers to ordinary citizens, the IoT is on people’s minds and with good reason. When we look at the number of sensors collecting data and the sheer amount of data that we now have to manage, the IoT has the potential to provide us with incredible insights but also runs the risk of becoming unruly.

We’ve been focusing on the issues around data management for years and are happy to see so many in our industry stepping up.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

Interestingly, what led me to this career is also something that helps me unwind.  I still like to build things with my hands as this can be meditative. I also like to run regularly. In a way, focusing on the physical side of myself helps me reduce the stress associated with the intellectual side.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

This question is both easy and hard. I made two ‘wrong’ decisions when I was just starting out. The first was taking a lucrative internship right out of university that was not very interesting. I knew that I wouldn’t feel inspired but that it would pay well. Ultimately, the position left me feeling empty. Since then, financial concerns have never been a top priority in my decision-making.

The second ‘wrong’ decision was taking a position too quickly after my first job ended. I was working with a large engineering firm that shut down. I was so worried about being unemployed that I took the first job that was offered. Again, it wasn’t the right job for me. I should have waited, but I lacked confidence and was afraid of being without work. I have not made this mistake again.

Because these decisions ultimately helped me to make better choices in my career, I would not go back and change them. As I said earlier, making mistakes is an important part of success, and these two helped guide me to where I am now.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

As with other areas of high tech, Deep Learning is getting a lot of attention in the security industry. We’re focusing on using it to produce better analytics in order to support automation. One advancement can be seen in the area of Neural Networks. Whereas just a few years ago they were only two or three layers deep, now they are much deeper, which allows for improved learning. This means that systems can provide more accurate information to help make better decisions.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?

The first challenge that comes to mind is infrastructure. Specifically, large areas of the continent are lacking the fibre networks necessary to support a technical infrastructure. Where there is existing infrastructure – in South Africa and Kenya, for example – the transport costs of getting data can be prohibitively expensive. The good news is that, as more regions develop the necessary infrastructure, the cost of moving data will come down.

What changes to your job/role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

This past year, I took over our global sales responsibilities. I’m currently working on identifying the differences between the North American and other global markets. As a company, our goal is to significantly increase international contribution. My challenge for the months ahead will be to understand how we can export what we have done in North America to other markets as well as how we can adapt to ensure success as we grow.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

The big thing is to persevere. Don’t give up. More concretely, I would say don’t underestimate the soft skills required to succeed at this level. It’s not just what you know, it’s also how you communicate. Mobilising teams from the C-level requires serious people skills.

You must be confident in your abilities but, at the same time, surround yourself with people who will challenge you. For me, the most effective and productive environments are ones in which people feel secure enough to challenge the status quo so that we can all move the team forward together.

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