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Get to Know: Ian Leysen, CEO and Co-Founder, Datadobi

Get to Know: Ian Leysen, CEO and Co-Founder, Datadobi

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On the lighter side of things we ask Ian Leysen, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Datadobi, about what makes him tick.

Ian Leysen, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Datadobi

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Co-founding Datadobi, a Belgian scale-up, and making it the world-leader in unstructured data migration with more than 900 large enterprise customers globally. We achieved this without external funding and with an average profitability of more than 10% since inception a decade ago.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

During the mid-eighties, at the age of 16, I built my own first set of loudspeakers. That made my dream of becoming a bespoke active loudspeakers builder, which motivated me to get a master of engineering in micro-electronics. In my first job when I finished university, I started out as a software tester on a software distribution platform for Macintosh with a Belgian start up Filewave. From that point onwards, I was embedded in the software world.

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

The management style I employ is consultative and consensual. I welcome debate and discussion with a joint commitment to get to decisions rationally and quickly. This motivates people to take ownership, backed by shared insight and goals setting. This approach gave birth to two terms we consider instrumental to the company’s DNA: PCOC (Persistence, Commitment, Ownership and Completion) and NAAS ( No Apology As a Service).

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

The vast progress in (mobile) technology created a strongly connected world where companies, that own and provide the technology to collect and analyze everyone’s meta(data) and subsequently actively influence people’s ideas and behavior, start to have a strong influence on democratic processes. This evolution needs to support and nurture democracy and its people and not poison it. Ethics and technology are for me the important talking point in the coming decade.

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

I have been doing walks or recreational cycling with my family on a regular basis, but during the various lock-downs, we tried to make it a daily practice to do a 30-60 minute walk. My health app is telling me that for 2020, we walked more than 850 km.

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

Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I was fortunate to start my career in start-ups where there was plenty of opportunity to take ownership, learn a lot and have an positive impact on growing the business and team. Common sense, strong work ethic, perseverance and the commitment to achieve results as a team have been very energizing and fulfilling characteristics that we applied with the Centera start-up within EMC (Now Dell) and now with Datadobi.

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

The pandemic accelerated cloud adoption and the movement towards SaaS offerings. A lot of corporations are looking at offloading the management of their increasingly complex storage and network infrastructures in an attempt to keep costs under control and to deal with limitations and shortages in specialized IT skills. Whether it will save them costs remains to be seen, but it will certainly allow them to focus their attention on the stored data itself and the value it has or brings to their business and customers.

So far, most of these SaaS offerings have been in the structured data space (think database like offerings like Salesforce, Jira, Zendesk,…) but most data growth is and will be in the unstructured data space (think documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, log files…). This is giving birth to a new emerging market called (U)DMaaS (Unstructured) Data Management As a Service) where it’s all about retaining the right data and making sure it is at the right place at the right time to maximize its value and/or to minimize its cost.

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

Our biggest hurdle has always been the West-coast, where with an on-going abundance of IT start-ups, you get confronted with a more ‘not invented here’ attitude. But in general, our experience has been that it is far easier to get our technology accepted with US customers than European customers.

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?

The pandemic accelerated the cloud and SaaS adoption and needs of our customers. Datadobi’s task is to support our customers on this journey with fit for purpose products and services. My role will be to make sure we do this in a timely and high quality manner.

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

Stay true to yourself, be honest, be humble, diplomatic and lead by example. It’s about what you can do for your customers and your company, not the other way around. Mature your technical background on an on-going basis and perfect your listening skills.

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