9 years — 9 takeaways

Nine years ago, as I was about to finish my first year’s finals in engineering school, I got a call from my army commander asking if I can spare 50 hours to come and help with a task he had for me in a startup he started working for. I never imagined that would only be the first of many steps taken across a 9 year journey with BrainsGate along an exciting path to bring a new therapy for Stroke.

Recently, I decided to leave my position as VP R&D and Operations for BrainsGate in search of a new challenge. Although this is not goodbye, as I will still remain a part of BrainsGate, I look back at this amazing period in my life, and I see a period filled with great accomplishments, many adventures, all of which were shared with amazing people — for whom I am deeply grateful.
Before I embark on a new journey, I feel this is a good opportunity to pause and summarize my takeaways from this chapter in my career.

So here are 9 takeaways after 9 years…

1. Do what turns you on

First and foremost, find out what is your internal drive, what wakes you up in the morning and keeps you up at night. Don’t give up on finding the job that meets these criteria, because when your internal drive and your work are in sync — you will be the best you can be.

2. Seek inspiration and knowledge

One of the most important things you can do in order to excel in your job and to develop yourself is to constantly seek for inspiration and knowledge. Whether it is a book, an article, a video clip or a conversation with people from your field — always try to find channels to learn new ideas and strive to implement them in your work. Don’t wait to be taught — teach yourself and bring these new ideas into action. This applies to both large organizations, that can provide organizational training tools, and to a small company, where you are your own mentor… In other words… Invest in yourself!

3. Take your work seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously

When you step away from the lab table or your workstation, work becomes all about the people. This is when not only the “WHAT” counts, but also the “HOW”. It starts from the way you prepare for a meeting, from the minor, low-leveled meeting through an important board meeting. And it continues with how your desk looks or what your body language is when you are faced with bad feedback. Your subordinates, your peers and your managers see you and build a certain perception of you. Take your work seriously, but… remember not to take yourself too seriously.

4. Team building: Hire well and mentor, mentor, mentor

From all the ongoing tasks I perform as a manager, the “team time” is what I consider most as a “time-well-spent”. From the early stages of recruitment, through countless hours of mentoring to performance evaluations and career planning, all these efforts are pure investments that eventually deliver the highest ROI, both in your team’s performance and also in its motivation. Beware of excuses such as “it’s not the right time”, “until we’ll hire, it will be too late”, “I will get to it when we get past this peak”… — there is no “right time” to building the core competencies required to achieve your team’s objectives.

5. Manage your boss

So you’ve hired the best team, and you think you are ready to go… But in addition to project management and team management, there is one last thing you need to manage — your boss… Understanding where your boss is coming from, what concerns him and how she/he prefers to be presented with issues is a key factor to your success. To achieve that you need to listen, listen, listen, but without forgetting your own voice. This requires a delicate balance between accommodating your boss’s requirements on the one hand, and not caving in or simply aiming to please, but rather to bringing your own initiatives into play.

6. Process is key

Having gone through engineering and MBA studies, I have gathered tools that are both analytical and managerial, and which have assisted me in different situations in my work. There is one “tool”, however, which I did not learn in any school, but rather, I was given on the job training for — and that is Process Management. I had the privilege of working in an organization which is committed to Process Excellence, which is employed across all the company’s domains. From strategic planning, through design and operations, to quality management and HR — I have learned that having the capability to analyze any situation from a process point-of-view, and the use of constant monitoring, performance measurement and commitment to constant improvement, drives the organization to success in the most challenging of tasks. I believe that being able to “X-RAY” the organization and look “under-the-hood” at its processes, is a powerful tool for managers.

7. Keep calm and carry on

When you work in a stressful environment, such as the innovative company I had the privilege of working for, you constantly encounter stressful situations and crises that have to be dealt with quickly and efficiently. When it comes to managing a crisis, the counter-intuitive reaction that you need to train yourself to adopt is to BE CALM. It is not always easy, and it does not mean you need to put on a Poker face. Developing the ability to keep calm is a quality of leadership. It is reassuring, relaxing and it’s what people around you need to see in order for you to get them on-board and tackle the next challenge.

8. Purpose, autonomy, mastery

To be fair, this takeaway is not mine to claim credit for, but it is one that influenced me in the past few years in many ways. Dan Pink, in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” talks about intrinsic motivation and how to apply its concepts personally and in your team. My take away from this book was first on a personal level — which in part guides me when choosing the next steps in my career and when thinking about the basic motivational foundation of my team. In short, once fair compensation is a given, you should work on finding out what drives your team members and you should allow them to have autonomy in their field, to master their profession and make sure they are aligned with the company’s purpose.

9. A Supportive environment

And after all, I couldn’t do it without them… Over time, as responsibility grows, and the efforts you need to put into work increase, having support from home becomes not only a great advantage but an actual necessity. Having close people to support you and finding the right work/life balance is extremely important. It should not be taken for granted and should be actively invested in at least as much as you invest in your work.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/9-years-takeaways-israel-srulik-dvorsky

Originally published at www.linkedin.com on April 13, 2015.