Name: Boris Paskalev
Title: Consultant & Managing Director
Organisation: Snyk.io & Swiss To Cure DIPG (swissdipg.org)
Boris Paskalev has more than 20 years industry experience in growing technology unicorns above $1Bn as private and public companies. Specific focus on business scaling, product development in the DeepTech and AI space as well as R&D, global team management and lean operations. He has an executive EMBA from TRIUM as well as MSc and BSc in Computer Science from MIT. Firm believer in honest and authentic human and social core principles and their application in the business world. I am a keen and dedicated nerd passionate to solve complex problems in a self-sustainable way.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Boris's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging part for an authentic leader is scaling. Specially to maintain the human connection and basic values in a rapidly size-increasing teams. Really know every person in the team(s) quickly becomes impossible. Growing a leadership team often puts the core values, principles and ways of working secondary to the short-term needs of the business which often times could lead to serious challenges in the mid to long run. Striking the right balance is an ever swinging pendulum that incorporates luck and constant fine tuning.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started as a software developer in VistaPrint one of .com unicorns from the 2000s, there I became of the opinion that mangers/leaders do not do much and are mostly wasting the time of everyone else and ultimately leading to a less efficient progress, this opinion has since changed but the room for improvement is still huge. As a true geek I wanted to solve that and started by project managing (this was the thing back than) my own projects: cutting out the overhead of another project manager. Then this led to leading larger and larger software projects and expanded into opening offices in new countries, designing fully automated and robotized manufacturing equipments for computer aided manufacturing (CIM). In admin, I led green fields of offices and manufacturing facilities and internal sstart-up as Skunk Works initiatives. This was the time where I realized that to be taken seriously in the C-level suit one needs to take a lot of time or take a shortcut like EMBA and thus I was lucky to be accepted in TRIUM Global EMBA program as one of the youngest participants. This led to a couple of more start-ups in my life, but I know already that a true leader has to be all-in and thus I left my comfy job to start building from scratch with a team of extremely brilliant people in DeeepCode.ai
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
In retrospect, I have always worked in start-ups even though some of them have grew to multibillion businesses with over 6000 people. So my day often remains to be an intentionally directed chaos with a small portion strategically planned important items. Then dealing with urgent & important items or as I call them the fire-drills.
So it depends on the day, some days I wake up and 15 mins later have to be in a meeting, other days I am responsible to get my kids ready for their days.
Then meetings, reading and talking to people depending what is planned. I add to my calendar EVERYTHING: meetings, sleeping, sports (when applicable), admin work, even small tasks that I would forget otherwise ... I also have a ToDo list (still in a notebook/paper) have tried many other gadgets, tools etc. over the years :).
I do check/skim e-mails throughout the day, just to be a agile, responsive and not to be a bottleneck for the important work of others.
The work days ends when it end, but I do try to block the time to spend time with my kids, and more and more manage to protect this time unless there are real fires that need attention.
Usually before going to sleep I would work for another hour or so: unblocking teams from other timezones, catching up on the longer e-mails that require longer focus and a quick overview /planning for the next 1 to 2 days.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Recently I learned what is really important in life, and everything that we do should have meaning: this meaning is not money or shiny things but helping others and using what god has blessed us of having to help others and make the world a better/happier place for the whole society.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Bible, The Quran ..., I know religion is a loaded topic, but I will ignore the 1% religion related stigma. I was lucky to have spoken to many people from various believes (deep believers to atheists) and those books and people are all 99% identical. They are simply reflecting of what is considered Good and Bad and merely all mentally healthy people would agree on those core principles; they would go further and dream of a world where everyone strives to be good towards others and condemn the bad. This 99% is applicable to leadership: how to treat people, how to keep a high moral standard, that people are more important than money. Here wall street has some returning back to the roots on this topic: I am paraphrasing Simon Sinek, so I guess all of his books are influential focusing on those core principles with a modern, business and easy to crasp content. This is my opinion and I do not know Simon Sinek's take on the religious books but I personally see that connection and strive to lead by example following those core principles.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Listen, learn and treat others the way you want them to treat you.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
During an M&A transaction that I was very close to, I realized how many different opinions and competing interests there are. To the extend that I could not have even imagined, even from people that I thought I know well. In such cases the long-term mutual trust and strong personal bond is a requirement to resolve complex multy-party preferences and maximize happiness without burning bridges. It was a very stressful and challenging experience but in the long run it is more than worth it.