Game Changer: Jordan Kyriakidis, President and CEO, QRA Corp

About five years ago, Jordan Kyriakidis started out in the defence and security industry by working on a research project with Lockheed Martin on algorithm development. This development was about the verification of complex systems for both software and hardware. Due to the prevalence of software today, “verifying them is much more difficult,” Kyriakidis said.

“Our initial core algorithm was very successful, and we’ve since built out products to test them in the market with engineers successfully deploying them in their own projects now.”

Jordan Kyriakidis

Since that time they have expanded, and as the President and CEO of QRA Corp today, Kyriakidis said their product offerings are “not just the verification of the designs but also testing of the actual requirements and documentation before the actual design phase.”

In his current role, Kyriakidis is responsible for the overall strategic direction of his company and “also doing the jobs that no one else wants to do.”

Here is the full interview with Jordan Kyriakidis.

What was your most challenging moment?

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 continually reinvent new processes, new methods of communicating with the team, and new methods of tracking our projects.

We’ve nearly doubled in size every year since our existence. 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. That’s an internal challenge. Our external challenge is to continually understand the industries that are using our product and what specific needs they have and how we can best help them achieve their own missions.

What was your a-ha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader?

One early one was when we started talking to aerospace engineers who are building safety-critical systems. Once we started talking to them and understood the problems that they were having, immediately multiple solutions came to the team’s minds. And so, I would say one aha moment is understanding the problem that these industries are having and how these problems will get even bigger in the future unless new tools are developed that will better enable them to do their work.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

What fires me up a lot today is really working very closely with our customers and really understanding the issues that they’re having. I gain a lot of energy from people looking at our products and saying, “Yes, I need that, it solves a problem for us, and what else can it do.” They start suggesting a problem that they have that we can try to solve. 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.

What is the best advice you received?

I think the best advice, maybe not the best advice, but a very valuable piece of advice I’ve received is to really understand the problem you’re actually solving. Including the value that you need to deliver to your customers. And then build everything else around that.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

Every morning I try to write out in very minute detail, 15 minute increments, or 30 minute increments, what the day’s going to 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 timeline of things I want to get done has really been very helpful in organizing my thoughts and focusing on the important decisions.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

Well, 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. Those who are aiming to 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. Innovation within the business model of how they deliver value to the customers.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Well, so I’d like to think that we’re changing the game by providing tools that engineers just don’t have at their disposal today. There’s been very rigorous engineering processes and tooling developed for the middle and late stages of a big project. However, relatively less is done in the early stage. And with the complexity that’s present in today’s systems, having an incredibly strong early-stage foundation is absolutely critical. So design verification is going to become, in the future, a whole new industry. Design verification engineers are going to 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 engineers get to the actual late-stage testing, all they’re finding are errors from manufacturing or implementation. There should be no design errors in later stages.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

There is a lot of institutional inertia built up due to the scale of Aerospace & Defence organizations. It’s a very difficult world to actually get into. The supply chain has a huge amount of institutional momentum that’s been built up over the years in terms of people, processes, and technologies. So it can be very difficult to make one small change without causing a bit of chaos.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

Innovation is ingrained in our culture because we’re changing so fast, both regarding 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 so to have a 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 that, and what we want the outcome to be. And then each individual department and each individual person in that department can make decisions confidently – knowing we’re going towards the same direction. You have to empower the individuals to make decisions that have consequences. That can only work if they buy into the vision and the management team can actually communicate the vision so everyone is aligned.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

It’s going to be design verification. It’s going to be at the early stage of the projects and programs. We already know today that most errors that are present in large projects happen at the very early stages, at the requirements stages where there are 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 going to come in tooling and analysis – enabling engineers to build with confidence.

What is your parting piece of advice?

I guess I would say the biggest parting piece of advice is the advice that was given to me. Try to identify the problem you’re solving. Try to solve a problem that’s worth solving.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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