My name is Adrian Herdan and I am the CEO of DEVHD, a company I started back in 2016. DEVHD is a software development and ITSM consultancy start-up with 10+ employees acting within the Romanian ITO sector. The company specializes in delivering enterprise digital transformation solutions through the ServiceNow Platform.
How did you start your career? Which were your first steps? How did you envision your career?
I could say my career started in college, when I jumped on a chance to work on the implementation of the national informatics system for the National Health Insurance System. This gave me a window into the business world, the structure of apps and the software implementation methodology. Above all, I took from this experience a keen sense of responsibility, which guided me through all later decisions.
Even at that young age I wanted to see what the entrepreneurship world was all about. In 2009, in the middle of a national economic crisis, I joined a web development agency founded by some friends. This bold idea lasted only a few months. The financial crisis had deeply affected every Romanian sector, including IT, and I could not support myself financially. I never regarded this as a failure in my professional journey. The experience gave me a taste of that world and the realization that my success as an entrepreneur would come later when I would be prepared for it in all respects.
My corporate life began when I put on a ‘suit’ and went to work for TechTeam Global in October 2010. This would become the turning point of my professional life. One of the first things I learned while working for the big guns was communication. It was a huge step for a shy kid who never really liked public speaking or formal talking in general. By far the most valuable lesson I learned there was self-sufficiency. I was involved in support, development, team management, sales, pre-sales, consulting, as well as customer C level exposure – which gave me a unique high-level perspective over many aspects of a multinational billion-dollar business working in several different sectors. Thinking back on this, my best teachers were my many customers (over 15 large corporations), KraftHeinz certainly being the one I most learned from. I loved working with those guys.
Why, you might ask. During that time, I assumed many roles in different areas and was always trying to get more responsibility, so I could learn more, which was really useful when I started DEVHD, since at the beginning it was mostly a one-man-show. Looking back, I realize that many moments shaped my entrepreneur figure without me realizing it.
Now, the big step: my decision to become an entrepreneur. The idea surfaced in my mind again in 2015, when I realized that I had become an expert in a niche market with a huge increasing demand, the mighty ServiceNow platform. Me and my colleague received at least three extremely well-paid job offers from abroad monthly, which meant demand for ServiceNow and ITSM professionals was skyrocketing abroad. And so, the idea came: since we are so good at our work and love it so much, the demand is high enough for start-ups to develop, why not start our own business? And this is how DEVHD was born. A mix of wanting more out of my life and finding a niche with high international demand and few to no players in the Romanian market.
From the start came the first mistake, or maybe the first good decision. As I had little commercial knowledge, we offered our services for 15-20% of the market price. We started off more like freelancers, working in our spare time, which was exhausting to say the least. One step at a time, we soon got our first real Fortune 500 client and the goal was to keep them happy and deliver the best possible solutions. Shortly after, we hired our first employee.
What were your key career moments (those that had an impact on your professional journey)?
Still with me? Great. Now let’s talk key career moments, because this is what should be told about an entrepreneur, especially a young one. I will share some of them with you, in chronological order.
My first key moment was being made responsible for the CA SDM system for a customer, in 2011. I had been working at the TechTeam service desk for 4 months, when I took on the CA Change Coordinator role and began my niche-work in IT Service Management Tooling. Later on, I would become the technical liaison for more than 10 corporate customers across EMEA.
A few years later, by chance, I participated in a bundle of trainings around the ServiceNow platform and accepted to lead the ServiceNow Development team for a customer. Like many other things in my professional life, it was either luck or being the right guy at the right time, but I consider it a key moment because then I came to realize what an amazing work we were doing and even though I had no idea back then, this would become the niche our company is based on.
At around the same time, in late 2014 up to mid-2015, I participated in several international Business Entrepreneurship Seminars (London, Madrid and Tel Aviv) organized by Maccabi Future Leaders Forum. It was at these seminars that we met amazing people who shared with us their success stories, like Uri Levin (Waze creator) and many others, and I soon realized that nothing is impossible.
After my first ServiceNow Knowledge conference in Las Vegas, in 2016, it was clear that I needed to start my own business and that is exactly what I did just two months later.
The first year of my entrepreneur life was horrible. I experienced a lot of stress I did not need or want, but I kept in mind the ultimate goal: create something I am proud of, on my own terms. I say “on my own terms” because even though my corporate life was good and on some level I was missing it at first, I knew that back there I had reached a dead end – I wanted more, but I felt limited, I wanted things done differently, but I could not change them.
What is the best three most valuable career lessons you have learned?
Lesson one: When you see an opportunity, do all you can to take advantage of it. It may sound cheesy, but this value guided me in every important decision, both in my professional and personal life. This is my pattern, because most of the time we don’t even notice a lot of opportunities out there. To give you an example, when I was still working at Stefanini, I saw a job posting in the US which I knew would have been perfect for me. What did I do? I made a proper business case to our director and managed to take on and bring an important global position to Romania. The same thing happened when I started the company: I was offered a job, but instead of taking it, I convinced them to work with my company, even though it didn’t exist at the time. This is a story for another time.
Lesson two: If you find the right people, hold on to them. I can’t count the times I’ve been professionally disappointed by people. You must set high expectations, because it’s your business and your work, but don’t be surprised when people let you down. Working with people is hard. But great people will come and surprise you and they will make you proud and confident in your business. After all, at DEVHD, our people are our greatest resource.
Lesson three: This one I learned from Mihai Pavel, my former manager at Stefanini, and it also concerns the people you are managing: share your skills, give them the opportunity to grow and the confidence to succeed by believing in them rather than micromanaging. I experienced this working with Mr. Pavel and it’s now a big part of our organizational culture at DEVHD.
Why did you choose Business Service Industry? What were top 3 reasons for choosing DEVHD?
BSI came out of nowhere for me. After college I was more oriented towards business rather than the technical world. However, after a beer with a friend I ended up at TechTeam, as a service desk analyst. While climbing ‘the corporate ladder’ I realized that I really enjoyed my work and pursued a career in the Business Service sector.
Regarding DEVHD I have more to tell you. Primarily we aimed to create a different work environment and I’m sure we succeeded. We have a happy and relaxed workspace. Despite working in the corporate world, we reduce stress by maintaining excellent customer relationships. Some customers really consider us friends and occasionally join us at team building events. We are really more a family, friends more than colleagues. We help each other deliver the best solutions for our clients, share our expertise and take pride in work.
From one of my favorite managers, Mike Roose, I learned the importance of making sure people working for you are happy with their compensation. He was the first manager to ask me “Are you happy with your pay?” Believe it or not you do not hear this very often as an employee. Once you get this out of the way, your team can flourish and focus on the well-being of your customers, because they are no longer driven by the need to earn more, but rather by their passion and appreciation for the work they do.
What are your/your company’s plans for 2020?
Personally, my plan for this year is to grow more professionally. First, I want to further improve my business development and sales skills. When these two goals are met, I will focus on other ServiceNow modules, such as HR and Customer Service Management, Risk and Compliance. Also, the most important, all-time resolution: to develop my leadership skills.
For the company, the future looks bright. We want to expand to a 20+ person team, to further develop the Iasi office, to find more clients and enter areas outside ITSM such as HR and CSM.
What do you think would be the keywords of the year for managers in the Business Services industry? Automation? Cutting costs?
First, mobile-first enterprise application. Why? Because the enterprise apps are finally moving to mobile. People got used to the day-to-day technology as a consumer. In the business area, enterprises apps are not yet offering customer-grade mobile apps. ServiceNow has positioned itself to become a mobile first enterprise platform.
Second, automation, automation, automation! The reason would be the pressure to reduce costs and increase customer and user satisfaction. Also, better industry performance.
Last, chat bots and AI, because the service desk is going out of business. Classic service desk functions are being replaced by chat bots with integrated AI.
Tell us a little bit about your private life. Tell us about your passions, family. What do you do to relax?
My private life is awesome, and I think it’s very important to balance a successful professional life with a relaxed and sometimes thrilling personal one.
My passions include traveling, snowboarding, skating, kite boarding, music and keeping up with everything about technology. Also, because at the end of the day I am still a curious, happy child, I build a lot of Legos.
For me, the relationship with my family and friends is the most important. I am happy to say that at this point in my life, my friends are my family. I lost my father when I was 15 and then it was just me and my mom. I think this loss helped me see the importance of family in life, it helped me become the man I am today. It taught me responsibility towards the ones you love and helped me understand better the power that your little village gives you. Without the people around me, I don’t think I would be here today. Their love, their support and their full confidence in me and my dreams made me who I am. And I am happy and honored to always return the help.
Different career? No, thanks
Under no circumstances would I change my career path. I think I am right where I’m supposed to be and I am happy and confident I made the right choices. It’s the best job in the world, you could not get bored, because there is a bit of everything, and you get to meet amazing people.
If I had to change something, it would be going to college in Romania. It was stressful and sadly I did not learn as much as I expected. I would go to college in another country and return to Romania to do the same things I do now.
What are the top 3 skills that you would develop?
The most important skill for every business owner is project management. It helps you see the bigger picture, understand all the necessary roles for project success, and develops your sense of responsibility. It particularly helped my verbal and written communication skills.
For the same reasons, I would say developing your presentation skills is a must. Even if you have the best ideas in the world, they won’t work in your head. You must be able to present them to other people in a manner that shows them the true value of a project.
Another skill that I would choose is web development, especially Java Script.
What would you do and what would you avoid doing? – practical advice to young professionals
Challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone. That’s a must. Even doing a small thing that makes you uncomfortable will boost your mind and train it to see the big mountains as something easy to climb.
Don’t think someone will build you a statue if you work 14 hours a day. I did it many times, but the key is the reason behind it. Do it for yourself, to make yourself proud but at all costs avoid burnout. There must be a balance between your professional and personal life.
For more information about Devhd, please visit: www.dev-hd.com