Meet the Speakers – Hai Reznik, Director of Innovation and Technologies at Elbit Systems, based in Israel
International high technology company, Elbit Systems, is a developer and supplier of airborne, land and naval systems for defence, security and commercial applications. The company, which is headquartered in Israel, has clients from around the world, and alongside its products, provides logistic support, training and simulation services, including protection against cyber security breaches.
Could you give us an overview of your role at Elbit Systems as Director of Innovation and Technologies?
It’s a new role – I was previously Head of Future Combat Vehicle Systems & Robotics. In essence, I seek to focus on driving an innovative culture and encouraging and mentoring people to be internal entrepreneurs. This allows them to initiate new ideas for products, applications and value propositions and ensure there is the right environment for the highest possible success rate in seeing these come to fruition.
What did you study at university and have you also had business training?
I enjoyed science, in particular, at school and had early ambitions to be an inventor. A variety of fields interested me so before I went to university I went through a lot of curriculums and decided to take a BSc in Opto-Mechanical engineering, which had a broad basis in mathematics and physics, then alongside this, I took a BA in Physics. This was the right combination as I’ve always been someone who likes to know exactly how things work!
In 2010, I undertook an MBA alongside my day job, which was largely because I wanted to learn more about business, rather than for career reasons. But it was a great thing to do, a chance to develop knowledge away from the day job, but also return with new understanding. For me, it was about gaining some very useful insights and seeing what could be implemented once I returned.
You describe yourself as entrepreneurial by nature – do you think this is still possible when working for a large organisation?
Yes, I most definitely think it is possible to be an intra-entrepreneur or intra-preneur, as I like to call it – I think my personal experience taught me that. In any organisation that I was part of since high school, I’ve initiated and created something new and it was spread from social enterprise through processes and technology. It’s about having or creating a culture that encourages people to look for unsolved problems and new ways to solve old problems and encourage individuals to be proactive and identify new initiatives for solving those problems
I don’t want distance between myself and the team, and I believe that managers must always be willing to listen to feedback. So, that can mean accepting you will have mistakes occur, but seeing these as an opportunity to learn from them. We also encourage people to validate their Ideas with internal and external customers and users to learn from each other and collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams. For example, we also hold regular hackathon events, where people can come together to be creative, solve problems and learn how to validate the need.
What do you think has driven Elbit Systems’ global success?
We’re not the largest company within defence, but clients often come to us because we’re a one-stop shop. We offer clients some very unique state of the art products and technology with customisation depending on their requirements and this is how we’ve built long-term relationships.
Where do you see innovation within the field of sensors?
There are definitely going to be further advances and I think that innovation will advance in two main vectors: the first vector is smaller and smarter sensors, sensors which incorporate build-in AI to give insights to the systems/users. The second vector is multi-sensor and data fusion, solutions that integrates the data from several sensors to give new insights that a single sensor can’t give. Sensor data fusion also reduces uncertainty, meaning the information received is more accurate, complete and dependable.
What are your thoughts on drones – do you think their use will become more widespread and what regulation is needed?
We design and supply drones (Unmanned Air Systems or UAS) for a range of applications and they are exported around the world. But, yes, they are proving extremely useful in a range of commercial settings, in addition to defence.
Technology exists to prevent drones from entering sensitive territories, but overall, there needs to be education and engagement to improve safety. You do need rules, but I would not want to see consumers banned from using drones. Regulators need to find the right balance.
Do you think robotics will become increasingly important? Do you think they could be bad news for jobs?
I think they will play a major role in our future, and certainly in Israel, which is very focused on technology, their future impact has been talked about a lot. I don’t see negatives – as history has shown, the nature of jobs changes as does the economy. Robotics may improve work opportunities, allowing humans to work more effectively and at higher levels, potentially working more from home and the end result of this could be more spare time. I think we’ll see growing integration in this area and it will bring many benefits.
Do you think there has been progress with cyber security?
It remains a very real threat and there is never going to be a permanent solution as cyber criminals will constantly look for weaker areas they can exploit. This is why we provide cyber security services and have a team of people dedicated to managing the risks. The best defence is education, investing in security and vigilance.
In terms of bringing on new talent, is there a shortage of people with science and engineering backgrounds? Do you believe study of these subjects is something to be encouraged in schools?
Science and mathematics are essential and there is a growing need for these skills at work, so it’s important that learning begins at school. There are shortages and not just in traditional scientific and engineering fields – there’s also a big need for more data scientists, for example. It’s important to encourage learning of these subjects and for schools to support those who may find these subjects harder – by fitting the right teaching method to the student, means progress is often possible.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a hugely disruptive and difficult time around the world – how have you been impacted and have there been any positive benefits?
From a business perspective, not all companies were prepared for their employees to work from home and so this was challenging. We are now returning to workplaces, but from a personal perspective, I found the opportunity to be at home really positive. I have a large family – five children – and when you are doing long hours in an office, you don’t have enough time to connect. It’s still possible to get work done from home and be focused and spend good family time together. I think many of us have also appreciated the benefits of fewer cars on the roads and cleaner air. It may also lead to less flights for business travel, which again will have environmental benefits. I don’t want to see contact between people disappear, and interaction can be essential for ideas, but I hope that some of these aspects of working remotely can continue.
How do you unwind away from work?
I love water sports, especially windsurfing and surfing and I live close to the sea. It’s my way of finding calm and I try to find opportunities to be on the water whenever possible, on occasion, this could even be before and after a working day. There are a lot of workaholics about, and not having an outlet won’t help your performance. Sport and exercise can play a big part in helping people manage stress and be their best at work.