Introducing Eyal Shavit, global head of technology for our fast-growing product group
We’re pleased to announce today that Eyal Shavit has joined Samsung NEXT as global head of technology for our NEXT Product group. He’ll be working with a fast-growing team that is developing a variety of products in offices around the world.
Q: Hi Eyal, it’s great to have you here at Samsung NEXT. For those who don’t know you, can you share a little bit about your background and where you’ve worked in the past?
It’s been a long and winding road. I made my way through Technology and Engineering groups, playing different roles from a researcher and developer to CTO. I’ve been part of both small and large companies; by small I mean really small (2 people) and then all the way to larger ones, the largest was Deluxe which was around 6000 people, well until today at least 🙂 Samsung is the largest company I’ve joined by far.
Technically, I’ve built large scale ecommerce systems at Macrovision ( serving Y! Games and Disney worldwide), Video production and streaming at Mevio (where we experienced very large scale growth…and this was before AWS was a thing), an AI driven game platform at IdleGames that was way before its time, a Social Network platform at Tagged with hundreds of millions of users, Computer Vision based search technology for the movie industry at Deluxe and Sports technology at Sports Illustrated Play which we sold to NBC this past December.
The thread that weaves it all together is that these were all situations where we had to move fast and be entrepreneurial. To be honest, some of these were really messy from the get go. That does not seem to bother me — go figure.
Q: Based on your experience, what excites you about working at Samsung NEXT as part of the Product organization?
First and foremost that would be the technology. We are developing very interesting solutions to core problems in Augmented Reality, Machine Learning and Distributed Compute that are technically deep, and to a technical person, this is like being a kid in a candy store.
Then there is the product angle where each of our technologies are addressing huge market opportunities and it is so early that it is anyone’s game. So we are not trying to tweak or optimize, which is the reality for many companies, we are running fast with the goal and hope that we will be defining some of these categories. It’s a big dream and that is very exciting.
There was one other thing that intrigued me and that was working as a startup within a large organization. It will be challenging, no doubt, but it also presents an exciting opportunity. Imagine what it would be like if we could, with even one of our technologies, leverage the scale of Samsung with its reach, putting more phones in people’s hands than anyone and providing access to homes with TVs and appliances. The ability to directly impact at that scale is exciting to any product person and technologist.
Q: One of the things we haven’t shared much to date is how the NEXT product team is organized into squads. Can you share more about how they are organized and how you’ll be working with the different teams?
It’s one of the things that many of us in the organization have experienced first hand and learned to believe in. The world of building products is moving fast and becoming increasingly distributed, where it matters more that you find talent with the right IQ than having talent in HQ. This is reflected in workflows and tools that are being built across our industry but is also increasingly reflected in the structure of companies all around us. At Sports Illustrated Play for example we were completely distributed with teams from Argentina, spread across many states in the US and all the way up to Canada. We learned to work together and bridge across culture and schedules and language.
We’ve stopped thinking of an Engineering organization as top-down beast with roadmaps that get pushed down and we’ve started to think in terms of smaller groups that work together closely and become the de-facto experts on a topic, tightly aligned, but loosely coupled. They include a product manager, a designer, software engineers, QA engineers and a data focused expert. They are empowered to make decisions and tradeoffs and most of all understand the customer and their experience in the right context. This turns out to make all kinds of good things happen and bring tremendous value to an organization. It is very motivating to have autonomy, it is exciting to be able to move quickly from idea to solution to production, to be able to measure your impact, to experiment, fail fast and recover. It’s also nice not to have someone from the outside who doesn’t exactly get it drive your day and your roadmap.
My role in all of this is to help build and support this mode of operation, to enable teams, unblock where needed, facilitate communication, help build and shape individual team strategies as well as the technical strategy of the larger NEXT Product group. Sometimes this will mean diving in to a technical problem, sometimes helping think through a talent problem, sometimes review a strategy, sometimes bring coffee. Whatever it takes.
As I come into the organization, figuring out how to work with each group, is in many ways the first tasks. There are ways I have worked with teams before, but every team in every company is going to be slightly different. We are a group of individuals working together to solve a problem and we need time to figure each other out and define how to best work together. This will change and evolve over time of-course and I find the most important thing at this stage is be open and listen and learn and that is my current plan.
Q: What benefits come from organizing ourselves in that way? What potential pitfalls do you see, and how do you avoid them?
The benefit of this organizational structure far outweigh pitfalls but it can get confusing for sure, especially as we work in different geographies, languages and time zones. Communication is hard. We all think we are so great at it, but turns out —- not so much.
The autonomy that working in squads bring is a basic need that resonates with almost everyone and sets the right tone for us as a group. The ability to move fast and properly, prioritize correctly and just not get stuck is empowering on its own.
There is also an alignment with something that is super important for our group – the laser focus on the customer, understanding sometimes very complex needs and building critical intuition that you can only do if you are completely immersed in something – to me this is what is required to provide the customer not just a product or a service – but an experience. It is hard to drive that if you don’t have this type of structure.
The risk that I see of-course is the ‘Silo Effect’ where a lack of information flow between the groups can lead to isolation and inevitable loss of productivity; one group has no idea that another group had already developed a solution that will solve their problem with a tweak. This is an example that does not promote re-use which is a fundamental engineering principle. Of-course sometimes the shortest past is to build a local specific solution and forcing re-use creates bloat and slows things down with no good reason. The point to me however is that as a group that works together and wants/needs to leverage shared resources, it is not ok to make tactical decisions without even considering the larger strategy. As long as we think strategically and evaluate the options practically and honestly, we will not stray too far. The solution is then openness, transparency, leaving our egos out of the room – no problem is too big or too small for us to engage.