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Fireside chat with Andy Arluk, CSO at Helpful

Who is Andy Arluk?

I think of myself as someone who is curious about learning and constantly challenges the status quo through creative problem solving that leads to more efficiency. I have been leading product and strategy in technology companies for most of my career – from corporate through my own startups – and I’ve seen much explosive growth and paradigm shifts throughout the years. The current initiative that I am helping lead – called Helpful Engineering – is a culmination of all things I’ve learned throughout my path. Helpful is a global, at-scale engineering innovation community, currently at over 19,000 members, that addresses sustainability challenges where we support projects from crowdsourced idea-stage through product realization. This organization allows me to not only apply all business-growth related disciplines together, but also to change the paradigms of how to collaborate effectively across uber-distributed independent teams and entities, while doing a heck of a lot of good for social impact and the world. Can’t beat that, and really gets me up in the morning!

Tell us more about your role in Helpful?

I am Chief Strategy Officer at Helpful Engineering. As the organizational mission is a complex undertaking, in my role, I am responsible for taking our broad vision as an organization, and painting that into a more tactical, realizable execution plan – in creating the structure for how the different pieces of the organization work in tandem around how we bring technology platforms, communities, and partners together for our organization. This involves ensuring our platform is adding value within existing ecosystems, how we attract and work with our contributors, partner entities, and supporters, as well as our internal processes and structures to make us effective at vertically integrating the project development pipeline and de-risking the R&D process for entities.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

We have an impactful mission, in using the power of collaboration at scale to rapidly address sustainability problems around the world. However, we have a big lift to achieve our goals. Keeping all the pieces together and moving at the pace we need on all fronts simultaneously can be quite challenging at times. That said, each step is one more step toward achieving our goals. As each success brings more validation to our model of creating positive change (e.g. our community released one of the first novel alternative PPE designs that were broadly distributed to address early COVID-related shortages) as well as helping design lower cost equipment for developing markets that allows for more efficient innovation deployment, really makes the undertaking worth it while we climb the hill.

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

In general, I am happy about the product/strategy/and entrepreneurship focused path I have been on, and always dealing with the cutting edge. As with anything, however, there are learnings along the way and mistakes that were made. I started my career in corporate settings and gained a lot from the structure in place there. I then jumped to being a founding member of a startup, which was, as you can imagine, a big shift – I had no idea how to do sales, how to build up company infrastructure, scale teams, etc. on our own. If I had to do it over, I would probably ease into it a bit more, perhaps via a growth stage environment first before plunging in.

What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?

To build an effective vertically integrated, at scale innovation entity, we need to focus on a multi-pillar approach of community, partnerships, and platform to all come together. To get everyone onboard with us, we need to ensure we are providing good value for the entities and people to work with us to both achieve their personal goals, as well as how they can use their position and expertise to achieve larger wins for society in general. Balancing these different stakeholders, and ensuring the community and its platform cater to them is the key to our success. Tactically, we need to do this in a step by step fashion: one partnership at a time, one win at a time. This allows us to attract the next set of people and external organizations who want to join us on our journey, and things build from there.

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

While the pandemic was a horrible event for humanity to go through – it did end up shaking up the status quo in many areas, particularly in relation to technology and work production models. Remote and distributed workforces have now firmly become mainstream, and organically formed communities to address critical needs have solidified and proven their merit (Helpful itself was borne out of the COVID pandemic to address the crisis). I think technology will increasingly move toward supporting distributed workforces effectively, and also, allowing for more grassroots development initiatives to take hold. I see this as an incredibly exciting time for technology innovation communities as they continue to drive increasingly larger impacts on R&D and push sustainability initiatives forward globally.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business?

As a networked community of technologists and experts across disciplines working in tight teams to create deployable products that need to be assured of their quality and usability (hardware and software), we need to provide a robust unifying platform that rely heavily on fostering and pushing the new paradigms for effective collaborative work environments. These are tool sets that include a rich communication platform, project management, repository, QA, simulation,and compliance. We are working with companies in each of these spaces that are supporting our mission, which we hope to announce partnerships shortly.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

  • Zero to One
  • Good to Great
  • Lean Startup
  • Getting to Yes
  • The Alchemist

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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