DroneShield (ASX:DRO) – Oleg Vornik



The CEO Mindset - Oleg Vornik, CEO of DroneShield (ASX:DRO)

Oleg Vornik is currently the CEO of DroneShield (ASX:DRO), a worldwide leader in drone security technology. The Company has developed pre-eminent drone security solutions that protect people, organisations and critical infrastructure from intrusion from drones. Its leadership brings world-class expertise in engineering and physics, combined with deep experience in defence, intelligence, and aerospace.

What’s your journey in becoming a CEO?
I started as DroneShield CFO back in 2015, as the company was gearing up towards its IPO. The prior experience to that was across the banking sector, at Deutsche Bank, ABN Amro, Royal Bank of Canada and Brookfield. There are several different ways one can be a CFO, and aside from the fundraising element of the role, I was much more into the sales and operations side of the business rather than keeping ledgers (thankfully we now have a great ex-auditor CFO who is much better with ledgers than I ever was). Following the IPO, the Board was replacing the CEO at the time, which gave me an opportunity to step up.

Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercializing?
DroneShield is a global leader in drone countermeasures. Recent technology advances have enabled consumer and commercial drones that can be freely purchased in an electronics store, ability to fly long distances with sophisticated motion controls, carry large payloads (which can include explosives and biological or other weapons), have powerful cameras – and accessible to a pilot with virtually no training, due to their ease of use. This has created a growing threat to the militaries, law enforcement, stadiums, airports, prisons (contraband drops) and many other situations where an aerial threat was previously not considered.

DroneShield manufactures systems that detect and defeat such drones. Today we are in about 100 countries globally, across a wide range of Government customers. The demand is rapidly continuing to grow, as the threat increases.

How are you managing with the current COVID-19 pandemic on both business and personal front?
We are finding no disruption to our supply chains, and the customers continuing to require our solutions. Given Government/military nature of our work, we have not experienced much slowdown, apart from the fact we aren’t going to trade conferences and doing customer demos (however plenty of other work to focus on). As a global company with customers around the world and teams in Australia (across multiple cities), US and UK, a lot of our structure was already relying on video calls and emails. And not going to the office saves on commute time!

Personally, a forced stop to travel is a welcome change (I normally do about 3-4 months a year on the road), and I try to go for a run most days to keep fit.

What’s the most exciting thing about running your business?
DroneShield is in an exciting industry which hasn’t existed even 5 years ago – the counterdrone sector evolved with the drone sector itself. This meant there weren’t fixed ways to do the business, no set technologies, or paths to market – which was great for me as a new CEO at the time as allowed me to drive the business without a reference to set ways of doing things. I am lucky in DroneShield having absorbed great people into the team along the way, from our C-suite (CTO, CFO, COO), to our engineers, and our business development guys. Everyone has a clear sense of their and the company’s mission. Some things will always stay with the CEO though (in our case, it’s the “Chief Culture Officer” who sets the culture of business, and the Product Manager, who sets the overall product suite that we are rolling out while ensuring the product/market fit). I also still do a lot of the sales.

How do you measure success?
Success is measured differently for each stakeholder in DroneShield, and my success is when each of those stakeholders is successful. For our investors, it is the shareprice. For the staff, its doing work they love and which makes them grow professionally, and which rewards them with the upside of the business. For the customers, its providing them with cutting edge and reliable solutions that solve their problems.

What do you think is the most important quality of being a CEO of a listed company?
For any CEO, its resilience, hands down. Ability to problem solve as the challenges come up. The listed aspect adds the dimension of your performance judged by the market each day – and, when the market is down, like it is now, you just have to live with the fact that the value of the business is substantially under-represented by the shareprice, due to overall market forces that you cant control, and it remains your job to run the business and communicate the value to the investors, best you can.

What is your favourite book?
Ben Horowitz’ “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” which talks about his experiences running businesses and then becoming a Silicon Valley VC. Ben has a legendary background his space, and any start-up/scale-up CEO will resonate with the book. I am certainly a ”wartime CEO”!

What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia?
DroneShield continues to substantially engage in the Asian region, both because of the large opportunities and the geographical proximity to Australia. I have done at least a couple trips to Asia every year, and look forward to it each time.

How can people connect with you?

DroneShield Website:

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