In this edition of ARN's 'One-on-One' interview series, we speak to CrowdStrike A/NZ managing director Brett Raphael who started his journey in the IT sector after being poached from hospitality — an industry he still credits for instilling the foundations of customer experience.
What was your first job?
My first job was a soccer referee. Having started as a 14-year-old, it was quite daunting to referee adult men. Yet, not only was I earning my first pay cheque, I was learning more about the game I loved. This was the first step in my leadership journey. [It taught me] to encourage fair play, execute swift decisions and always be ready to 'blow the whistle'.
How did you get started in the industry and progress to where you are today?
I was fortunate to be offered a corporate traineeship at one of Sydney’s finest hotels. This gave me invaluable exposure to all the inner workings of concierge, food and beverage, logistics, sales and marketing. I absolutely adored this job; the ambience was at its best when the piano player began their 5pm shift.
My career path would change forever while working as a concierge one night. I had a positive engagement with a regular guest who suggested I apply for a role with his company. The internet and everything it promised had arrived, and the rest, as they say, is history. The hospitality industry was a great foundation for driving customer experience and this has remained at the forefront of my thinking, not just with customers but employees as well.
What has been your biggest business mistake and the lessons you’ve learned from that experience?
A strong work ethic was instilled in me as a young boy so I’ve never shrugged away from a difficult task. But I’ve learnt that while you can work hard, it’s also important to leave time for yourself to keep a clear and healthy mind. A strong focus on ‘the work’ without balance can derail you from what you really want to achieve.
I’ve grown up understanding the importance of routine and discipline. One of the things I’ve come to learn is that I need to apply these same skills when it comes to cultivating work-life balance.
What are some of your plans for CrowdStrike in the upcoming months?
At the start of COVID-19, we assembled teams and brainstormed initiatives for business acceleration and culture. The output has been extraordinary, with a key focus on employee welfare and mental health as an immediate outcome.
One initiative we introduced this year is the 'R U OK mate' program, pairing up employees to check in fortnightly (or as often as preferred) for an informal catch-up and one-on-one support. To bolster a culture of connection and trust, staff are also encouraged to take a ‘recharge day’ to focus on self-care, acknowledging the mental load of uncertain times.
To drive business acceleration, we are continuing to invest in our partner programs with our customer and partner growth at an all-time high.
CrowdStrike has the legacy of building the first security cloud modelled after the cloud platforms of other technology giants such as Salesforce, Workday and ServiceNow, and we are continuously innovating our Fal.con platform, particularly in the current mobile workforce environment.
What are some of your biggest ambitions — personally and professionally?
I’ve always prioritised family-orientated personal goals. They are: to be the best husband to my incredible wife and father to my three beautiful children. I also grew up idolising and playing soccer and cricket, and aim to continue playing competitive sport regardless of my age.
Professionally, as the A/NZ leader of CrowdStrike for over four years, I have been on a remarkable journey, which has exceeded all my expectations and I feel immensely proud of what we have built as a business. I truly believe we are only just beginning and I look forward to watching my incredible team continue to grow, culminating in job happiness, personal and professional growth and financial freedom. If I have played a part in this journey and made a difference, I would be delighted.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Results are important, but results achieved by the right means are even more important. It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it and this has served me well throughout my career.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to become close personal friends with many customers, peers and colleagues as a result of healthy business relationships.
Being an avid cricketer, I think the great Don Bradman said it best: “When considering the stature of an athlete, I place great store on certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that a person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and, perhaps most of all, modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness.”