Lachezar Arabadzhiev is the founder and CEO of SkildLabs, an e-learning solutions company that takes businesses from the ideation stages of all type of learning or training experience to a complete product.
Working with a variety of different e-learning platforms, SkildLabs takes clients from brainstorming, storyboarding, script writing, to filming, video-editing, effects and platform configuration.
Lachezar spoke to the Alison Blog about his experience of running SkildLabs as CEO. From the vital skills required to manage a company, to how he spends his day, Lachezar offers professional advise and tips on how to be a successful CEO in the modern workplace.
Hi Lachezar, tell us a bit about yourself!
I started my career in digital marketing for tech companies. I worked for a start-up and then I worked for Microsoft in core marketing for products like Visual Studio, Microsoft Azure and Hololens. I got to see the operational structure of a very large company and it was very digital savvy in terms of learning. I was responsible for the marketing around channels like Microsoft virtual academy and channel 9. And so though it was marketing for developers and IT professionals and it was very technical, I did also get to see the learning side of it. That got me into the whole e-learning industry and edtech.
However I didn’t really pursue it and, after that, I worked in the advertising world. I shifted gears into analytics and that really complimented the core marketing I had learned. In my last advertising agency role, I got to work with a lot of different businesses across all types of verticals and I learned a lot about client relationships. I created a training programme for one of the agencies and I feel like, throughout my career, I was always going back to learning.
Did you always want to be a CEO? If so, what attracted you to the job?
I’ve always had the urge to execute my own vision. I’ve always had a vision of how things should be done and of course mistakes will be made along the way but I was willing to take the risks to make the mistakes so that so I could learn more. You don’t get to have that when you work for somebody else. It wasn’t about being a “CEO”, I’ve never been a fan of titles. But I’ve always had my own ideas and it was really about the freedom and the fact that now I can execute my own ideas.
The other great thing is that I can take projects that I want to work on and work with people that I like to work with. I feel like that’s when you get the best out of yourself and the people around you. That’s when you put yourself in an environment where you can be the most creative and that’s when ideas come up. That was really the enticing bit.
What has been your path to your current job?
Two years prior to creating the company, I started doing online courses. I had all this experience with doing courses and training programmes with the agencies, and then all of the work at Microsoft. So I started building these courses and I launched the first course in 2019 on Data Visualisation. I built a whole curriculum, shot all the videos, did a combination between talking head and screencast. Building a course is almost like creating a business because you start with nothing. Then I really started thinking more about the edtech industry and obviously during the pandemic there was an incredible boom of people wanting to take courses and change the way they learn. Education is being completely transformed at the moment.
What has been the most important skill you’ve had to develop as a CEO?
I think resourcefulness is a key skill when you’re running a company. You’re in control of what projects you take on but that’s a responsibility as well. You have to figure out how you are going to use the resources that are available to you. When it’s not a huge company you don’t have a lot so you have to be smart about the resources you use. That’s something I’ve exercised and practiced in the past but now it’s even more accentuated and that’s something that I like.
I like combining things that don’t really go together. I think that’s why the courses I create are unique and really well received by people. I’ll combine, let’s say, analytics and creative design. I like to combine things that normally don’t seem to go together but when combined in the right way are really powerful. You can see that in the training and learning experiences that SkildLabs create.
What does a typical day look like for you as a CEO?
We’re still in the first six months of the company and I’m sure that every six months it’s going to be different. When you create your own company, work is more than 9 to 5. It lasts the whole day because a lot of different things are coming your way. Normally what I’ll try to do is to have a couple of priorities and top projects that I’m working on and, in the morning, I’ll check where those are headed and what has to be moved along. I split them between things I have to have an active part in and things where my role is more passive. With the active things that need my attention, I look after them first so they can keep moving.
And then on certain days, I don’t arrange any meetings. This is really important and something I didn’t get in other jobs. In order for you to come up with a new idea or see something new you almost have to leave a day of just thinking. You can’t force creativity. This is how I’ll come up with the next idea for a learning experience or a collaboration we can do with a partner or client. I leave gaps so I have that opportunity to be creative.
What skill do you have to use the most in a typical day?
I try to make a distinction between analytical thinking and analytics. People think that analytics is all about numbers but analytical thinking is something that I try to practice and use as a skill. It’s really about applying data and quantitative information and using it to make decisions or come up with new ideas. There is so much data everywhere. Every company is producing data, every tool you open will have analytics, so using the vast amount of data that is out there to make decisions or spike your creativity, I think that’s really important. You shouldn’t be afraid of analytics as something that analysts and data scientists do. It’s pretty much what everybody should be doing now. You need to be data driven in your decision-making.
If you could recommend our Learners to upskill in one area in order to become a successful CEO, what would it be?
I never viewed myself as a salesman or thought that I would ever use that as a core skill but actually it’s very important. I think everyone should be good at sales to some extent. Because even if you’re applying for a job, you’re selling the skills that you have and you’re explaining why you should be part of the company. You’re technically engaging in a sort of sales meeting. That’s one thing I felt I had to improve because, when you talk to clients, you have to make sure that you create a succinct pitch or offering.
What’s the best part about your career?
The flexibility and the freedom of choice. The fact that I can pick the projects and develop areas that before I would have had to wait for approval for a long time for, or that might have been considered risky. Whereas now I can just pursue a project or client and, though it might fail, at least I can learn from that. I feel that sometimes with companies they don’t always allow you to fail that fast and figure out if this specific project or prospect is for you. That flexibility and freedom to pick your own projects and work with clients that you want to work with, I think that brings out the best in you.