“The sector needs to be better at encouraging women into it and promoting them to leadership positions” – CEO Q&A with Richard Haxby, MathWorks Ireland

By Business & Finance
08 September 2021

Pictured: Richard Haxby, Managing Director of Mathworks Ireland

Richard Haxby has held the role of Managing Director of MathWorks Ireland for almost 5 years. The Galway based company provides sales and customer support to an international customer base of their mathematical-based products. He promotes a safe environment where staff are free to express opinions, ideas, give and receive feedback.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

The main priorities and goals in my role are the development of our managers and staff along with focusing on staff wellbeing and our ‘Great Place to Work’. The customer experience is also very important to me and making sure we are adding value in every engagement with our customers. Finally, the upkeep of our culture and values is something I focus on every day in my role. 

What are your biggest challenges as ‘Leader in MathWorks’? CEO?

As a growing office, finding great staff and keeping them is definitely one of the biggest challenges we face as a company.  We are also expanding into new markets so we must ensure that we are applying our selling model to the context of those markets. 

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

By focusing on three levers: mastery, innovation and purpose. Staff want to learn new skills and become ever more skilful in their role. They want the opportunity to explore, develop and share new ideas. They want to feel meaning in what they do, know how it fits into the bigger picture and how what they do drives towards that greater common goal.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Software is everywhere and in everything, and that megatrend is not slowing. Scientists and engineers are being asked to rapidly integrate new technologies, like AI, 5G and cloud computing into their workflows. Keeping up with these new innovations and leveraging them faster than competitors is a real challenge. MathWorks software gives our customers very powerful tools that enable them to more easily apply these technologies to their work, helping them accelerate their development and discovery.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

I touched on AI and cloud; the new enablers of many of the innovations. Energy producers, auto makers and machine makers are reinventing themselves. Energy producers to climate protectors, automakers to software companies and machine makers to leverage all the innovations that come from smart consumables.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

The sector needs to be better at encouraging women into it and promoting them to leadership positions. There needs to be more diversity and inclusion overall.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

We rely on staff being able to speak the language of our customers, particularly German, French, Italian and Spanish. Multi-lingual staff bring great flexibility for them and for us. Language skills should be promoted more in Ireland, with more graduates with those skills being able to be hired by companies like ours.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

This is a great question! Prior to the banking crisis the finance sector had something of a love affair with the algorithm. We saw engineers going into that sector because they had very sophisticated skills and were able to apply them. MathWorks tools have always been used in a broad range of industries and application areas. Many of these areas are highly regulated like aerospace and medicine. For our finance customers, we developed new products in response to new regulations in that sector, leveraging our experience of the use of our tools in adjacent highly regulated applications.

How has Brexit affected you?

To a very limited degree. Our operations supports all EU markets, the UK, and the Middle East and Africa. There have been some ‘paperwork’ adjustments for the UK, and it is less straightforward to hire staff from the UK.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

MathWorks was very quick to respond to the crisis. Within 48 hours of the shutdowns in Ireland, our Galway staff were able to work remotely. We supported customers, in some cases levering our own computing infrastructure to support them in working from home. We created a new solution to rapidly enable our educational customers to support and teach students remotely. We have weathered storm and our business was protected to a great extent because our staff and our customers staff, who use our tools, were able to continue to work remotely.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success is learning; learning something new every day. What drives me is the reward of seeing how my actions impact outcomes, particularly my impact on staff development, on our customers and making our working environment the best it can be.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

It’s all about the people. An obsessive focus on staff development will set your priorities, ensure you are building future leaders and a sustainable, growing business

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

There have been a number of key moments I’m proud of as head of MathWorks Ireland over the last year, but some of the standout ones include seeing first-hand the resilience of our staff, how MathWorks responded to the needs of our customers and, on a more personal note, I finally got to fix my back garden!

What’s next for your company?

We will be building out our customer success and customer onboarding teams for our commercial Enterprise customers. These teams will accelerate the implementation of the new enterprise licenses, which bring MathWorks tools to all the customers’ engineers and scientists.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We celebrate five years in Ireland this coming December. This time next year we will have more staff; I expect some of our existing staff will become new managers, and our commercial Enterprise customers will be well and truly feeling the benefit of our new commercial Customer Success program.