Heinan Landa of Optimal Networks: Five Things Every Business Needs To Know About Storing and Protecting Their Customers’ Information
It has been said that the currency of the modern world is not gold, but information. If that is true, then nearly every business is storing financial information, emails, and other private information that can be invaluable to cybercriminals or other nefarious actors. What is every business required to do to protect its customers’ and clients’ private information?
As a part of our series about “Five Things Every Business Needs To Know About Storing and Protecting Their Customers’ Information”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heinan Landa, Founder and CEO of Optimal Networks, Inc., a globally ranked IT services firm, the creator of Law Firm Anywhere, a virtual desktop solution that helps attorneys work seamlessly and securely from anywhere, and author of The Modern Law Firm: How to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Technological Change. After earning his B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University, Heinan went on to receive his MBA from The Wharton School of Business. Featured in Legal Management, Legal Times, Chief Executive, Inc. Magazine, Forbes, CIO, and with regular appearances on ABC7, CBS9, and FOX5 TV, Heinan is a trusted leader in the legal, technology, and business spaces.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
My parents and I immigrated to the U.S. from Israel when I was two and a half years old. We settled down in Wheaton, Maryland, and outside of my college and business school days I’ve lived in the DC Metro area ever since. My parents owned a successful instrumentation company, and their stories around the dinner table are what inspired to me to become a business owner myself. So after I earned my undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (my mother insisted I have some practical skills as a Plan B!), I went on to get my MBA from Wharton. And it was during that program that I developed the business plan for Optimal Networks!
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.
Back to when I was 15 I was lucky enough to secure an internship with NASA. The scientists there — as you might expect — loved their data, and had some early mini computers and a plotter that would print out graphs for them. The problem was… the graphs printed out in about 2-inch by 2-inch squares that you could barely read. I heard them lamenting these tiny charts, grabbed the manual for their equipment, and managed to get full-page, legible graphs printed for them. They were so happy, and I was thrilled to have inspired such a positive reaction from them. That was the first time I really grasped the kind of impact you can make by helping people use technology better. And, well, here I am decades later, still helping people with their technology — just on a slightly different scale now!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In the early years of Optimal, we had a bad stretch of turnover. The success of the company hinged on the work of our engineers, and we were really struggling to get them to stay with us. I made two big moves that that point. First, I separated from my business partner and went back to running the company by myself. Second, I came to grips with how pivotal culture is to the overall success of a company — especially for those of us in the business of service. Happy people make for happy clients, and happy clients make for happy people. It seems obvious, but culture is one of those things you have to be thoughtful, intentional, and steadfast about if you want it to work. We articulated the Core Values that drive our behavior, we revamped our entire hiring process to vet for integrity and service-orientation as much as technical competence. Fast forward and we have over a dozen awards for culture and ethics, and a combined 240 years of company tenure across our team.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are, of course, many many people who I am incredibly grateful for. Key among them is my current business partner and Optimal’s Chief Operating Officer, David Campbell. He was part of the team during that period of turnover and transition — and reckoning, if you will! — and not only did he help me find my voice in my own company, but he helped reshape who we are and what we stand for as an organization. Plus he makes work more fun for all of us! One of the most-viewed videos we’ve ever made is of his reaction to finding out one of our engineers was a talented unicyclist — he immediately dropped down onto the ground, splayed out, and had the engineer jump the unicycle over his chest. (It was, thankfully, a successful jump!) I don’t think our folks will ever stop sharing that story.