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Inquired at … Smilen Hadzhikostov – Head of Business Development at XOM Materials 

Published on August 31, 2021

3 min read

As one of the first employees at XOM Materials, Smilen Hadzhikostov, Head of Business Development, has witnessed quite a bit at XOM Materials. His personal development is also exciting. He tells us about his beginnings and tips for anyone aspiring to a similar career in this interview. 

"One of my first tasks was to order a computer for myself. So we really started from scratch."

Smilen Hadzhikostov

Smilen, please introduce yourself briefly to the readers. 

My name is Smilen Hadzhikostov. I've been at XOM Materials for three and a half  years and was actually one of the first three employees. I have worked at XOM since day 1 , and I'm currently the Head of Business Development. 

What does that mean, what are your tasks? 

In a nutshell, I drive the strategic development of the company. This includes responsibilities such as Investor Relations, Business Intelligence and KPIs, Pricing, Business Modelling, Sales Operations – i.e. the use of tools such as Salesforce, and strategic projects that require project management. 

Please tell us a little more about your studies and how you started as a working student at XOM Materials. 

I was in the middle of my master's degree at the time. At HEC in Paris and Berlin, I did a double degree program; Management and Management and Public Policy. After my year in Paris, I went back to Berlin. There, I was offered the working student position focusing on Strategy and Venture Capital, in a project that would transform the steel industry. I found the topic very interesting and accepted immediately. 

Do you still remember your first day at XOM Materials? 

Yes, it was actually very funny. I came into the office, and there was nothing yet except a few tables and chairs. One of my first tasks was to order a computer for myself. So we really started from scratch. 

Once you had your own computer, what were your tasks as a working student? 

All the business tasks were mine. First, I created analyses and outlined strategies: Who are our target customers and how can we reach them? How should a sales process look like? What is our strategy to establish ourselves in the market? 

The willingness to continuously learn has brought me to where I am now.

Smilen Hadzhikostov

How did things develop further for you? 

Since 2019, I have been managing the department and am now responsible for the business development team.  

What do you look for when managing your employees? 

Every day, I want to make sure my employees have everything they need to do their jobs. To do that, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Do they have all the information they need?
  2. Do they have the right training?
  3. Are they motivated?

From your point of view, what is important in order to pursue a career similar to yours?

The willingness to continuously learn. I'm convinced that's what got me to where I am now. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot. I would also add the following 3 tips that I stick to myself:

  1. Don't think from an ego perspective, think from a business perspective. Successful founders don't think about what's best for themselves, but what's best for the company.
  2. Look at the company as a team. I've always asked myself, what's the next step, how can we get to the next level and improve.
  3. Engage in activities and communities that develop your leadership skills and expertise - i.e. I participated at the Aspen Young Leaders Programme and the Included VC fellowship. 

What are you most proud of?

I'm particularly proud of how quickly the company has grown. From three to over 60 employees in three and a half  years. We have built products that offer users added value for their everyday work. And of course I'm proud of the team. Not only my own, but also my other colleagues with whom I get to work every day. 

Thank you for the inspiring interview and your time, Smilen!

You also want to be part of XOM Materials? Click here for open positions.

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