Mathias Johansson, 42
CEO and co-founder, Dirac Research
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
I started as a project manager at Dirac. The complexity of a car is tremendous and requires many different competencies to come together. Because of this diversity this is a great industry for anyone interested in developing a multifaceted skillset.
Born: Skovde, Sweden
Languages: Swedish, English, some German
Education: Doctorate in signal processing and master’s degree in information technology, Uppsala University, Sweden
Your greatest achievement?
Co-founding and developing Dirac into a company that is now considered to be the global leader in digital audio technology. We have done this despite competing in some of toughest industries in the world -- automotive, consumer electronics and smartphones. Another big achievement has been my personal transition from being a researcher and inventor to a business leader.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
When Dirac was just starting up we made the mistake of focusing entirely on the automotive industry. In 2008, the company almost collapsed in the midst of the financial crisis due to this “all eggs in one basket” strategy. Since then I have made sure to hedge my bets and move into more industries.
What is your current challenge at work?
To develop myself as a leader one step faster than the company grows. Today we are 90 people. That is twice as many employees as a year ago. This growth means that my role as CEO is radically different too. It is now critical for me to lead, delegate and recruit the right leaders.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I continue to be surprised that it is possible to develop and launch a car on time. So many people have to coordinate so many tasks and parts to make this come together.
2005-2009: Chief technical officer, Dirac Research, Uppsala 2001: Co-founder, Dirac Research, Uppsala
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. All too often, especially with engineers, we tend to look for the perfect solution instead of creating one that is good enough to move the needle without costing a fortune or taking forever.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be prepared for and embrace change. I say this because the big automakers of tomorrow will not be the same as today, which means the cars of tomorrow will be very different.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I can’t think of a better job than the one I already have.
What do you do to relax?
I travel with my family.
What is your pet peeve?
Aggressive drivers, especially those who insist on overtaking other cars even when there is a traffic jam.
What was your first car?
A Peugeot 306.
A Volvo V70, so it’s time to change.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
A soapbox derby car because it is home grown. I have no formal education for my role as a business owner, but somehow I manage.