Gil Adani is the CEO of HackerU — Israeli high school of Information Technology (IT) and security. The main supplier for the international labor market and the official training center for such companies as Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Linux, Pearson, Autodesk, etc., Gil Adani founded HackerU more than 20 years ago in Israel and since then held the position of the permanent head of school.
The company has become the leading center for cybersecurity training not only in Israel, but also in the U.S., France, India, Austria, and Russia, combining the acquisition of new knowledge and the employment of graduates.
The annual number of HackerU students is more than 4,000 people (a total of more than 80,000).
This year, new branches were launched in India, Poland, the Philippines, Singapore and more, where the team of HackerU gives lessons to local specialists and government officials. In 2019 the school plans to hold an IPO.
iHodl: How did your journey begin, what was the initial thought?
Gil: I started it twenty years ago. l was a programmer since I was 15 at the beginning of programming era. I was learning technology unit in intelligence. My passion in tech was at all the times and when I was in the University I was training in both programming and intelligence all the time and when I graduated from my MBA I opened HackerU, my first company. In those days there was a big lack of workers in this field in 1996, it was the beginning of the boom, there were not enough workers, and the only way to learn programming was to go to universities that were not practical and didn’t give skills that the market needed. So first, HackerU was seeking high-skilled graduates who had very good communication abilities. And we trained them for half a year and sold them to the companies who desperately needed them. During the years we offered more specialists in programming in IT, security, who deeply understand their work. Since then we make the same things, just opening new niches and new offices.
iHodl: When you started, did you teach yourself or you had a team?
Gil: From the beginning we had trainers. All the instructors trained all the time and worked in programming themselves - at daytime they did their jobs and at night they trained in HackerU. Part of them were full-time trainers. But they didn’t like working as trainers for many years, as they were losing their capabilities and knowledge.
iHodl: When you started you were focusing on one thing and now you have several areas and one of them is blockchain development - tell us about this course.
Gil: Blockchain tech needs a programmer, a man who knows this environment. It is not too popular right now, because the cryptocurrencies are going up and down and people are not deeply involved in this field. Today, people are not trying to get to this field. When crypto goes up, people enjoy it and see it as a solution, especially for cybersecurity. So blockchain will evolve, but there are not enough specialists today. We see a bridge between this tech and cybersecurity.
iHodl: So who usually uses your courses - companies or individuals?
Gil: Depends on kind of courses. Individuals usually take long courses for hundred hours (400 hours), full training. Companies usually need short courses, for a week or days to upgrade their level. In Israel, we have many organizations like Microsoft, Cisco, the army who always takes short courses for 5 days. Big organizations understand that training should be regular, for example, twice a year. Small and medium businesses are more concerned about it, if there is a new tech, they take the training to know how to deal with this new tech.
iHodl: What is your development strategy?
Gil: Depending on the country, in some places we built a whole branch, in some places we collaborate with local partners, we give them knowledge, train their trainers. In some places, we teach distantly, like in Singapore and India. In Russia we build a new branch, in the U.S. market we use another strategy - we are working with universities, they train themselves. In Africa we are not training the public, we train governmental organizations like the police, army. At the moment we are not opening new places, we get deeper in those places where we are already working.
iHodl: Which sectors are coming to you?
Gil: Today, for programming courses come big technology companies, for cybersecurity comes everyone. Big government sector also has a big interest.
iHodl: Why did you choose the name HackerU?
Gil: Sometimes we have ridiculous situations with the name, especially in the U.S. When I started, HackerU was a cool name, it was not associated with hacking, it was an engineering name. It was familiar for people. When the first bank came to us the manager said that he knew the name. It was cool and unknown, but familiar.
iHodl: What are you doing to know the intentions of people who come to you?
Gil: It is a big problem. You will never be 100% defended. You have to know how a hacker thinks in order to protect from hacking. But we have a couple of things to avoid this problem. First, everybody who comes to HackerU should pass through the sorting period - 30 hours when we are checking him. The instructor has an interaction with him, trying to understand why did this person come to us. If the person doesn’t pass this period and the test, then he gets his money back.
iHodl: Are there a lot of persons who learn to hack?
Gil: No, there are not. Of course, a person will not tell you what he is going to do with this knowledge, but if he is unstable, the trainer can understand that. Anyway, it depends only on the person, to get the knowledge to protect from hackers or to use it for hacking.
iHodl: Where do you find trainers, especially in such big countries like India and Russia?
Gil: Usually we need to use local instructors to transfer them the knowledge, we don’t transport instructors from Israel to India. So we find instructors with good knowledge and passion to train. It is the challenge to find skilled trainers, and universities are helpful in it. But universities rarely provide practical knowledge.
iHodl: When you work with universities, do people there take long or short courses?
Gil: Less than a year. Main option - they learn twice a week, sometimes during the weekend. Depends on a program, but in general, it counts for 500 hours.
iHodl: Do you have programs for trainers?
Gil: We have a special course - Train Trainers in different universities. It is a short course to upgrade their knowledge and skills. But every trainer should be good with the audience, it is a natural skill.
iHodl: Is the level of hacking threat bigger than previously?
Gil: Yes. The level is much bigger – everything is connected now. We have darknet, which gives a lot of tools for hackers. Today the threat is bigger, connectivity is much bigger.
iHodl: Final question - what do you personally do to protect your phone? Give us some advice.
Gil: I have so many hackers in my company, so many, and all the important things that I don’t want anyone else to see, are in papers. All the contracts, all the details are on my laptop, but things that you will never hack are in papers. And if somebody steals my writings he still won’t understand anything. So the idea is to store nothing in the system.