We recently talked with Cyril Helbling, Senior Associate on our Private Equity Advisory Services team, who joined RKON just over a year ago. He previously worked in tech consulting and is a graduate of the United States Military Academy West Point. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation.
Q: Why did you choose West Point and what was that experience like?
A: I was thankful for the opportunities I had growing up and wanted to serve my country. At that point our country had been at war for about 5 years, so joining the military stood out as a way to give back. My parents emphasized that I should go to college, so that’s how I found out about West Point. The emphasis on leadership development and surrounding myself with classmates who were at the top of their class led me to apply and eventually accept the nomination.
I’ve heard West Point described as a great place to be from but a tough place to be – I agree that my experiences were similar. It is a four-year school, my undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Science in mathematical sciences, that also includes military training. I had amazing internships with the Army Research Laboratory and at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, and met friends who I still talk to despite living in different cities. After graduation there is a five-year commitment to the Army, and having West Point on my resume has certainly helped me to get where I am.
Q: After West Point, you worked in technology consulting for four years. What did you like about it?
A: The pivot from military to business had a lot of changes, but throughout my career I’ve seen aspects of teaching in my roles – whether it was advising an Infantry company about how to use a Mobile Gun System vehicle in their operations or assessing ways for a client to improve their IT asset management tools and processes.
Technology continues to change how business is performed, and I enjoy finding ways to help businesses improve their processes or mitigate risks to their operations by implementing technological changes. Usually, it’s not that person’s priority to understand a new technology, so I enjoy breaking it down into ways that make sense to them and their role.
Another change from the military is that in consulting I had to sell myself to get staffed on each project and demonstrate my curiosity, understanding, and experience in a certain area or technology.
Q: What brought you to RKON?
A: I was mainly doing tech strategy and operations in consulting. My role was very broad and included security and compliance, IT service management, and IT asset management related to Initial Public Offerings or security certifications like PCI DSS and ISO 27001.
When I was approached by RKON, the role was specific to merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity. I was interested in the follow-through because in consulting, we would make a tech strategy presentation but then the client might not follow through with our recommendations, or I wouldn’t get to see how it played out.
With M&A, a deal has to happen. And in many cases, RKON carries out the professional and managed services work post-deal. So I get to see the lifecycle of that portfolio company and the outcomes of my recommendations.
Also in the due diligence process, we have to do cost analysis, so that allows me to use my math background.
Q: You’ve now worked on at least 50 deals for RKON. What do you like about the M&A space?
A: The due diligence process is interesting from an IT perspective because most of the information in a Confidential Information Memorandum or Management Presentation is related to finance, operations, and the strategy of the company – very little is related to IT. So there are opportunities to learn about a business’ services/products and then assess how technology can support the deal thesis. There are also multiple industries that we work with, so I can get insights with each engagement about the unique aspects of each industry.