C-suite career advice: Greg Isbister, Blis
Name: Greg Isbister
Job Title: CEO
Location: London, United Kingdom
1. What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
Even though my career start seemed to be rather unfocused with the pressure to pay the bills, one good piece of advice that I got during this time came from one of my professors:
“Find a job that you love and you are passionate about. That should be the ultimate goal.”
I couldn’t agree more with that.
Without solid, honest advice it can be easy to waste time flogging a dead horse when starting your career. And that’s exactly how I felt for quite some time, as I hadn’t received much valuable career advice back in my school days. It was all pretty generic.
With youth unemployment rate at its peak when I finished university, I was more concerned with getting any kind of job. I have to confess that I wasn’t selective in my first job search. All I wanted was to land a job after university. So I just applied randomly and eventually got my first job in financial services.
But even if you are aware the current job is not the right fit, listen and learn and use that time to find a better fit. Every experience that I gained along the way expanded my views, gave me new perspectives and enhanced my leadership capabilities.
2. What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
“Don’t give up the day job. It pays the rent.”
That’s probably the worst advice that I have been given. It was at an early stage of my career. With a business idea in my bag, I attended a funding panel session of senior professionals to pitch my idea to potential investors. At the end of the day, I was successful in my approach and was able to agree upon a small business loan.
What an amazing moment that was! Until one of the executives told me not to give up my day job as it pays the rent.
Not what I wanted to hear. However, I ended up following this advice and did not sacrifice the graduate job that I landed in order to pursue my initial business idea. Eventually this first business idea failed but given my determination to follow my dream of entrepreneurship, I came up with another business idea and this time I ignored that piece of advice.
Probably one of the best career decisions I have ever made.
The bottom line is, as with all advice out there, there is no better guide than following your own inner voice. It will lead you in the right career direction. Besides having a good idea and a solid business plan in place, you also need to be able to ignore your critics.
3. What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
The technology industry is an incredibly vibrant marketplace with a range of options, touching on almost all areas of our lives. Working in such a fast-paced and constantly evolving space, you have a huge choice and possibility to find an area you are passionate about; an area you would enjoy working in as a hobby.
If you spend eight hours a day, five times a week at work and you are practicing a skill you enjoy and use in your spare time, life will be more satisfying. When you are passionate about your work, then you are also most likely to come up with creative ideas.
Another essential tool is to have connections and build relations in the tech industry to move ahead in your career. Networking events, incubators and work spaces are great opportunities to seek career advice, build relationships and eventually land your dream job.
4. What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
There are many smart and ambitious people out there, but some simple rules dictate who will make it to the C-Level. One secret ingredient is to be proactive and constantly on the lookout for opportunities. This means you understand your strengths and ask for what you want.
You need to make sure you are nailing your day job and show enthusiasm about what you do. Your team will reflect this approach, as they will adopt your attitude and behaviour. In that spirit, make it a practice to have a positive mind set, be results-orientated and take responsibility. Be aware of what makes your work better, and the chances are that your team will soon become your ‘dream team’.
However, the gap of simply running a team and being a true leader is immense. And the way I see it is to seek advice and get a mentor. With an expert at your side from your specific industry or who can help with a specific problem, you have the chance to run through ideas, get perspectives, and benefit from their experiences.
Keep listening. Keep learning. And adapt the best for yourself.
5. Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
As a leader you have the important responsibility to identify talent, develop and motivate people. I believe people are a company’s greatest asset. They are my competitive advantage as the business stands and falls with them.
Our business has grown rapidly in the past few years. From the start, we have focused on getting people on board who have a good team spirit, a passion for technology and the drive to set change.
Today, we can pride ourselves on having an exceptionally talented team at Blis. We have promoted a huge amount of people along the way. It’s simply wonderful to see how people progress. The sunny side is that it goes both ways: investment in the development of our staff is being reflected in our success.
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Tags: Blis, C-Suite, Career Advice, greg isbister, IDG Connect