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The road to success: Tech leaders tell all

Paul Heltzel | March 29, 2016
To get to the top of the org chart, you'll need more than basic dev skills. Today's head honchos offer their wisdom on getting ahead

How to align business and technology

If you’re driven to lead people and share your vision, what’s the best way to make sure your ideas are, in fact, the building blocks of a successful business?

“This one is hard,” says Rackspace CTO John Engates. “Sometimes technical folks don’t have any business background. My suggestion is to work for a small company for a while -- maybe a startup. You learn a lot by having to do it all. Working in a big company doesn’t always expose you to every facet of the business.”

John Engates, CTO, Rackspace
“My suggestion is to work for a small company for a while -- maybe a startup. You learn a lot by having to do it all.” -- John Engates, CTO, Rackspace 

The key to success is leveraging your education and experience, according to Tendü Yoğurtçu of Syncsort, who worked her way up from software engineer to VP of engineering before taking her current role as general manager of big data last year.

“I had formal education in computer engineering, a master’s degree with a focus on business, and a Ph.D. in computer science,” she says. “I use learning from my master’s degree almost on a daily basis because all decisions require cost-benefit analysis, cost of opportunity considerations, and understanding the impact of decisions on the business outcome. My Ph.D. also helped me to develop skills for driving long-term strategies. Your team, your customers, your partners are the most critical players -- people, people, and people. These skills have become more and more important as I stepped up into leadership roles.”

Tendü Yoğurtçu, general manager of big data, Syncsort
“Your team, your customers, your partners are the most critical players -- people, people, and people. These skills have become more and more important as I stepped up into leadership roles.” -- Tendü Yoğurtçu, general manager of big data, Syncsort

And our last piece of advice comes an executive who learned from pioneering Silicon Valley engineers.

“I had the very good fortune to work in the lab creating a new technology and participate in the journey from getting our first dollar of revenue to leading a $20B global business,” says HP’s Nigro. “Along the way, I sought out new assignments and experiences in different areas and countries. If I had to pick two things that helped me the most, they would be the experience of seeing what it takes to create and scale a business, and having a natural curiosity about what it takes to create a great business.”

What does that take?

“While I love technology and what it can do,” Nigro says, “it’s important to note that the measure of success of a business is the profit generated. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard considered profit the No. 1 corporate objective since this ultimately measures the value of your contribution and is the enabler for everything else you would like to achieve as a business.”

That’s leadership advice you can take to the bank.

 

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